Brandtatorship

BT_2013AddyAdNew endeavors come with great risk.

My friends, many of you know already, but on Jan 18th I left my job as the Creative Director of the digital company StormFrog to form my own advertising agency with my good friend Courtney Smith. We call ourselves Brandtatorship. We’re a boutique agency that’s focused to help companies take charge of their brand. When you have a moment, follow us on Twitter: @brandtatorship and like us on Facebook and join our social conversation.

The outpouring of support from the Ad Community has been overwhelming, comforting, and humbling. The agency really doesn’t take shape without the expertise of Mr. Fishingpoet who’s one of the best writers in the city of Rochester. But ultimately our agency survives on what we do from this point forward, not on what we did in the past. We are up for the challenge. New endeavors may come with great risk, but great risk promotes trepidation. Sleepless nights, and lots of stress. But it’s all good, because it’s ours. Just a few weeks in, and I love it.

These are exciting times, as Matt says: “Step into traffic. Live deliberately. Forge ideas.”

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It’s Just An Opinion

That’s all it is. An opinion. My opinion. But it’s mine and no one else’s. My own take on a subject. It’s a collection of life experiences encapsulated into a series of short bursts that i dispense when the time is right. My opinions determine mood, impact feelings, reward creative and sting and build up egos. I rarely think of the impact when in the moment. I would think it’s much like a surgeon who doesn’t think of the future scar he/she leaves behind after a major procedure. They’re just concerned with the success of the operation. But then again, that is still just an opinion (since I am not a surgeon, nor have had any medical training outside of the application of band-aids).

The latest was judging creative work for the Canton Ad Fed Addy award show. A years worth of blood, sweat, tears and budgets judged in a matter of hours by me and my three fellow judges. The creative fate of the entrants rest in the balance of our opinions. When judging creative work it’s hard for me to suppress the hurt feelings filter, or conversely the “I wish I thought of that” response. Overall the work was solid. I did my share of involuntary laughter, and marveled at some executions that pushed the limits of budgets and what I thought possible. Long story short … there is some great creative coming out of Canton, Ohio.

All around the country, there is a lot of good creative work that gets produced for clients every year. However the good work goes on the fridge. It’s the exceptional ones, the ones that went from good to great, are singled out and get the gold.

And even that … is still just my opinion.

Love at Three Sights

When I was younger I never believed in love at first sight. My life in advertising as an Art Director had trained me to never buy into the movie or television romances exploited by the entertainment industry. From early on I understood that on-screen romances were driven by plot lines, ratings and had nothing to do with real chemistry. A major component to love. However love is very abstract. It doesn’t follow rules and doesn’t pretend to play favorites and I understand that now. Love transcends the logical and gets you to see life differently. Eyes become opened, and this, at times, happens in an instant.

Such as, the first time I saw my son Joey. That was love at first sight. The doctor held him up, eyes wide open and he was big and strong. I picked him up and everything changed (stealing a line from Ben Folds).

The first time I saw my daughter Rebekah. That was love at first sight. Her tiny frame so fragile. Her cry so sweet. I fell hard that day.

The first time I saw youngest son Aaron, albeit one month early, well you guessed it, and that was before i knew he would grow into a sarcastic and witty energetic fireball.

I often think back to that time when I first saw each one of my children. When i do, my heart swells, and I get lost in thought. My reward is a memory burned into the soft tissue of my brain. It’s like the finger print of the one I love is permanently there for the rest of my days. I hope it’s something my three kids get to experience someday.

So if someone today asked me if i believed in love at first sight I would respond with a revised view of “depends on the case”. If somebody said to me “what about chemistry at first sight?”

Well that’s a definite yes, and a whole ‘nother blog post.

Play Defense.

Play Defense. That’s what Mike May told me in Memphis, Tennessee minutes before going in to meet my client for the first time. (The picture on the left is from one of our trips, drawn in December of 1999. Mike was a few rows ahead of me.) His philosophy was clear. Don’t open your mouth and say something stupid that you will be remembered for the duration of you tenure. He said “Just listen the first time. Take mental notes. Resist the urge to comment or make suggestions. Let them come away with the notion of ‘Hey, Joe’s a good guy, I like him’, in the long run they will trust you more when you do make strategic suggestions. Then you can sell more creative and have some fun, and this job will be much easier.”

