What did you want to be when you grew up?
“World’s Ace Partyer” or “Helicopter Pilot” according to a paragraph I wrote in the sixth grade. (And yes “Partyer” is how I spelled it. It was circled and called out by the teacher.) In high school I wanted to have a syndicated comic strip like “The Far Side,” or “Calvin and Hobbes.” In college I wanted to be an animator on Disney Films or TV cartoons, but I learned it’s really tough business. Not for those looking for steady, long-term employment. So instead I studied illustration, advertising and graphic design.
What’s a typical day like for you—what takes up big chunks of your time?
There is no typical day in advertising. Every day is completely different. Everything is moving parts. You can make a “To Do List” of projects. Then an urgent new project becomes your only priority.
What would people be surprised to learn about your job as an Associate CD/Art Director?
People would be surprised how much listening, thinking and playing well with others there is. Everyone thinks it’s all being creative and making TV commercials. It’s really 30% listening, 30% collaboration, 30% creative, 10% socializing and being human. Some days you’re a plumber, other days you’re a rocket scientist.
I’m constantly surprised and amazed by the things I think have nothing to do with advertising that make their way into advertising and my creative solutions.
What do you like most about your job?
That I never know what to expect when I come to work every day and what I’ll be working on.
The other is the variety of people you work and interact with on a daily basis. Everyone from the young folks in our Traffic department to presidents of companies. No matter what your title is, we’re all interesting people.
What is most challenging?
People and their emotions. I think the majority of decisions made by humans are made based on emotion and personal preference. No matter how good the research is, what the focus group feedback is, and how well defined the strategy is many advertising decisions are made based on emotion and personal preference. Or in one case, the one someone’s wife liked who was not the target customer.
How do you know you’ve come up with a good design?
When another person says, “That is cool. I wish I had come up with that.”
What is your favorite method for coming up with creative concepts?
I make a list 1 through 9. Then I write down the most “out there” ideas that will make the account executive and client squirm in their seats, but make me smile.
Do you have a favorite war story or two you’d like to share?
Any story and every story that includes our former ECD, Harvey Gabor. Otherwise they are all too long, too salty or “inside” to tell here. Buy me a drink or three and I’ll talk your ear off.
Any advice for clients for when they’re reviewing layout options?
Remember to base your decisions on the research/strategy if you want to sell your product or service. If you are going to ignore the research/strategy then at least pick the work that is going to stand out and get you the most press and attention. Never pick the safe pedestrian ad and expect it to do anything for your sales or business. And if possible, let the team or the creative finish the presentation before giving feedback or opinions.
Any advice for wannabe art directors or those looking to move up to become an ACD?
You are not as cool as you think you are. If you ignore the research and the strategy, or think you’re smarter than others, I would suggest finding a career or job in another field.
SMZ’s credo, “Listen. Think. Do,” is amazingly simple and it works 100% of the time.
Be a good listener. Don’t talk over or at others. Have a two-way conversation. Be open to ideas and feedback from anyone and everywhere. Great ideas can come from anywhere. Be able to articulate and present your work as well as other people’s work in an impartial manner. Be positive. Always look to add to and bring new and additional ideas to a project.
If you cannot clearly and confidently present your concepts and ideas, your concepts and ideas do not get selected or produced by clients.
Daydreaming is very important. You should do this twice a day, every day for 10-15 minutes.
Look at and read things that have nothing to do with your profession or occupation, but that interest you. As guest lecturer Brad Bird said, “You have to put good @#$% in so good @#$% comes out.”
You’re the absolute king of the SMZ Employee Social Event Committee.
What’s your inspiration for that given you already have so much on your plate?
Just like happy wife equals happy life, happy employees equal happy work place. If you look forward to work and the people you work with, then the work created by that place will make you and the clients happy. Employee morale is so important.
You have to build trust between people in the good times and moments, so that in the stressful times with challenging projects there is a higher level of trust that you have each other’s backs. That we are all in this together.
I like to see people smiling, laughing and having a good time. Joy is contagious. Happiness is infectious. (Someone should put that on a T-shirt or poster with a stock photo.)
You take vacation time for your charity volunteer endeavors. What are your favorite causes?
Anything that has to do with helping folks in need or down on their luck at the moment. I was fortunate to have grown up in a stable family with a good home in a nice neighborhood. I want to help other folks who also want that basic normalcy in their day-to-day lives: food, job, home, stability, and security. When you have those then you may find joy and a smile again. There is nothing worse that worrying all day about when or what you are going to eat next or where you are going to sleep at night. Ninety percent of the people in the world want these things and I believe the world would be a more stable, peaceful and enjoyable place if that could happen. And its good for your soul and the universe.
If money were no object, what else might you do for a living?
I would love to volunteer for six months of each year working with a different CNN Hero, in a different part of the world. It’s my favorite show of the year and I look forward to watching it and seeing the difference individual human beings are making in their small corner of the world. Same thing as advertising. Every day would be like advertising, unexpected interesting problem solving. This answer even surprises me. Thanks for asking it.