Peter Rosch Shows You Creatives &
Agencies How To Use Your Egos For Good
MIKE O'DONNELL / EDITOR
WNW Member Peter Rosch is a veteran New York-based Creative Director who, like many creatives, has lately been searching for ways to creatively "combat the evil forces conspiring to shittify the world." It looks like he's onto something with his latest project, Ego For Good. "It’s a pretty simple premise. When I have the time, I let agencies know (via social media) that I am available to crush it for 48-ish hours on a range of very specific asks in exchange for a minimum donation of $1000." So far, three agencies have enlisted Peter's ego, and Ego for Good has in turn logged $7,300 in donations to CASA for Children (as of our interview below.) We discuss how his creative ego was formed by "the well of effusive Tom-puffery that is my mother," the project's early successes, and his ultimate goal of including more creative egos than his own.
Illustration by WNW Member Ariele Rosch
Tell us a bit about your creative background. Who is Peter Rosch and how did he nurture his qualified Ego?
On the backside of being a mere toddler, I wrote and illustrated a book that I titled The Popcorn Party. My Mom said it was great (still does), and I never looked back! It hasn’t been all rainbows and kittens since, but on my darkest days, this “qualified ego” simply goes back to the well of effusive Tom-puffery that is my mother, even as I pretend I couldn’t care less about what she has to say. It’s a delicate dance that I’m sure any artist with a living mother can relate to. I’m kidding, of course. I mostly fish for praise from my wife these days. She’s typically closer by and has a more vested interest in keeping me falsely inflated for the good of the family unit. Also, I try to read a lot of novelty restaurant menus for inspiration.
What were some of the challenges and breakthroughs in launching your creative career?
I made my way to New York City with about $200 and a not-so-solid belief that someone should hire me as an art director. Living on a friend’s futon in a kitchenless studio apartment, with street cart meat-on-a-stick as the only affordable sustenance, was the first of the exactly eighty-two challenges I’ve faced up until now. The first breakthrough was definitely when an either very kind or very confused Group Creative Director decided to roll the dice and hire me as a full-time junior art director at a shop with a not-so-sterling creative reputation. I hope it’s still not the case, but back then it was a considerable challenge to move from a so-so agency to a better one. Seven years into a very well-paying struggle, my whole world would change because of one man’s insistence that a slick-as-snot business card was the key to unlocking all our advertising-fanboy dreams. True story: my partner at the time, John Hobbs, prince among thieves, rang me to let me know our business cards were ready to pick up. “Since I designed them, you can pick up the tab on this first batch, right,” he insist-asked. That first batch was $750. I was broke at the time, unconvinced, and livid. But, that card got in the hands of a very design-savvy CD at BBHNY, who liked it so much, he threw two days of freelance at us on Levi’s. Two days turned into weeks, and eventually we sold the agency’s first campaign for Levi’s, and were offered full-time positions. So, silly as it may sound, that business card was definitely the biggest breakthrough of my career. I should probably give my sobriety top billing, but everyone has heard that ol’ chestnut.
What was the impetus behind launching Ego for Good?
Urgent boredom. I’m sure many people of sound mind spent a good part of their 2017 trying to figure out how they might combat the evil forces conspiring to shittify the world. And that’s probably true no matter who or what you hold up as the demon sent here to destroy us all, in whatever way you define that destruction. Even prior to twenty-seventeen, I’d come to believe that a “better future for all” lies in empowering, educating, and spiritually liberating the youngest of our species. It’s dark as fuck out there for a lot of kids, and so my wife and I started putting our own yearly donations into organizations that could do the most to improve the lives of at-risk children. Still, I wanted to do more. One day, during a run, I thought, “I wonder if I could get agencies to donate money in exchange for 48 hours of work from me.” Most of the time, I’d have that kind of idea and sit on it long enough to convince myself that it wasn’t worth pursuing. But, it just so happens that this year, I’d made a commitment to act on ideas instead of hemming and hawing about them. Plus, I was really bored that week. In fact, I think the first post was actually titled, #BoredAsFuckFridaysForGood. I love writing. It is its own drug. And I just wanted to write for someone—anyone—and this seemed like a good way to get that fix while increasing the money going towards affecting some sort of real change in the world.
