Under chairman Bruce Crawford, advertising giant Omnicom was best known for creating buzz with advertisements, particularly television spots, that were quirky rather than straight. His company had Donald Trump, W’68 (also featured in this issue) and his ex-wife Ivana secretly meeting to enjoy a Pizza Hut pizza together, celebrities wearing milk mustaches for the “Got milk?” spots, and Clydesdales playing a horsey game of football. In his professional life, Crawford has also taken a few unexpected turns. A true renaissance man, he is comfortable among artists and executives, and speaks the language of high culture while trafficking in the glib pop lingo of advertising.
Then chairman of BBDO Worldwide, in 1986 Crawford presided over the Big Bang—the creation of Omnicom, then a newly created holding company that comprises the BBDO Worldwide, DDB Needham Worldwide, and the Diversified Agency Services unit, triggering waves of industry consolidation. As CEO and chairman, Crawford worked with CFO and EVP Randall J. Weisenburger, WG’87 (a member of Wharton’s Board of Overseers who established the Wharton-Omnicom Communications Fellows Program), to grow Omnicom with a successful strategy of buying smaller, specialized agencies with talented management.
In 2002, while still Omnicom chairman, Crawford took over the leadership of Upper West Side Manhattan’s artistic jewel, the Lincoln Center, which was in internal disarray.The dozen different arts groups that used the center were arguing constantly over everything from schedules to development rights. With an elder statesman’s gravitas and a businessman’s no-nonsense manner, he was an antidote to the bickering among the center’s various arts groups.
Crawford, a past president of the Metropolitan Opera, threw himself into the new job, mollifying constituent performing groups, boosting the number of shows produced, and determining what should be developed on the immense parcel along the mid-to-upper stretches of Broadway. He left the Lincoln Center chairmanship in 2005, with the health of the center restored.
More than anything, Crawford is admired by Wall Street and the creative community alike for his ability to see both the bottom line and artistic excellence. He understands that success in both opera and advertising requires substantial financing and a watchful eye.