I don’t hear the term Renaissance Man much these days. The ad world I grew up in was populated by a lot of renaissance men and renaissance women. They were interesting and sometimes imposing people who knew a little about a wide array of subject areas. They had varied interests. They often spoke more than one language. They certainly travelled widely and read voraciously. They followed emerging bands and some could play piano. They ran marathons and played squash. They knew the newest restaurants and the history of the building the restaurant was in. Being handed a wine list was a joy for them.
They had style and grace. The kind of people you wanted to hang around with. Magnets of knowledge and self-inspiration. They were constantly reinventing. They were dedicated followers of fashion. The forefront of all things coming and the illuminators of things that had happened decades or centuries before and their implication for today.
Renaissance men were certainly entertaining. They were challenging and accommodating at the same time. They could hold the attention of the table at a client dinner. Ask interesting questions and laugh at great observations.
Maybe because in those days ad people had expense accounts and client dinners were a primary way of building client relationships. It was the optimum way of learning about new opportunities and ways to grow their business. After you earned their trust which wasn’t always easy as many clients were Renaissance men as well, the client might lean forward and share a surprise with an opening disclaimer of “Keep this just between us OK.”
That information was very valuable and got the quick attention of your boss the next morning with a plan of action quickly formed on how to turn that night’s knowledge into competitive opportunity because clients had many resources to turn to. Everybody knew that your stock rose because of your ability to build relationships.
Renaissance men turned their creativity into business initiatives. The fact that they were interesting and interested manifested itself into business opportunities.
They worked it but they were not just schmoozers or empty suits. They had knowledge and substance. They would know facts like what types of diapers sell the most in Japan? Pampers or Depends? A silly but important observation for a smart CPG marketer.
Are Renaissance Men still in the game?
Does today’s digital world homogenize us or nurture those types of individuals? Certainly in the complexity of personal interactions in the advertising world modeling on conformity does provide security especially among young people. A sea of tables with people performing tasks with ear buds firmly does create the soothing comfort of sameness albeit for the music selections and a monotone that is deafening. But does it develop the Renaissance Men that grows businesses today and most importantly people?
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