• What Would You Ask Sagmeister?

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    By now, you’ve got to know one of the most influential designers alive today, Stefan Sagmeister, is coming to Denver to speak on March 7th. (The event is sold-out for all you slow pokes.) However, there are two very cool things you can still take part in if you missed the boat.

    1 – Anyone who’s a member of AIGA Colorado (or becomes a member) will have one of the exclusive posters featured below, and designed by Sagmeister, Inc., sent to them automatically. To qualify you need to ensure your address is up-to-date with AIGA or join the club as a new member. Do that here by noon on Thursday. It’s the ONLY way to get a poster.

    2 – Andy Bosselman and AIGA Colorado have set us up to interview Sagmeister a few days before the big show. If you’ve followed Stefan’s career over the years, you know he’s been interviewed hundreds of times by hundreds of people. There simply are no questions left that he hasn’t heard before. So we want to craft an interview that surprises and entertains him – ensuring we get answers that no one has heard before.

    We want your help coming up with ideas for the form the interview could take and some questions that it might contain. An IQ test? A design test? We’re looking for big ideas to impress someone who’s been coming up with them his entire life. What you got for us, Denver? Tuesday, February 26th is the deadline for thinking.

  • Agency Poll: Pros + Cons

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    Everybody knows who’s doing the best work in town. But where’s the best place to work? Depends on who you’re asking and how you’re judging, right? Well, what makes your shop a great place to be? And what makes it drive you to consider a career in janitorial engineering?

    We want to hear from everybody in town. Feel free to comment on places you’ve been, places you are and places you wish you could be. Freelancers and full-timers welcome. Little perks, big bennies, demotions, raises – what’s the skinny? Let’s air some laundry, both clean and dirty.

    At the end of it all, we’ll tally the responses and report back on things you didn’t know about the agencies that surround you.

  • Love In The Air, Blood Red Cocktails In The Belly

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    If you and your lover spent Valentine’s Day at that quiet table for two in section six of the neighborhood Olive Garden, that’s cool. We’re not here to judge. But you missed a fine time at the Museum of Contemporary Art last night.

    The Bloody Heart Party mixed art, beats, cocktails and heart-shaped sugar cookies. What do you know, those things go together quite well. Just after 7 PM (we pride ourselves on punctuality) the museum was already popping. And judging by the volume of champagne flowing, more than a few folks were going home for some V-Day loving.

    Here’s what we learned:

    • The massive, automatic steel door that slides open upon your arrival at the MCA is freaking cool.

    • The uniform of arty types is still black, but on Valentine’s Day accents of red are permissible.

    • “Will honey flavoured milk soften that pig fed rage?” – the title of Wangechi Mutu’s installation on the second floor – is a question that bears repeating to your date at various times throughout the evening.

    • Montreal artist David Altmejd’s monstrous mirrored sculptures, like the automatic door, are freaking cool.

    • The MCA Café, the museum’s rooftop café and patio, is a place you must go.

    We’re slightly ashamed to say this was our first visit to the MCA’s new digs on 15th and Delgany, which opened at the end of October. But better late than never. We’re impressed. It’s not a large museum, but thanks to architect David Adjaye’s design it feels big. Do yourself a favor and grab the notebook, sneak out of the shop and get over there to do some thinking. New exhibits are opening in the coming weeks. Get the details here.

  • February 7

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    AIGA’s 14th Annual Heart Art Auction – An Elegant Evening of Art, Music and Love

    This is Colorado’s most anticipated event of the season. A chance for local area artists to contribute their talents towards two great causes; two non-profits that have positively impacted our community for decades. By generous donations of original paintings, sculpture, jewelry, furniture and other forms of creative artistry, these talented artists show their support for both AIGA Colorado and Project Angel Heart.

    Submitting Artwork: AIGA Colorado and Project Angel Heart invite you to capture your compassion for others into a heartfelt piece of art. Your piece, along with those of other premier artists, will be auctioned at our 14th Annual AIGA Colorado Heart Art charity event. All proceeds from the evening will benefit AIGA Colorado and Project Angel Heart, delivering more than 1,000 meals every week to homebound individuals living with HIV/AIDS, cancer and other life threatening illnesses. Deadline for art submission is February 1, 2008.

