Between the Lines

The stories behind this issue’s stories.

Courting Change

My “courtship” with the ad agency JWT (“Rehab: An Advertising Love Story“) began in February 2005, when I contacted Ty Montague, Wieden+Kennedy’s former creative head, who had just taken the helm at the dustiest shop on Madison Avenue. Over breakfast, not even a month into Montague’s tenure, I told him that I wanted to chronicle his efforts to change what was formerly called J. Walter Thompson, the country’s oldest ad agency, which had come to a creative dead halt. The surprisingly shy Montague viewed my request with trepidation. “You know, I’m only a few weeks into the job,” he reminded me. “I’m still trying to figure out where the bathrooms are.” That wasn’t a no, though. A couple of months later, as it became evident I wasn’t going away, he had me meet with his counterpart, Rosemarie Ryan. Over the next nine months (which included the disappointing sudden departure of the in-house PR person I had spent six months cajoling), I got to meet more JWTers during brief visits to their office, which is a convenient three blocks from mine. Finally, this March, Montague and Ryan let me inside. For three weeks, I practically camped out there unattended (their new flack even left for London for a week), to the point where employees in the elevators assumed I was a new hire. After my last interview with the duo, I reached out to shake their hands, thanking them for their candor. “What–that’s it?” Montague said. “We kind of got used to you being here.” –Danielle Sacks


The Method Leader

A new name. A new title. And a new office. But even though I have a new identity, it’s not nearly as glamorous as moving to Arizona to hide out from the mob. Instead, I’m taking on the role of a senior-level executive, Kelly Myers, as part of a leadership assessment conducted by Development Dimensions International (“My [Long] Day at the Top“). The goal is to determine whether I have what it takes to be a senior leader. At least I kind of look the part with my tailored jacket, though being five months pregnant means buttoning it is an executive challenge in itself. Although I know zip about robotics, I’ve somehow found myself in the year 2025, presenting a business plan to launch the Jeeves personal valet robot. I suggest that we need to contrast the popular belief that robots are dangerous with an emphasis on how robots give humans the time to be more creative. My boss nods enthusiastically, not bad given the fact that the likelihood of my actually becoming a vice president of anything is up there with that of Barry Bonds cheerily signing autographs. Yet as I try hard to method-act my way into Kelly’s brain, it turns out I’m no Marlon Brando. My true colors quickly emerge. Do you have the skills to be a good manager? Read the story, and you won’t need to wait until 2025 to find out. –Jennifer Reingold

Woman of the Future

In May 2004, I was everywoman. The office-furniture icon Herman Miller (“Herman Miller’s Leap of Faith“) invited me to take part in its scenario-planning workshops to try to envision the workplace of the future. I represented “Women.” It was a stretch.

The company’s goal was to produce three scenarios to guide product development and engage customers. Almost two years later, while reporting this story, I finally saw the fruits of our labors. There, projected on a mini-Imax-like screen, were our scenarios. “Grounded” is very dark and imagines a world rent by terrorism, pandemics, and sky-high oil prices. “Race for Talent” describes coming labor shortages and the competition for creative-class workers. And “Collective Intelligence” is about the power of networks. They all felt smart–and true. No one is drawing a direct correlation, but I think our predictions helped guide Herman Miller’s new cubicle design. I’m off to Times Square with my crystal ball. I may be a woman with a knack for this. –Linda Tischler