After nearly eight months as SMZ’s Executive Creative Director, Michael Corbeille reflects on the agency, our industry and life at this non-corporate, caffeinated marketing firm.
Who are the ad icons you most admire?
Joe Sedelmaier, a legendary director who was responsible for some of the most iconic and memorable ads. Bob Barrie’s brilliant visual solutions, Tom Monahan’s ability to challenge conventional thinking and Mike Belitsos, for giving me my first job.
You often talk about working at the “speed of retail.” What exactly does that mean?
Retail creative doesn’t carry the old stereotype of “hurry now” executions. Retail speed is about staying busy, making quick decisions and working with the reality of our client’s budgets and time tables.
How does that philosophy correlate to your creative process?
Understanding that moment when you’re no longer improving but diluting the idea. Time isn’t always beneficial.
How do you inspire your SMZ team to bring out their best work?
Provide a work environment that doesn’t feel like work. No one looks at their watch when they are enjoying themselves. Be collaborative. Embrace outside and internal opinions and above all, keep the teams well fed.
What’s the most over-used cliché’ in our business right now and how would you make fresh?
“Research points the way,” “the client is the enemy of great creative” and “only writers write.” Each of those statements adds up to zero and here’s why. Research is an aid not the answer. Employed as a support aid, it can help avoid pitfalls.
Great creative doesn’t happen without great clients. They play a critical role in the creative process and are often the catalysts that help work evolve from good to great.
Ideas have no boundaries or departmental bias.
After your initial eight months at SMZ, what are your observations on the agency?
My first impression of the agency is still holding true; genuinely nice people who really enjoy working together. This includes the client roster too; SMZ has an average time of over 10 years with its clients. Making any relationship work is rooted in trust, value and creative solutions, big and small. It all emanates from the agency’s philosophy of Listen. Think. Do. Those three actions take place in conditions that foster respect and collaboration. They’re not just words on a screensaver but very much a part of our culture.
What would you change at SMZ?
Add a greenhouse, BBQ and espresso machine.
So, what’s your favorite campaign that you’ve helped engineer at SMZ this past year?
Wow, that’s a tough question. I’d have to say our total rebranding of SVS Vision and the work we’re developing for the Michigan Credit Union League are two good examples. Our work for the Tigers and Red Wings continues to be embraced by the fans and within the last six months, the Michigan Lottery, Grand Hotel, Joe Muer Seafood, Taubman and the Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau have all challenged us to develop new creative approaches for their brands.
And finally, you’ve gotten a reputation for having the best hair in the agency. How do you respond to that piece of notoriety?
Rich Williams, SVP/Strategic Business Development and Michael Corbeille, Executive Creative Director