I am an advertising Creative Director. I believe capitalism rocks, inside jokes don’t sell, and ABC: always be closing. (A la Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross: go for the Caddy, not the steak knives.) My raison d'être: crafting brand stories with sticking power – stories that push, persuade, seduce or inspire – whether through traditional media or new applications online. And I maintain that advertising works best when it’s wide awake, entertaining, in tune with popular culture and, when possible, personal.
Before advertising, I spent 10 years on a retail floor, selling furniture and competing with 18 other salespeople – all of us on full commission, all of us living and dying by the ads others created. It was front-line experience, the trenches, and I came away from it with a survivor’s instinct for what works, and why. And the thrill of proving it never gets old, even years later, whether I’m selling fish oil, fried chicken, a national accounting firm or a pair of headphones online.
I come from the copy side of the equation – an idea man, or what Disney’s calls an “imagineer.” Along the way, I’ve also done quite a bit of art-directing, both hands-on and over-the-shoulder, having learned my chops from some of the awesome ADs I’ve partnered with.
What I can do for you:
I’m comfortable with any size project, from a full-on rebrand and/or multi-media ad campaign to a one-off TV spot or email blast. I’ve also worked in pretty much every category: retail, professional services, industrial, a bit of pharma, e-commerce, etc. And if needed, I have an awesome go-to network of proven talent, specialists that I've partnered with and count on for casting, shooting, storyboarding, acting, music, voice-overs, coding and so on.
The best part of this business is the winning, the worst part is the losing. My tack is “everything must go” – the battlecry from my years as a furniture salesman – and I can help you win a competitive pitch.
Up until June 2016, I was the Creative Director at a perennially award-winning Philadelphia ad agency with a storied past. An agency that started long before me, as Holton Namiotka Jones and who hung it up as Holton Sentivan + Gury . Though I wasn't there from the beginning, I held the reins during the agency's best years.
Check the video, second from the top, right here.
Me before advertising:
Right out of High School, I chased my dream: music. (College was out of the question.) I was a guitar player – and a good song writer – and I played, produced, recorded, performed and took any day job I could not to starve. I didn’t know at the time that, one day, these jobs would prove ideal for a successful career in advertising. There are too many to list here. but some of the more memorable jobs include:
A plant that made wedding gowns.
They loved me, but I’m not very good with scissors, and towards the end I was costing more than the fabric I ruined, so they let me go. (Some of the older women who had tried really hard to help me, cried. For real. It was like “Rudy,” except I didn’t even get to run one play.)
A motel laundry.
I started on a summer Monday on a 90 degree day. The laundry was actually an aluminum double-wide trailer on the back parking lot, and the washers and dryers running inside – sans air-conditioning – added another 10-15 degrees. (Add to that, mountains of dirty bed sheets and towels from a cheap “no-tell-Motel.") I worked with an old guy named Fred who didn’t talk. Fred was my boss. One benefit: we were promised a free lunch every day, delivered to the trailer at 1PM. Lunch on Day 1 was a velveeta cheese sandwich – velveeta cheese on white bread – and a styrofoam cup of hot potato soup. Fred ate his in less than 2 minutes, sort of like a refugee in a third world documentary, and I quit.
An organized crime front.
I was an assistant to the head shipper/receiver at a warehouse that imported fine men’s shirts from Italy. Large shipping containers of shirts would come in, and I re-boxed them and sent them around the country – not knowing the boss was slipping cash and crack into every 8th or 9th box. The FBI eventually closed the place down. I never had to testify.
A hospital kitchen.
This was a 700-bed hospital just north of Philadelphia. I was part of a 20-some person team who cooked, delivered, bused and cleaned-up 2100 meals a day. (What sick people can do to a tray of food – oh my God.) But I really did love the people I worked with, all of whom were street smart and city hard. Shit got real every day.
Band saw man.
I was good with a band saw, so I got an assembly line job at a plant in North Philly. My job: make one cut, on one piece of plastic, about 1000 times a day. (No matter how hard you concentrate, your mind wanders when you do the same thing over and over.) One day the manager asked to see me about something and I saw he had only 2 fingers on his left hand, so I quit right there and then. He offered more money, but this job would be any guitar player’s nightmare, so no.
That was my title, but these were Burroughs card counters, hardly computers, and my job was measuring and adjusting gear tolerances. But it was the first job I ever had in air conditioning.
This was my last job before advertising. I sold furniture for 12 years, along with 18 other salespeople, at a Levitz in Levittown PA. It was pure commission, I made a lot of money compared to anything else I’d done, and I could still pursue music – and raise kids. The other salespeople came from every walk of life, as did the customers… and the stories, and the drama, and the stunts we pulled, and the screaming at meetings, every week – was crazy. Crazy good, and crazy bad. In the end, I came away with a very real understanding of what works and what doesn’t – in both advertising and in sales, and I still count on that instinct today. (The battlecry “everything must go” comes from those years.) I get it, and I get salespeople, and what it takes to close – whether a $200 end table or a $20M contract. I think that comes through in my work, and clients like that about me.
I put away all hope of a serious (lucrative) music career when I turned 30. It’s true – you need one of three things to make it big in music: a mob connection, lottery-level luck, or serious / freakish natural talent & star quality (a la Prince). I missed on all counts, plus I can’t sing – and I don’t have the kind of ego that keeps pushing. Or I didn’t want it bad enough. Maybe, deep down, I like the ad business better, and the satisfaction of getting published on a regular basis, and the even deeper satisfaction helping clients win the day. But I still play guitar.
The ideas, words and the strategic thinking represented on these pages are mine, and I continue to update the site. The latest additions include: TV and print advertising for two new Florida retail clients, a national TV spot for DRL (The Drone Racing League), a number of projects for World Wide Stereo, OMAX (fish oil) and DBD (regional law firm).