So that’s what I did. Some of my fondest advertising memories came from those monthly trips to Memphis, talking to guys like Crutchfield, Frank Black, and Randy. Mike’s play defense strategy worked like a charm. It was the one piece of advice I took with me. And he was right, The job got much easier. What Mike failed to tell me was when to turn this little gem of advice on and off. Guess that was for me to figure out on my own. There were times this year where I used it a little more than I should have, and at times I did not employ it enough.

Over the last four months I have played defense a lot more. I have been in several situations where I remained quiet, and unfortunately my silence translated into outcomes that were different than the ones I was screaming in my head. And for the record screaming in my own head, answering questions or responding to statements between my own eardrums is very unproductive, and give the person, client, friend or family member I am with a big zero. I need to think back to why Mike told me those words many years ago, and try to understand that what he was really trying to tell me. What he really meant was “First impressions are everything. Listen first. Take mental notes next, and respond with informed answers last, so that you can do what is in the best interest of the client. After you do that feel free to speak your mind with confidence and as often as you’d like.”

I feel like I at times have let some people down as a result of playing defense over these last four months, Julie included. So if I am quiet when I am with you, punch me in the shoulder. Remind me that I should no longer play defense as much and just speak my mind with confidence.

Consequences be dammed.

A Designer’s SuperBowl Pick

I am rooting for the Pittsburgh Steelers in Superbowl XLV. They are not my favorite team. I have never lived in Pittsburgh and I have no connection to the Steelers at all. I do however, admire their brand. The style of football they play is hardworking smash mouth football. They represent a blue collar town and have a history of success. I also love their logo. As a designer what’s not love? It’s a variation of the CMYK color system. CMYK refers to the four inks used in some color printing: cyan for blue, magenta for red, yellow for um… yellow, and key black. Okay not really, but that’s what I see. In 1962, Republic Steel of Cleveland approached the team and suggested that they consider the Steelmark, the insignia used by the American Iron and Steel Institute to honor Pittsburgh’s steel heritage. The logo colors were chosen to promote the attributes for steel: yellow lightens your work; red brightens your leisure; and blue widens your world. The logo’s meaning was later amended to represent the three materials used to produce steel: yellow for coal; red for iron ore; and blue for steel scrap. I also admire the logo only used on one side of the helmet. The Steelers helmet reflects the way the logo was originally applied on just the right side of the helmet in 1962 and it has never been changed. The other side is just black. This is in complete opposition to every other team in the National Football League. However it was only supposed to be a temporary measure because the Steelers weren’t sure they would like the look of the logo on an all-gold helmet. They wanted to test them before going all-out. Design testing for an NFL team. CLASSIC. After the 1962 season they switched the helmet to black and it’s been the same ever since.

Plus as a former Detroit Lion fan I can’t root for another NFC North team.

Go Steelers.

NASCAR Texas Hold ’em

Since when did Texas Hold ‘Em poker become NASCAR?

Every once in awhile I’ll catch the occasional WSOP tournament segment on ESPN and I started to notice a trend. Just recently I caught a brief portion of Poker After Dark on NBC, and this trend seems to be in full swing.

Poker After Dark boasts “When the world’s best poker players and the game’s biggest personalities get together to play in a high-stakes, winner-take-all tournament, you never know what’s going to happen.” Maybe not, but I sure do know what will happen. I’ll see things like over-sized sponsor logos poorly stitched on loud hockey jerseys. Logos awkwardly placed on 10 gallon hats, scarves, Banana Republic shirts and expensive sport coats. It seems that every player is sponsored by someone. fulltiltpoker.net, pokerstars.com, ultimatebet.com and the list goes on… Poker stars are supposed to be cool. They’re the representatives of the bad ass gunslingers from the old west. You know, the guys who were ready to draw guns if the cards didn’t go their way.

Do you really think Billy the Kid would have let someone place a giant logo on his cowboy hat?