    When: Thursday, February 7, 5:30 PM to 9:00 PM
    Where: Mile High Station Map, 2027 West Lower Colfax Avenue, Denver, Colorado 80204
    Info: AIGA

  • The New Denver Egotist Essays – Parts & Pieces

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    Let us begin by saying we’re flattered, humbled and giddy that people would take the time to craft essays to get in on what we’ve got going here. Especially, considering everyone who wrote knew they wouldn’t be able to take credit for being a part of The Egotist.

    We’ll never silence the naysayers, but the whole ordeal further reinforces the allure and importance of our continued anonymity – we are the voice of creativity in Denver, not the voice of any one individual. Without additional puffery, we present some sound bytes from the pieces we received. Needless to say, the decision of who to bring on was difficult, time consuming and entertaining. Enjoy.

    Much of the work coming out of Denver often reminds me of my days in London… it’s as lukewarm as the beer I used to drink. Denver’s advertising can, and should, be better.

    As for The Denver Egotist itself, I read it daily and would love the chance to kiss the ass of the creators. Failing that, by writing for TDE I will have the opportunity to give a little back to this captivating read that is part of my morning ritual.

    Am I looking to be the next Bob Garfield? Nope. Am I the next David Abbott? Only in my dreams, which also have me looking like James Bond rather than the Gollum I actually resemble.

    I was born in Philadelphia in the 70s, which means that I love hip-hop AND hair metal bands, and I occasionally go into withdrawals from the total lack of anything resembling a proper cheese steak.

    Being unsure of precisely what it is you are looking for, I offer myself up on the golden alter of Denver Awesomeness. In the end, what I have to offer you is my heart on a big brown, oxygen-deprived cloud. I would rock your world in the ‘Cool Stuff’ department of Denver.

    I’d be a kickass Denver Egotist because I’m from Canada. Not just Canada, but Toronto. That’s right… that city in the far north that you might have heard of. As with most things, sometimes it’s hard for our work to get noticed next door to the behemoth campaigns below the 49th parallel. Everyone needs a little extra worldview now and then.

    As I proofread what I have written so far, just to make sure I don’t get axed from the running for some silly spelling or grammatical error, I get the feeling that even without a single mention of my name, a large percentage of people who read this will know exactly who I am. Is that a good thing, or a bad thing?

    In closing, you might also consider my brevity a positive qualification for the duties in question, given the fact that my current word count is well under the 750 word limit. As an active member of the community, I know there is little time in the day to embrace the overly verbose.

    So with that said, would I make a great Egotist? You tell me.

    I’m scrappy. And I dare you to find out just how much so. I want to prove myself, and I’m proud of what I’ve done and what I’m capable of doing. A wise man once said, “If you can dodge wrenches, you can dodge balls.” I get that I need to get hit a couple of times to really get into the flow. I’m willing to take those hits. Throw me the hard stuff, and I’ll do my best to take it on.

    Why would I make a good egotist? Fuck that, I AM an egotist. I’m THE egotist. The popularity of this site is built on a foundation consisting of three things. My desire to be informed, my compulsion to critique work / voice opinions, and an insatiable lust for justice. I am Anonymous Commenter. I am ego in action!

    In conclusion, some say I ruin this board, usually after they are outed as being shit. But good creative and sound management should stand up in an environment of harsh opinions, criticism and scathing rumors. Feedback fuels progress. And brevity is the soul of wit – so I’m out.

    So why me?

    As I see it, The Egotist is not a democracy.
    The Egotist is NOT under mob rule.
    It is not a place for personal attacks.
    It is not a pissing match.

    The Egotist is a conversation.
    One centered on raising the caliber of even the great work coming out of Colorado.
    One where a solitary opinion can shape the thinking of everyone else.
    I will proudly be a willing catalyst for these conversations.
    I will not, however, be silent.

