6 Stellar Campaigns That Will Define the Greg Hahn Era of BBDO New York

As the CCO exits amid layoffs, we look back at the work he led

In 2015, BBDO New York and Snickers created an unforgettable back-cover ad for the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. BBDO New York
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When it comes to iconic U.S. creative leaders, they don’t get much bigger than Greg Hahn.

In person, there’s no missing him, with his unkempt hair, lanky gait and penchant for philosophical introspection. But the body of his work is even more recognizable, with Hahn having been a driving force behind some of the ad industry’s most heralded work.

That “Cat Herders” Super Bowl ad for EDS you’ve loved since 2000 (but maybe didn’t remember the client for)? He wrote it. BMW Films’ revolutionary “The Hire”? Yep, Hahn was a writer on that one too.

“When I first saw BMW Films, it made me feel like I had been working with creative blinders on,” Dan Kelleher, CCO of Deutsch New York, told Adweek today. “It forever changed the way I looked at a brief.”

When Hahn left Minneapolis agency Fallon in 2005 to join former boss David Lubars at BBDO, his star only continued to rise.

But after nearly 15 years at BBDO New York, where he spent the past seven years as chief creative officer, Hahn’s time with the agency came to an abrupt end with news today that he had been cut as part of a round of layoffs affecting more than 10% of the New York office’s staff.

While it’s impossible to pin down exactly how much involvement a CCO has in an agency’s work, there’s no denying that Hahn’s tenure in creative leadership at BBDO New York has been one of the most celebrated in the shop’s history. After he was promoted from ecd to CCO of the flagship office in 2013, the network was named Adweek’s Global Agency of the Year in 2014 and U.S. Agency of the Year in 2015.

BBDO New York’s output of industry-defining work has slowed in recent years, but you don’t have to look very far back to see a litany of hit campaigns that were embraced by consumers and creatives alike.

Here are just six of the many memorable campaigns that BBDO New York launched under Hahn’s leadership:

Foot Locker: “Week of Greatness” (2014)

Two recurring threads through much of BBDO New York’s work under Hahn were dry wit and humanized celebrities. Both came together perfectly in the agency’s work on Foot Locker, which consistently showed star athletes at their most relatable. The annual Week of Greatness promotion saw especially strong creative, with athletes mocking everything from their sports to their own reputations.

Snickers: “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry” (2015)

The globally embraced “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry” Snickers campaign was already 5 years old in 2015, and while many marketers would have been itching to move on, BBDO New York under Hahn instead proved that there was plenty of life left in the concept. The brand produced a lifetime’s worth of creative hits that year, with our favorites being the “Brady Bunch” Super Bowl spot starring Danny Trejo, the Medusa-themed rear-cover ad in Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Issue and the subtly clever “Hungry Mistakes” out-of-home campaign.


AT&T: “Close to Home” (2015)

BBDO New York set the bar for cinematic advertising in the mid-2010s, as evidenced by several of the spots in this list. AT&T’s “Close to Home,” part of the ongoing “It Can Wait” campaign against distracted driving, showed that a PSA could be a work of art while also being effective at leaving a haunting message. The long-form spot was showered with awards, including gold in film direction at the 2016 Cannes Lions.

Sandy Hook Promise: “Evan” (2016)

Creating a PSA about school violence is already challenging enough as a creative task, but BBDO New York faced an even more detailed challenge in its work for Sandy Hook Promise—a group that has committed to staying nonpartisan. So while other agencies and lobbying groups could use visceral messages aimed at those who oppose gun control measures, Hahn’s team had to walk a delicate balance. The result was an absolute masterpiece of advocacy storytelling in “Evan,” which told two parallel stories of blooming love and simmering fury.

@griner david.griner@adweek.com David Griner is creative and innovation editor at Adweek and host of Adweek's podcast, "Yeah, That's Probably an Ad."