In late 2014, I had the opportunity to take over as CD of Innocean's Chicago office, inheriting a fractured client relationship with its only account (Hyundai) mired in a continual cycle of creative upheaval.
Within four months, my account team partner and I were able to galvanize the agency's client relationship and set a steady course for growth. Key to our success was my development of Hyundai's 'Wow' campaign, a very low-cost, yet transformative retail initiative that finally helped Hyundai cut through 'the car clutter.'
Its universal appeal, flexibility, and cost-efficiency enabled Hyundai to finally unify its vastly different regional sales efforts under a singular direction, a goal the agency had been trying to accomplish since its inception.
I had a spec idea that I wanted to see to fruition. The only issue with it was that it would really only work if it featured Adam West. So I called him. And after reading the script, Adam wanted to see it to fruition, too.
I produced it through my old production company, lakespeed. Because it was spec, I was also the line producer, set designer, art department, location manager, permit puller, production department, PA, 2nd AD, 3rd AD, and craft service.
Development time – from the spark of the initial idea, to finding the Batmobile, to convincing Adam West to fly from Idaho to LA for the shoot, to having a broadcast-ready final product – took nine days.
Yup. Nine days.
Special thanks to Director, Editor, and friend Tim Kendall, Casting Director Liz Paulson, DP Florian Sadler, and First AD Brenton Covington.
For the record, Adam was not a spokesperson or affiliated with the featured product in any way.
RIP, good friend.
After years of researching how to create a premium, all-natural ready-made cocktail, Stanton-South needed help bringing their idea to life in the marketplace when the design firms they hired underdelivered.
So, I jumped in and led the complete brand exploration and development for what would become CRAFTHOUSE (which Stanton-South had originally titled ‘Perfect Pour’). Working with designer Lisa Graves, we dove deep into the history of cocktails to deliver a classic yet lively brand that would attract Crafthouse’s upscale target to the pre-mixed cocktail category.
The result was a complete success – CRAFTHOUSE gained immediate traction in boutique bodegas and prime retailers like Whole Foods, and is now being served on United Airlines flights around the globe.
Over the past three years, I've been fortunate enough to be a 'call in case of emergency' writer for ESPN and the The Vault.
The assignments usually (but not always) start off something along the lines of: “Skip! We have 15 seconds of mandatories for a 10 second non-union broadcast spot that has no budget and has to pass client and legal for two companies. We need options by 8:00 EST tomorrow. Go.”
I love getting those calls.
Challenges are what this gig is all about.
A few years ago, I worked as a freelance CD with boutique agency 426 (now called Affect) to develop a completely-integrated campaign for Neebo College Bookstores. And by integrated, I mean integrated - pre-roll, POS, promotions, print, college newspaper, internet radio, customizable social posts, and events.
The budget for our undertaking was minimal... but 426 and I still managed to convince our friend Adam West to jump on board.
The result? Neebo - which had been rapidly losing market share to digitally-focused retailers like Amazon - had a record year in sales, raised much-needed excitement around its bookstores, and most importantly, saw every single one of its on-campus college bookstore contracts get renewed.
Nike wanted to have influencers to associate their brand with the 2010 World Cup, even though they were not an official partner of either the event or Team USA.
So they reached out to Experient (now called Rockskip), who reached out to me.
Together, we developed a landmark Nike World Cup event from the ground up, building a completely immersive, secret experience for social influencer invitees that began with a secret, password-protected website and ended with a night in they'll never forget.
Every detail was meticulously thought through and crafted... from the epic (the complete transformation of a historical bank building into speakeasy) down to the minute (Nike branded cocktail napkins). And the result - complete linkage of Nike and the World Cup across the Chicago stratosphere - was worth every bit of effort.
Frustrated with a series of unsatisfactory proposals for the interior of their newly-acquired Manhattan office space, Western Union approached experient (now called Rockskip) for suggestions on how to create an office environment that would reinforce Western Union’s brand story and global importance. The success of the communication was tantamount, as the office would be hosting dignitaries, fund managers, investors, and C-level executives from around the world.
Experient gave me a shout, and after examining Western Union's needs, I wrote 'The Journey', the emotional story of an ideal visit to a conceptual Western Union office by a foreign dignitary.
Western Union's CEO was so taken with 'The Journey' that they awarded the entire project to experient with one simple demand: bring 'The Journey' to life.
