The Amazing Life of Jim Riswold

I got into advertising because of Jim Riswold. I didn’t know who he was at the time. But I’d see Nike’s “Bo Knows” commercials and their “Mars Blackmon” spots and think, that’s exactly what I want to do.

Riswold was recently inducted into the One Club Creative Hall of Fame, and Dan Wieden wrote a piece about him in the recent issue of one. a magazine. I knew Riswold had left W+K, and I’d heard a little bit about his controversial art work featuring Hitler. But I didn’t really know his story until I watched Riswold’s TED talk. It might be a little disturbing at times. But that’s what makes it amazing.

Here are some of the things I take away from Riswold:

  1. He’s still a writer. Listen to how he crafted his talk. It’s like copy from a Nike print ad.
  2. He’s not a very good presenter. You can have loads of talent as a writer and a CD, and still be a bad presenter. That’s not a reason to practice presenting. But it’s a good thing to recognize and not beat yourself up over.
  3. This guy has guts. And I have to think his courage is one of the reasons he was such a great creative. Not only is speaking to an audience when it clearly makes him uncomfortable, he shows himself at his most vulnerable to a live audience. As Dan Wieden says in his article, “The ability to remain vulnerable is the ability to remain creative.”

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