2 Minutes With ... Sean McBride, Chief Creative Officer at Arnold

On Eddie Murphy, Dr. Rick and the craft of Shakespeare

Sean McBride has spent 14 years at Arnold Worldwide, rising through the ranks to become chief creative officer. Since taking the reins, the Boston-based agency has more than doubled in size. During his career, Sean has served as creative lead across all sorts of clients and categories, including Ocean Spray, Volvo, Monster, New Balance, Merrill Lynch, Priceline, Panasonic and SolarCity. He's best known for his leadership on Progressive insurance, with characters like Flo, Dr. Rick and Jamie entering the collective cultural consciousness. During his tenure, Progressive's business has more than tripled.

We spent two minutes with Sean to learn more about his background, his creative inspirations and recent work he's admired.

Sean, tell us ...

Where you grew up, and where you live now.

I grew up west of Boston, went to middle and high school in Boston, and now I live north of Boston. So yeah, basically all over the world.

How you first realized you were creative. 

There was a moment early in high school where I became the guy who wrote funny things. This was a big development because at the time I was barely cracking the top 10 of people who said funny things. That's when I figured out I was a writer.

A person you idolized creatively early on. 

Eddie Murphy's stand-up was the first creative thing I remember being obsessed with. Every single beat of Comedian and Delirious still take up space in my brain.

A moment from high school or college that changed your life.

Right after college I went to London to be a research assistant on an edition of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. Studying Shakespeare taught me the importance of execution. He wrote almost no original plots—virtually everything he did was a retelling of someone else's story. And yet he's considered the greatest writer in the English language. Pure effing craft.

A visual artist or band/musician you admire. 

Bob Mould of Hüsker Dü and Sugar. He's evolved without losing track of himself, and he's a shining example of aging gracefully in a creative life.

A book, movie, TV show or podcast you recently found inspiring.

The Bear. A reminder that clear vision, great story and great execution are always enough.

Your favorite fictional character.

Max Fischer

Someone or something worth following in social media.

@Armwrestlingwhisperer. Hypnotic.

How Covid-19 changed your life, personally or professionally.

At a certain point I figured out my kids (then 11 and 8) had become my best friends. Like, for real. We had the same interests, inside jokes, the whole thing.

One of your favorite creative projects you've ever worked on.

I have a soft spot for these things we made for SolarCity. I love how different the tone is from everything else about on the subject.

A recent project you're proud of.

The Dr. Rick work for Progressive is basically all I've ever wanted from this career—a thing that millions of people quote and laugh together about. We even wrote a book.

Someone else's work that inspired you years ago.

Arnold is the agency that made me want to do this job. Twenty-plus years later, my heart still skips a beat when I watch Volkswagen's "Pink Moon."

Someone else's work you admired lately.

One the of the hardest things to do in this business is to sell and preserve a simple idea. I can imagine this iPhone idea as a few spare words on the page, and how hard it was to not complicate it. I'm glad they didn't.

Your main strength as a creative person.

I know what I like, and I know how to make what I like.

Your biggest weakness.

Em dash abuse.

One thing that always makes you happy.

Movie theater popcorn.

One thing that always makes you sad.

Bad seats on planes.

What you'd be doing if you weren't in advertising.

I'd love to think I would be a screenwriter or a showrunner. But the truth is I'd probably be a mover. I have tremendous lower body strength. We should embrace our gifts.

2 Minutes With is our regular interview series where we chat with creatives about their backgrounds, creative inspirations, work they admire and more. For more about 2 Minutes With, or to be considered for the series, please get in touch.

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