April 13, 2010

DeWitt & Young's Instincts For Action


By Wendy McHale, Publisher

Last week we were saddened upon learning that Gene DeWitt passed away. Back in 2006, Tim interviewed Gene in what was a most outstanding exchange of personal, business and media philosophies.

After our team began to edit it for publication, we couldn't help but see symmetry between DeWitt and another modern-day philosopher, the singer troubadour, Neil Young.

Gene was flattered by the analogy we made between he and our rock-and-rock laureate conscience, but said it wasn't so. What would one expect from a guy who saw beyond himself and into the hearts and minds of those around him.

See below for the intro to our "Gene DeWitt's Heart of Gold" Interview and the link to our fascinating discussion with him.

Our hearts and prayers go out to Gene's family.



From "Gene DeWitt's Heart of Gold," Originally published June 9, 2006:

Blessed with and/or burdened with an old soul, Neil Young has displayed fierce independence from the beginning of his music career, right up to the present day. He's never shrunk from challenging convention. Just listen and judge for yourself the truth behind his melodies. You know his heart of gold is real.

Media artist Gene DeWitt's favorite novella and movie was Hemingway's "The Old Man & the Sea". Considered one of Hemingway's best, this short story is very similar to Neil Young's work. It uses symbolism to address the strength, beauty, youth, freedom and challenges we all go through at the end of each journey.

Having taken separate paths, we believe their careers were intertwined, spiritually. This might surprise some, though upon careful examination of both communicators, the similarity becomes obvious. One in front of the camera and the other behind it, they've both refused to be stereotyped and/or marginalized.

Look at so many of their "where are they now" music and/or Madison Avenue contemporaries. Neither Young nor DeWitt have any plans to reel it in. No talk of replacing the daily cast of their fishing rod for the smooth daily swing of a golf club. No talk of packing it in and becoming one of the "beautiful people".

Hmmm... Why not? They both deserve it. We've been asking ourselves why. So, with this week's release of "Living With War" Young's next album, we knew it'd be great to hear some of Gene's new tunes and what he's listening to these days.


We sent Tim McHale, one of our editors "out to sea" to satisfy our curiosity. McHale has known Young's music for some time, as well as DeWitt's media. We were pleased. He came back with anything but fish stories from his conversation. For example:

Gene's Business Album:

1. DeWitt began his career at a certain agency when its founder, Mr. Ogilvy still graced its once fabled halls.

2. After Gene crisscrossed the country and the planet as one of our industry's original media evangelists; his travels led him literally to the other side of the world (from Madison Avenue) armed with a certain Atlanta-based beverage company's intentions to have its agency open the first American MadAve office in China;

3. Later, confronted with systemic refusal to share his vision on the strategic importance of media investments, he left one of Madison Avenue's largest shops to become an entrepreneur;

4. With little more than a spring in his step and a spark in his eye, he launched DeWitt Media, a new kind of independent media agency;

5. He then spent the next 20 years nurturing his organization into a highly acclaimed player, known for its service to clients. His approach was simple. He didn't treat them like clients. He treated them like partners.

6. Ultimately, he fostered his once fledgling shop into one of the crown jewels of Publicis, better known today as Optimedia.


DeWitt's Personal Album:

1. One of Gene's greatest passions is deep-sea fishing, at night no less! He prefers a good base of water below him and sails far enough out into the ocean to avoid the shallow waters of the continental shelf;

2. His passion leads him to getting out into the water when most boats are docking at port. To Gene there's nothing more relaxing than to pull up anchor just before sunset for a relaxing evening of fishing with/for sharks and/or tuna; where we've learned how sharks tend to" flex their muscles" while the tuna exercise their brilliance and wit.

3. On land, be it Limerock, CT or Stuttgart, Germany, various race car trainer/ teachers have at some point refused to accept his money any longer for lessons. How could they when they felt they had nothing else in their glove compartment to teach him.

Click HERE to read Tim's conversation with Gene, which took place at the DeWitt Media Strategies office at the top of Rockefeller Center.

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