    Please understand though,
    Me taking issue with some part of an ad is not me hating you.
    Me taking issue with some part of an ad in not me hating your agency.
    Me taking issue with some part of an ad is simply me not liking some part of an ad.
    And if I take issue with some part of an ad, I will say why.

    We can all benefit from hearing the opinions of our peers, but only if it goes beyond glad-handing and atta-boys. Let’s share our thoughts and help one another be smarter.

    The Denver Egotist: So, _____, what makes you such a worthy candidate for this position?

    _____: In the simplest terms, I’m smart as hell, well-versed in design, a Denver native, and pretty fucking cool as well.

    TDE: Can you elaborate on the meaning of being “smart as hell”?

    _____: Yes. To me, being smart means being interested in everything. It’s great to be interested in advertising or design innovations, but it’s more fun and infinitely more intriguing to look at the inspiration that feeds those innovations. For example, have you ever spent much time thinking about deep-sea creatures? They’re ridiculously bizarre in both behavior and form, and they occupy the largest and most uncharted habitat on our planet. What is the point of trying to find life on other planets when there are living things like the Dumbo Octopus and the naked sea butterfly swimming around on Earth? Designers everywhere should be jealous of Nature or God or whomever created these oddly perfect beings.

    “Smart” in this case also means I did well in school and have a pretty good grasp on the English language. I believe strongly in correctness and wit in writing. I have a decent vocabulary and a copy of the Chicago Manual of Style, but those ought to be a given for anyone who writes for an audience. My professional credentials are limited to some copywriting I’ve done for my employer (I’m employed as a designer) and a few housing developers. Oh, and there was that killer piece on the Senior Prom I did for my high school newspaper. Even further back, and as a testament to being secretive, I won the D.A.R.E. essay contest in fifth grade and declined to read it in front of the school; instead, I made the principal read it..

    TDE: Thank you for your time, _____.

    _____: Thank you as well. It was a pleasure meeting you. I hope to hear from you soon.

    I’m the split personality that The Denver Egotist needs. Half writer, half designer. Half producer, half consumer. I’m a journalist, so I know what it means to message. But I’m also a skeptic. I live to peel away the surface layers—to find out what is at the heart of creative work in the Denver area. This is what The Denver Egotist does and does well. And I want in.

    The Denver Egotist is a place for Denver’s best writers and designers to come together, to decide what works, to debate what doesn’t. But it should also be a place where Denver’s creative class comes up against a little push once in a while. Do more. Do it better.

    I know Denver has more to offer than the mountains. Hell, I’ve been roaming inside city limits since I moved here. So let The Denver Egotist be a clearing house for the rest—for the glorious mess of the city’s creative work. Come here and think and vent and rethink. And then go do. The Denver Egotist will write about that, too.

    I’m from the South. A place with tall Pecan trees, moss covered just about everything, great food, better drinks, opinionated folks, and an ever-present slowness that forces thoughtfulness. Thoughtfulness: care, attention, contemplation and consideration. Beyond being thoughtful, Southerners simply have things to say. Often polite discourse, but they talk, share, push, and ask questions.

    When we put words on paper or online, we change lives, opinions, and provoke thoughts among people not normally engaged in real thinking. We can influence, which is powerful. Why does this matter? It matters because what we sprinkle among the masses is what begins to take hold, collects momentum and provokes thoughtfulness. I’d like to be part of the Egotist sprinkle.

    Ya’ll keep on sprinkling.

  • February 1

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    ADCD 2008 PAPER FASHION Design Teams Call for Entries Deadline

    If you’d like to be involved in a high-fashion runway show that’s creative, fun, and benefits the creative community, now is your chance. ADCD is now signing up teams to design paper fashion creations to be modeled in our runway show on March 20th, 2008.

    What is the ADCD Paper Fashion Show? Teams sign up to design fashions created from paper that’s donated by our sponsors (who happen to produce the best & widest variety of papers available today). These fashions are then showcased at our grand runway show, and voted on by our panel of judges. The fashions are then put up for auction to raise money for the charitable recipient benefiting from the event.

