Soldier, folksinger, novelist … Chief Creative Officer.
Here’s Christian Bauman, Partner/CCO at H4B Chelsea, on what he’s learned from one of the least likely career paths in the industry:
The Mag: How did you end up where you are today?
CB: I thought I came into advertising the same that everyone did: as a house painter then a cook then a soldier then a guitar player then a writer. When I took my first gig in advertising as a proofreader it seemed like a perfect and natural evolution. Why? Are there other ways into this job?
The Mag: You have said, “Everything I know I learned from Somali pirates and Nepalese Sherpas; who needs college?” What does an education like that look like?
CB: I was fortunate to spend a month with the Sherpas of Nepal when I was a boy of 14, trekking around the Annapurna region, and have never forgotten their drive and strength and bravery (and I’m thinking of them a lot this week, in light of the tragic earthquake there). The pirates who are now unfortunately hijacking oil tankers off the coast of Somalia were fishermen when I met them as a soldier near Mogadishu in 1992, doing anything they could to feed their families. There was a lesson to be learned from their resiliency then, as well as a lesson to be learned from the decisions they’ve made since then.
The Mag: Writing novels and writing ad copy seem pretty far apart. What surprising similarities do they share?
CB: It’s all storytelling and narrative…If you are weaving a narrative interesting or relevant enough to hold an audience’s attention, you’ve accomplished something. With advertising, you have to find a way to unconsciously knit your target into the story you are telling, in a way that makes sense to them and adds value to their life or profession.
The Mag: Have you ever written fiction about the advertising industry?
CB: My three published novels to date have been about soldiers and guitar players. The one I’m finishing now is fantasy, set deep underground New York City. My boss Donna Murphy always laughs and says this is such a crazy business we should write a book about the things we’ve seen. I agree! But for career self-preservation I think I should probably wait until I’m retired before I publish that one.
Bauman’s novels have been published by Simon & Schuster and Melville House, and his short work has been widely anthologized. In addition, his short essays have appeared in the US on NPR’s All Things Considered. Links to all of that can be found on his personal site.