At that point, I had to shift from storyteller to communication architect. I deconstructed 'The Journey' and designed a three-act communication flow that would allow the Western Union brand story to unfold for visitors and enable a full understanding of the global importance of Western Union's micro-transactions.
From there, I worked with a team of graphic artists, installation artists, programmers, and developers to create static artwork, real time data visualization programming, and interactive installations that – in concert - would answer Western Union's charge.
Finally, in order to gain final approval on the massive undertaking, we created a 3D walkthrough of the final space (including representations of all installation artwork), which I've included here.
The buildout was a huge success, and Western Union was so pleased with the work that they awarded experient with the environmental design of their new, state-of-the-art WU Ventures Lab in San Francisco.
From fall 2013 until the tail end of 2014, I had the pleasure of working as a contract CD at Leo Burnett, tasked with assignments across the entirety of the massive Allstate business.
The volume of work and ‘all hands on deck’ structure of the Allstate team had me jumping in to write Facebook sidebar ads one minute, and presenting fully-integrated, 360 degree campaigns to Allstate’s head of advertising the next.
Highlights from the 14 month assignment (which was only supposed to last two weeks) include a complete revamp of Allstate’s African-American initiatives, the fully-integrated 2015 Allstate Good Hands Nets Program, and copious amounts of Mayhem radio and social snark.
Before taking on my current role, I was a freelance CD for over 10 years with clients in Chicago, New York, SoCal, and Dallas. Sometimes, I was client facing. Other times, I was just white labeling my work from afar.
Along the way, I had a few victories.
Most were small...
...a problem solved for one agency, a crisis averted for another.
And some were a little bigger.
I spent a about a decade helping clients across the country find creative solutions to problems when their backs were against the wall and resources like time and money were scarce.
Here are a few of my favorite examples of quick creative solves to client problems.
How much of a 'digital native' am I?
Also in 2010, I worked with client 426 to create THE HARD SHELL FINISH for and MAKING LIFE SHINE for TURTLE WAX, the RAYBESTOS GARAGE for Raybestos, and the WHAT ARE YOU INTO? social/experiential summer program for MITSUBISHI.
Even further back, in 2005 and 2006, I co-led a relaunch of GATORADE.COM for TRIBAL. During that time I spearheaded Tribal’s first cross-platform, cross-agency initiatives and wrote & directed a number of proprietary videos featuring Gatorade athletes (Kevin Garnett, Kerri Walsh, and Matt Kenseth) and Gatorade Sports Science Institute scientists.
In 1999, after returning from another stint as a professional football player, I worked at DDB-digital (now TRIBAL), and created award-winning interactive advertising for MICROSOFT, UNIVERSAL PICTURES, and ANHEUSER-BUSCH, which included bringing BUD BOWL and ‘WHASSUP’ to the interactive space. Rumor is, our 'Whassup' team won the first-ever Titanium Lion.
Here are a few SD relics from my past that still have quite a bit of relevance in an HD world.
Here's a list of my personal clients, by year. There are quite a number of shared victories in these ranks. And, I'm proud to say, an even larger number of friends.
No one likes time and budgetary constraints. However, they have given me the opportunity to write and direct some of my own projects for clients.
Here are a few examples, each taken from a larger campaign or episodic series.
One of my resolutions for 2017 is to be a prolific writer.
Hopefully it will last longer than my resolution to get my 'dad bod' to revert back to 'football bod.'
On the side, I develop 360 degree entertainment platforms with my partners Chris Marrs and Tim Kendall.
Here's a few examples that have gotten us meetings, options, and assignments.
Here are a few videos I made with my daughter.
'RNN' is something she an I put together on a Sunday (3/26/17) after she asked Facebook to vote on her designs for the next phase of my beard.
'Toast' is a quick tribute to the Bucktown neighborhood of Chicago, and a true story. Brian Schilling jumped in to DP, and we were able to get all the footage we needed in a just couple hours (with a toddler).
'Hot' was something Brian and I did for fun a little later that used an iPhone video (where I got to flex my improvisational chops) as a starting point.
The seismic shift to digital has left me with two laments. First, I miss the tactile experience of reading the 'paper' every morning, which was a ritual I shared with my grandfather. And second, opportunities to craft long form prose meant for the printed page are now few and far between.
I sometimes get asked what I did with all the spare time that I had while freelancing and consulting for nearly 10 years.