    Event specifics: Designs may be for men or women. Your designs will be showcased by runway models—you may provide your own model, or we can provide talent for you. We will also provide hair and make-up services for models if needed. The event will feature a social where attendees can mix & mingle; the highlight of the event being the runway show featuring local entertainment and your paper fashions being modeled and voted on by our panel of judges.

    You may have as many people on your team as you wish – and there is no cost for participating. However, a maximum of 4 people per team will receive free admission, any additional team members receive the discounted ticket price of $10 (standard tickets are $25).

    Final teams will be assigned the first week in February, so if you are interested in participating and creating a paper fashion, please email us at the address below ASAP, and we’ll get in touch with you to follow up and provide more details and direction.

    Info: Email ADCD at paperfashion[at]adcd.com

  • January 31

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    ADCD One Show Winners Preview – Presented by One Club Director Mary Warlick of New York.

    The One Show is a tradition of recognizing true creative concepts across all media – print, TV, design and interactive advertising. An outstanding group of judges from all parts of the world spent hours and hours, long days into night, giving careful consideration to almost 17,000 individual entries. The Gold, Silver and Bronze Pencils awarded went to some of the top national and international brands, proving once again that good creative is good for business. Mary Warlick (New York, New York) will be presenting the nation’s top award-winning print and video work from this past year to the Denver community. Mary is presently the Executive Director of The One Club for Art and Copy in New York, which sponsors the annual event. Join ADCD upon arrival and attend for free.

    When: Thursday, January 31, 6:00 PM
    Where: Denver Newspaper Agency Auditorium, 101 West Colfax Avenue
    Info: ADCD

  • Creative Crackdown, D.R. Horton

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    We’re going back to the days of ol’ with our Creative Crackdown and inviting some outsiders to chime in on the work – a team from Tequila, LA, TBWA\Chiat\Day’s in-house interactive department, and a team from McCann Erickson, NY. Here’s the set-up for the first piece we’ve ever seen produced from HIM Creative.

    D.R. Horton (the largest homebuilder in the country) came to HIM Creative in hopes of taking their online advertising to the next level, after seeing an interactive email Jeremy Irwin (part of our team) had concepted and directed for Chipotle. As the housing market is getting more and more competitive for homebuilders, the industry is looking for new and innovative ways to elevate themselves and get their message out in more cost effective ways.

    This email, aimed directly at Colorado real estate agents and wrapped around a strong incentive, is designed to show the audience something they’ve never seen before, keep their attention in front of the brand for as long as possible and incite them to click through to the list of homes that qualify for the promotion.

    Given only the 5% promotion details to start from, we went to work: Concept, script, casting, directing, animation, code, game development, audio and design.

    (Click the images below to link to the email.)

  • January 29

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    AIGA Green Salon – Local Heroes for Sustainability

    Join us at AIGA Colorado’s first Green Salon, and become inspired about creating a more healthy and sustainable culture. + Presentation by Daniel Brogan, Editor and Publisher of 5280 magazine. + Presentation by Clarke Fine, Executive Vice President at American Web. + Participate in post-presentation round table discussions. + Mingle with local designers and businesses

    When: Tuesday, January 29, 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM
    Where: Wynkoop, 1634 18th Street, Denver, CO 80202
    Info: AIGA

  • The Egotist Interviews: Norm Shearer

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    A lot of agencies claim their culture is what makes them unique. Cactus doesn’t need to claim anything. It has quietly, humbly and quickly become one of those places where the top talent in Colorado just wants to be. They come for the clients. They come for the opportunities. And they come for Norm Shearer, Cactus’ Creative Director, who motivates them by simply staying out of their way. As 2008 begins, Norm Shearer tells us about the past, present and future of his company.

    Q: In the four years since you’ve been Creative Director at Cactus, the shop has grown from a creative whisper to a resounding roar – landing your C-Tree TV spot on AdCritic’s 2007 Top 20 list just weeks ago. Can you explain how Cactus has achieved such an enviable transformation?