Tell us a bit about how Ego for Good works and what it’s all about.
It’s a pretty simple premise. When I have the time, I let agencies know (via social media) that I am available to crush it for 48-ish hours on a range of very specific asks in exchange for a minimum donation of $1000. (See the post I make on Facebook below) What I will work on, the donation amount, what organization that donation goes to, and the forty-eight hour turnaround, were all things I very carefully considered to ensure that I would feel the pressure to bring my absolute A-game to the table each and every time. But, like any muse, I’m sure those criteria for fruitful panic will take new shapes as this project continues.
How do you select which charity to donate to? And is it one charity per brief or an ongoing stream of donations to one charity? Does the agency get a say in the charity?
Thus far, all work has been for donations made to casaforchildren.org. Because I believe it has the necessary reach and other organizational components necessary to achieve its mission. What they are doing motivates me to do better as a human. And simultaneously motivates me to give my best effort to an agency in exchange for their donation. Given the early success, I may select other charities down the road. But, I think it’s important that the writer/designer/art director (as I hope to expand to more than just me at some point) has the final say regarding the recipient of the donation, because it should be a mission that inspires that creative to really kill it for the agency.
Which agencies have gotten involved so far?
Office of Baby, Preacher, and BBH NY got this thing rolling with me, and the interest from other agencies has been really motivating. As you can imagine, no one from any agency has said, “This is an incredibly stupid idea, Rosch. Let me pay you more money, in the regular way of things, for the same work.”
Have there been any challenges in getting this off the ground? Have you had any support getting it up and running?
The biggest challenge, outside of trying to time my posts to make the most of social media algorithms, has been matching my availability with the legitimate needs from the agencies themselves. So, I’ve been flexible on a few things in order to facilitate some success. And I am constantly seeking feedback from creative managers to fine-tune how to make the connection.
Because of this unique introduction to the work you end up doing for a company, is there added pressure to deliver the goods?
A bit, definitely. But in truth, I put an incredible amount of pressure on myself to deliver above and beyond what any agency is expecting of me when they hire me. I want to keep writing, I want to keep making, I want to keep helping. The best way to do all of that is to keep handing over great work, in large quantities. We all know that’s no easy task, so, from time to time, I do rely on some great voodoo wishing spells I found at my local library.
Any early surprises thus far?
I didn’t really think I’d get any work/donations from agencies until I shouted about the effort for many, many weeks. The first three times I put it out there, I was booked almost immediately for a total of $5,300. That was the quick start I’d hoped for, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t surprise me. As of my answering these questions, Ego For Good has logged $7,300 in donations to CASA.
Where would you like to see Ego for Good go next?
I’m hoping to eventually add other creatives to the mix. And I’m constantly exploring and asking for feedback on how best to match-up what I can offer with when an agency might have the needs for it. Overall, this idea is in its super-infancy, and I’m keeping an open mind around any ideas that might grow the donations efficiently. For the most part, my primary focus thus far has been on doing the best work I can for the agencies who’ve donated and familiarizing the industry with the project and how it works.
How can your fellow WNW members get involved?
Anybody who thinks they’d like to participate should just reach out to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. And I’d be happy to talk with them about how we might be able to have them participate. I would love to give agencies a smorgasbord of talent, more diverse tonalities, and wider offering of disciplines for their donations. For example: A larger donation might secure a forty-eight-hour effort from two writers. Also, I know what types of tasks I can nail in 48-hours, that ensures a certain level of quality, but it also limits the possibilities. It’d be great to see art directors, designers, planners, or any other agency role, put their freelancing talents against this too. At the end of the day, I’m all for doing whatever I can, whatever we can, to increase the donations being made to any organization that is confronting the various and very real ills of the world head-on.