David Sable // Doable

There are advertising agencies and then there’s Young and Rubicam (today VMLY&R), one of the world’s leading global marketing communications companies. VMLY&R’s former global CEO/Chairman, David Sable, is sought after worldwide for his marketing and digital expertise. Beginning at Y&R as a trainee in 1976, his involvement in the advertising industry has spanned more than 40 years, with clients ranging from Fortune Ten companies to day-old startups. Today David serves on the Board of Directors of both UNICEF USA and the International Special Olympics and runs a boutique marketing firm, Doable, with a select group of clients. He is also the former Chairman of the Advertising Council’s Board of Directors. In 2013, Fast Company named David one of the “Ten Most Generous Marketing Geniuses.”
While living in Israel for several years, David had one of the first agencies dedicated to tech, Mimsar Arieli. Upon returning to the US, David rejoined the Y&R network, where he led major accounts in business-to-business, financial as well as consumer—including the first-ever global launch of Colgate-Palmolive’s tartar-control toothpaste. At the peak of his career at Young and Rubicam, he stepped down as CEO and handed over the reins of the company. (Yes, we spoke about that decision.)
As someone who has seen the evolution of advertising throughout the years, David touched on key elements in marketing and what he sees as key to working with clients to bring them success. We also spoke about digibabble. Enjoy!


My background is pretty simple. I was born in California. My late father, Jack (Yaakov) Sable, was a chaplain in the United States Air Force. He went to Yeshiva University and got his smichah from Rav Moshe Shatzkes. He got his MSW and PhD as well. Dr. Belkin, the head of YU at the time, called several young rabbis who had just gotten smichah to suggest they go into the armed services. My father was one of his closest talmidim and went into the Air Force.

“He met my mother, who lived in San Francisco, where I was born. Then YU asked my father to go to Riverdale to become the rav for a very small community of Jews who had sent a letter to Dr. Belkin, asking for a rabbi. YU gave this a lot of publicity; it was even in The New York Times. They were starting a program called the Daniel Boone Rabbinate, where they would send rabbis to places that needed help establishing communities. My father was the first and sadly the only graduate of the program. This was in 1956.
“My father built the Riverdale Jewish Center, which is still the centerpiece of Judaism in Riverdale. He also built the Riverdale Hebrew Day School, which became SAR. When I was around 13, my father decided to change career paths. He was proud of what he had accomplished, but he felt that he could do more on a grander scale. He went into government and worked for Nelson Rockefeller. He became the commissioner of human rights for the state of New York.

“There was no day school in Riverdale when I was younger, so I went to Ramaz in the city and stayed there until I graduated. As a child, I was always entrepreneurial. I’m a creative person. I liked to write, act in school plays and I always sang. I would say that part of my creativity stemmed from being the rabbi’s son. From the age of five, maybe even younger, I had to sing Yigdal in front of the whole community. I would have to give dvar Torahs at shalosh seudos. When you are always in the limelight like that, you learn how to develop a public presence. I learned how to speak in public, how to give presentations and how to look people in the eye while I was doing it.

“In high school, I helped direct the school plays. I took care of all of the technical details. I made sure the background and scenery were always where they were supposed to be. I was also the youth director at the Riverdale Jewish Center.

“In my senior year of high school, I got the opportunity to work for one of my father’s friends who had an advertising agency. That was my first foray into the advertising world. The school sponsored it, so I wasn’t allowed to get paid. I wrote copy and was really good at it. All of a sudden, I was selling copy, and ad agencies were hiring me to write for them.
“There was a company called Dick Gidron Cadillac. Dick was the first black person to own a major Cadillac dealership in New York. I did all of his advertising when I was still just a kid in high school. I helped buy the media. I worked on ads for UJA and did commercials for them. I did ads for a company called Weissglass Dairies, which was a famous milk producer in Staten Island. I was always working for someone.

“In 1973, war broke out in Israel, and I went there as a volunteer. I couldn’t be in the army because I couldn’t draft myself. It wasn’t 1947. I worked on a kibbutz for six months.

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