    A: Just like the industry, Cactus has gone through several transformations in its 18 years. But in all that time we have remained true to some very simple principles. Joe (our founder and strategic director) has never wavered on those standards of what he wants Cactus to be about, and I think it just takes time for any business to gain momentum, especially a business like an ad or design firm.

    I can understand people’s perceptions of us from the outside, but you have to understand that our agency’s coming of age is the result of years of hard work, adding the right team and gaining the trust of clients with the budgets and guts to let us swing for the fence. Cactus has produced great work for many years.

    The branding/advertising business is a tough model, but from day one Joe and I agreed to never waver on our standards of how we treat our team, our vendors, or our client relationships. We’ve both worked at enough places to know how not to do it. So we are building as we go and would have it no other way. We are proud of our roots and the fact that we are born of this market. Like many of us here in Colorado, we chose to live here first and work here second. So you just figure it out, put your head down and do the best work you can that day.

    Q: In one sentence, what is the creative philosophy of your agency?

    A: Love your trash can.

    Q: How did you end up in advertising? And what makes you want to stay?

    A: I’ll try this as condensed as I can get it… Ok, so I failed out of Chemical Engineering at University of New Hampshire where I was recruited to play Lacrosse. (I was raised here in Denver). My parents freaked at my .58 GPA and yanked me back home where I then took some classes at a community college and I was “urged” to meet with a career counselor. Welcome to Psychology 101 the hard-ass way, via Mom. I always had a passion for art and my personality tests came back saying I should be a doctor or go into advertising. With the firm fear of advanced science rooted in my head from my previous experience I thought advertising/design might be more my thing. So I applied to CU’s Journalism School which touted a strong advertising program.

    At CU I met and was advised by Brett Robbs, one of the best ad teachers in the nation in my opinion. He has turned that school into a serious career placement center for great agencies, all the ones we love. Us CU ad geek alum are lurking everywhere in the country thanks to Brett. He’s also the reason I got involved with teaching art direction classes. I’ve been teaching up there for 8 years now and Brett is truly an inspiring person to be around. He taught me to lead a creative life, not just a career… anyway, I worked for a short stint at a small Denver firm, cut my teeth on a dose of crap-ass reality and then got married, sold my electric bass, my fishing gear and my snowboard, and moved to LA to go to the Art Center to refine my book.

    I had my hopes set on working at Wieden or Goodby, or maybe a small hot shop. But after 4 years in LA we decided to come home and buy back the snowboards and fishing gear. I am a Colorado boy and playing here is what helps recharge my batteries. I’ll never forget when Lou Danziger came to a guest lecture and he said something to the effect of “stay true to what makes you you, and the design inspiration will follow.” So I declined looks from the traditional markets and came home to Denver. Been here ever since, and have done everything from freelance, to starting my own shop in my basement, to being an art director/designer at the best shops here in town… to now being CD at Cactus.

    Looking back, I was excited about what advertising and design had to offer. The reward of solving a problem with a funny headline or a twisted visual became addictive early on. This business is the acceptable day job of the rebels and the fringe thinkers. The thing we get a kick out of at Cactus is having an impact on a business, to see the results of making a connection with people through a big idea. Having a positive impact on the world through ideas is what it all boils down to. I love the non-conformity of the business we are in, the chaos, the team camaraderie — the energy of all that is rewarding and gratifying to be a part of. It serves our entrepreneurial needs well and I think anyone even close to the business these days has to be an entrepreneur to be successful.

    Clients need so much more these days than even 5 years ago. They want and need help with every facet of their business, not just advertising. So I’m in it now because I love being in business alongside my clients and not just doing their ads, but helping their businesses have a positive impact on the world.

    Q: By our count, Cactus has around three-dozen employees (give or take). Yet, you’re able to produce a massive amount of work to rival an agency double or triple your size. What’s the secret to keeping such a tight-run ship?

    A: [Note: We are currently at 28 Cacti.] For one, we are really picky about who works here because our culture and our people are what generate the ideas, and that’s what clients are buying. So everyone here at Cactus is on the same team, pushing the same direction. I think many agencies, and many businesses in general, hire people to fulfill tasks and pluck off the to-do list. We have made a standard of hiring people who want to personally excel and contribute and make great work no matter the department or level. So we give them an assignment and step out of the way.

