I'm a New-York based independent strategist.
I have worked at some great companies over the years, but at the end of 2010 I decided to go independent.
Our industry is going through an exhilarating, crazily unpredictable time. The ground is shifting under our feet. Old rules no longer apply. I figured the best way understand these changes is to jump right in. To speed-learn, to steal, to invent, to take risks, with fearless, curious people. And to have enough time left over to experiment with life itself - to make stuff, volunteer, learn new skills.
Fast forward a couple of years. I am still learning something new every single day. And I want to bring this learning, these new ideas and this passion to as many brands and projects as anyone will let me.
Examples of projects I’ve worked on recently
… a creative boutique with a large financial services pitch
… figure out how to take a quirky local drinkd brand global
… completely re-think what a car can be to a twenty-something audience
… a revolutionary new food come up with 10 new campaigns in a week
… develop a range of unconventional new flavors for a vodka brand
… bring to life a new positioning for a financial services brand solely through its employees
… position a new drug for a tough disease through tools that help you conquer it
… help a global oil and gas brand ask the right questions on how to reorganize their brand portfolio
… dig deep into the power of stories from a psychological, neurological and social perspective
… helped figure out a water brand how to justify charging 50% more for what's still just H20
… create an uplifting positioning for a new tourist attraction with a lot of baggage
… help a jewelry company figure out how to sell engagement rings to a commitment-averse millennial audience
In every single case the solution to the problem wasn't just an ad campaign. It was a product, or a tool, or an action, or an idea the whole brand or organization could own. This is how everything should work today, no?
The kinds of projects I love
+ Hard cases: brands down on their luck or facing big challenges; when more of the same is no longer working.
+ Anything playing in a supposed 'low interest' category, born from the firm belief that any category can be interesting.
+ Brands that are appreciated by their audiences but have lost touch with their place in culture at large.
What I’m good at
+ Finding a brand's cause, its fight, its stance. And I believe that this needs to be rooted not in the category but in society, in our culture.
+ Finding the big idea, fast. I distrust insights that needed six weeks of research to get discovered.
+ Tracking down great stories within big piles of boring data and information.
What gives me no joy
- Large teams where everyone has a say. I go quiet in rooms with 20 people talking over each other. Maybe because I grew up in a large family?
- Standard brand templates, with their endless tweaking of words. Trying to decide between 'refresh your life, every day' or 'refreshing vitality, daily'. We've all been in those meetings ... I have found that large brand documents that ladder up to very broad 'higher order benefits' often become the enemy of doing something bold and interesting.
- All-day meetings.
Where I’ve been
I’ve had the good luck to work at a bunch of interesting agencies, at interesting times, with great people, on fascinating brands. I’ve learned a lot and am grateful to all of them for having me.
Bartle Bogle Hegarty (London) – 1992 to 1996
My first job as planner in advertising and what a place and time to learn the craft. BBH was at one of their many creative peaks, producing campaigns that are still remembered today. And many of the people who were junior then lead agencies today. They let me work on great brands like Levi’s and Audi, and a whole bunch more.
Fallon McElligott Berlin (New York) – 1996 to 1997
I wanted to see a bit of the world so I moved to New York and joined this Fallon outpost, run by Andy Berlin and Ewen Cameron. A great creative boutique who did big work for small clients, like BMW Motorbikes, Tidy Cats cat litter, Fresca and a bunch of Condé Nast magazines.
Berlin Cameron United – 1997 to 2007
Running someone else's shop was going to work only for so long for Andy and Ewen so they set up on their own. I was lucky enough to be one of the seven people that were there from the beginning. One phone, one computer and one little above a deli. We went right for the big clients – Reebok, Cadillac, NBC. Six years later we were Agency of the Year twice over and had clients like Coca-Cola, Samsung and Heineken. I learned a ton in those crazy rollercoaster years, not just about planning but about what makes agencies work. I was head of planning for a while as well, and enjoyed parts of the job (mentoring, career development) but realized that I get few kicks from being the boss.
JWT - 2007 to 2010
After ten years of flying by the seat of my pants I wanted to learn how the big guys do things. JWT under Rosemarie Ryan and Ty Montague were re-inventing the big agency/big client model for the 21st Century, and I’m honored I got to experience it firsthand. I got to work with some amazing people from many different fields on campaigns like Kleenex Let it Out and helped win and worked on Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines (the Nation of Why Not) and Bloomberg - all of them campaigns that rejected traditional communications approaches to create larger cultural relevance.