My Platinum Year Working With Alicia Keys on BlackBerry

Scenes from an ill-fated celebrity partnership

You wait your whole career for opportunities like this. Sure, I had cast some actors such as Cynthia Harris for Nabisco radio spots early in my career, and later my team and I got to shoot with Mike Strahan for Snickers. You learn a lot about time pressure (every minute counts), ego (restraining yours, honoring theirs), giving direction (carefully), and making small talk (damn, why did I never learn about football?).

Joining Razorfish as global executive creative director for BlackBerry in 2007, the challenge was to save an icon of the mobile industry as it imploded in the wake of the iPhone; the perk, however, was getting to work with one of the biggest music stars in the world, hired as the brand's in-house creative director.

The meetings were elegant and intense. All I wanted to do was produce a video with Alicia Keys. It's the kind of opportunity that can shape portfolios and win awards. Our team's initial concept (good, not great) was tossed out in favor of hers (honestly, better), but either way, I relished the responsibility of making it happen. We'd work all night, all weekend. I had a production company lined up. It would be very, very expensive. I texted my friend Adam: "I'm going to shoot a video with Alicia Keys."

Listen to the rest of the story here:

Every résumé has stories. I recently published mine. Half-memoir, half-guidebook, Bronze Seeks Silver: Lessons from a Creative Career in Marketing offers up stories and lessons about selling brands, building client relationships, and managing careers.

Each chapter yields indelible lessons, including getting your foot in the door, getting promoted, handling a layoff, managing an agency, going big with ideas, and yes, working with celebrities. The clip above from Chapter 12: The Last Gaspberry is a snapshot of the BlackBerry saga. The audiobook just came out on Amazon, Audible and Apple Books.

Hope you learn something yourself—and have a smile. Rock stars like optimism.

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Mat Zucker
Mat Zucker is a senior partner at Prophet, a former creative executive at Ogilvy, and the author of Bronze Seeks Silver: Lessons from a Creative Career in Marketing.

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