    This creates crazy efficiencies. For example, we have some huge debates, but they are about the right things. They aren’t about things like, “Is there a safe solution in the mix?” “Would the client buy that?” “But we can’t do that with our budget?” Nope, everyone here is on the same page from day one — that we want to create work that is meaningful, relevant and not invisible. And it’s everyone’s job to do that from point A to Z, to help each other achieve that level of delivery, and overcome the daily obstacles and parameters. Of course this process doesn’t generate a gold pencil every time, but it certainly sets us up for success. By making everyone responsible for the end product, it levels the petty department ego crap that I hate, by creating respect among the departments and teams. It’s hard enough to make great branding and advertising without getting in our own way. So we try our best to create a positive and nurturing culture of achievement balanced with challenge. It promotes growth and retention, and in the end the client wins because they get more energy and more ideas for their money.

    It’s crazy, and it becomes managed chaos, because when the engine is really humming over here, you can’t tell who does what sometimes — creatives are writing strategies, media people are suggesting concepts, and account planners are thinking of new tactics. All I can say is that treating our teams with respect and making this place more of a family than a business has allowed us to generate lots of innovative ideas. And in the end that’s what clients hire us for. So we just create a culture of ideas and nurture that, and everything else has seemed to fall in line.

    Q: How do you inspire your creative team?

    A: I don’t. That was mistake #14 as a first-time CD. Like I said before, we hire inspired people and then get out of their way. I manage from afar, and ride with a very loose grip on the wheel when it comes to team management. I totally trust my team and we recognize that mistakes are going to happen when you are always swinging for the fences. How you deal with the mistakes, and how the team rallies around each other to get back on track, is what is most important. Clients gravitate to us for that quality. They like us and trust us for that type of leadership and thinking. I try my best to just manage by example, and make decisions that support our standards and culture in every moment I possibly can.

    Our culture here is everything. So I spend a lot of my energy trying to keep our environment positive, challenging and moving — about something bigger than ourselves or our own microcosm.

    Q: How do you personally get ideas?

    A: I think it was DaVinci who said “Creativity is just observation.” If it’s not, please don’t burst my bubble, cuz I like that quote. But I really believe that. I keep personal and experimental sketchbooks and contribute to them almost every day. They are kind of like visual journals for me. One of my college sculpture teachers started me on it and my friend Micheal Smilanic has been a contemporary inspiration for me too. Maybe it’s the fine artist in me, but I believe you can only output what you input. So if you surround yourself with ad annuals and ad geek crap 24/7, eventually you’ll just regurgitate that. But if you live a full and experienced life, your ability to have a more meaningful and more diverse relationship with your art is more vast. Our art is advertising, design and business ideas.

    Q: In our research, we discovered that you graduated from Art Center College of Design – consistently rated as one of the top schools in the world for our industry. Tell us your view on Colorado’s art schools, any suggestions you might have for their improvement and any advice you might give young blood graduating in the coming months and looking to begin a career here in Denver.

    A: There is a crazy amount of talent here. Denver is really burgeoning in the last few years with everything from the music to the art scene. I’m really excited to be here as we consistently grow and get stronger respect in all aspects as a business, artistic and creative community. That’s why I got involved with the Art Museum and CultureHaus. I really believe in this community as a whole and I’m proud to support it. But, I don’t think there is one school killing it over another here. From CU and DU to Metro, CIA and Rocky, the schools all offer programs that talented and driven people can make their own. I’ve seen really great students come from all of them. My advice is to absorb as much as you can from as many people as possible and then do it your own way. I hear students too often say they were told to do something one way or another, and then they just follow dutifully without their own interpretation or spin on it. Then they get confused when someone responds differently, as if they didn’t fill in the blank with the right answer. This business is so subjective; you’d go nuts trying to please everyone. You have to take all the advice and then make up your mind how you want to do something and apply your own passions to it. If people don’t respect you for it, screw ‘em – you know you wouldn’t want to work for that type of place or person.

