Harry Bernstein | Innovation Through Culture
Updated: Nov 20, 2018
Create Your Legacy
If you had a ground-breaking idea, would you take full action on it?
Once I met Harry B, an electrifying energy took over the room. A humble demeanor surrounded him as he walked into the office. At that moment, I knew I was going to learn something valuable that would be shared with the world.
Harry Bernstein is the founder and Chief Creative Officer of the digital agency The 88. Which is now known as Annex 88 after the acquisition by Havas New York. Harry was named Chief Creative Officer of the New York location due to his understandings of contemporary culture and innovation.
He was born and raised in Bayside, Queens where the city meets the suburbs. There was a large presence of music, art, and culture on every corner. Growing up in the vicinity of New York was definitely an asset. Living in a captivating city allowed Harry to be around constant forms of creativity and inspiration. Once he was old enough to take the subway, there was nothing stopping him from taking advantage of the opportunity! St. Marks allowed Harry to have access to different types of backgrounds through CD’s and mixtapes. He stated, “Before the internet where you could just search culture, you had to physically be there.” Having a history of iconic artists like Run DMC, LL Cool J, Ramones, Nas, and more growing up in the same neighborhood always made it feel like it was possible for him to succeed.
Prior to the social media boom, Harry realized the growing trend of how influencers posted what they wore or ate and how their supporters would follow their every move. This helped spark the idea to transform the status quo of traditional advertising and establish his company, The 88 in 2010. He recognized that, this is the way people now are going to market their products. Fast forward, Harry and his team have worked with some big household name brands such as Coca-Cola, Adidas Originals, Bloomingdales, Supreme, and many more! One of their most recent campaigns with TD Ameritrade was placed within the bitcoin blockchain. Harry’s vision has always been to change advertising forever! That revolutionary spirit is exactly what earned Havas a grand total of 47 Lions – 3 Grand Prix, 5 Gold, 18 Silver and 21 Bronze at this year’s Cannes Lions Festival. Having the passion and agility to break out of one’s comfort zone to try something new and restart is very bold. However, that is what separates the past from the future. I asked Harry,
Q: You’ve accomplished a lot in your career leading out in some pretty exciting campaigns. How do you stay motivated throughout the years? How do you stay motivated when you’re under extreme pressure?
Harry said committing to the creative process is a lifestyle decision, especially when one builds their life around a career. He believes being around nature can help one balance out. The energy of New York is super powerful and can be overwhelming. The hustle is matched by few cities in the world. Being surrounded by endless competition develops the drive. It’s essential to look at the people one surrounds themselves with. Human beings travel in a pack, and we’re influenced by each other. When a challenge surfaces, we must be able to act on it. The idea of always being ready for an opportunity is what makes the action come naturally.
Though, it is important to leave the city in order to have a creative recalibration. Mediation and a healthy diet helps keep Harry focused as he takes on daily responsibilities. Havas New York implemented a weekly program which is called Creative Consciousness which I have been attending. This allows individuals to take an hour to disconnect and meditate with an instructor to help the mind unlock brilliant ideas. After my first session, it was as if a weight had been lifted off my body. I asked Harry a couple more questions.
Q: What does the creative process consist of when constructing a campaign?
He stated, “The three pillars for me are insight, innovation, and craft.” The first step is to identify and empathize with the consumer. In addition to understanding what purpose the brand or product has in their life. There are ways to communicate that are relevant in different environments. Whether it be styles of photography, videography, etc. Being able to speak a vernacular that’s natural to that audience and true to the brand is very important! Harry also said, “During the process of making a piece of content you also learn about new things which help create more original work.”
Q: If you could name one habit to adopt for aspiring entrepreneurs, what would it be?
Meditation. “Self-understanding is super important. An entrepreneur’s greatest asset is themselves. You are your biggest investment, the first step to understand what you need is to find that space.” In this world of media, we’re constantly absorbing information. The last statement Harry made that really hit home was, “When are you taking time to digest and really understand what you want to be and what you want to do?” Without that foundation, we are just reacting. Harry defines true entrepreneurialism as,
“That thing of like never arriving. When you identify a trend in culture or business that you have the desire to understand, recognize, and leverage it for yourself. Opposed to being stuck and committed to what’s safe and known. Safe and known keeps us in the past. New and unknown with the courage to embrace that, I think is the real foundation of an entrepreneur. That’s why they are the first to do it.” I completely agree with Harry Bernstein. I left the room feeling absolutely inspired. Harry made me realize that there is opportunity on every corner. It is just in our best interest to be prepared for when it strikes. Now, what are you going to do?