    Q: What, in your opinion, makes someone a creative talent worth hiring?

    A: From a portfolio standpoint: strong strategic thinking and rationale behind their work. Simple and clear solutions, even if the execution is abstract or consciously decorative, the foundation of the idea must be ultra simple. Also, great insight shows their ability to gather info and be patient with solutions that otherwise might have been overlooked or might fall into poor templated thinking.

    From a personal standpoint: someone who is interesting and captivating to talk to about anything other than advertising and design. Some of the coolest and most interesting people I’ve met in this business talk about anything but advertising. It’s one thing to be passionate about work, but you have to keep things in perspective.

    Q: You worked with Buck, a top animation house, on the Own Your C TV spot for Colorado’s State Tobacco Education & Prevention Partnership. You worked with Rosey, a director from @radical.media, on the Colorado Lottery TV. Very few agencies in the region can claim such high-powered creative partnerships over the last year. How did you interest these heavy hitters in collaborating on your projects?

    A: We paid them for one. It also didn’t hurt that they loved our ideas. We had calls with them and they were really cool and sincere about their approach. Our culture is about doing great work, and also having respect for the process and each other. If our vendors and partners don’t match up to that level of criteria, I could care less how talented they are or who they’ve worked with. Our attitude is that we come up with the best ideas we can and then find the best people who can execute those ideas. Buck was world-class on delivery, but they are also just really cool people. There also are some great talents locally that we have worked with and that can compete on a national level. We enjoy working with new up and coming artists as well. It’s fun and inspiring to be around that type of energy.

    Q: Last fall, Cactus inherited the Colorado Lottery account – a 25-year legacy moving over from Karsh\Hagan. With much to learn and much to prove, can you let us in on any secrets about what Cactus is planning for the account in ’08?

    A: The Lottery is great. We pitched the account because we believe in the cause (proceeds to benefit state parks, open space, recreation) and we sincerely believed that we were the right agency to help the Lottery accomplish its business goals. After meeting the client’s team we knew we could do some great work and start a great relationship. In the first year, we want to do a ton of listening and really get to know their business inside and out. It would have been foolish to swoop in and suggest major strategic overhauls off the bat. We’re faced with a bigger challenge than with many clients because the lottery is a massive state organization with millions of dollars in sales monthly. They run like a private company would run with regards to efficiencies and delivery, yet they are a state agency and operate through state policies. So we are learning like crazy and having a ton of fun executing on the current strategies, while we simultaneously introduce new strategies.

    Currently we are undertaking the initial steps of planning for the Colorado Lottery brand in general. Our goal is to blanket the rejuvenated brand over the products they offer, as opposed to promoting individual products as they have traditionally done. This is important because many people don’t even know that PowerBall is a part of the Colorado Lottery, they think it’s a separate national game. Many don’t know what Cash5 is – an entire product line is almost invisible. So we have some ground to cover in figuring out what to say and how to be more relevant to people, making things more consistent across the board. The next 12-18 months will be really interesting as we put the brand on a pedestal above the individual products.

    We’ve also just started introducing the new “Don’t forget to play” tagline treatment that will ultimately be everywhere. And we’re changing the way Lottery takes new products to market, experimenting with different approaches to advertising, POS and media strategy.

    We will most likely try a bunch of different things, and see what works and what doesn’t. The client is great that way. They realize from experience that advertising and branding is a moving and organic process and that it takes fine-tuning, and will always be evolving with the consumer.

    Q: What’s the most meaningful piece of communication you and your agency created this year?

    A: I am really proud of the work we did for The GLBT Center. It was smart, insightful, effective and built trust with the client. The Center is one of our non-profit accounts. The effort we give them comes from our commitment to contributing our professional talents to the community in which we live and work, for causes in which we believe. Many places (and in my past I have been as guilty as anyone) do pro-bono as a way to win awards. While that can be a great way to build a book, it has long-term flaws. It sends an underlying message to everyone in the agency that the paying clients are a burden and don’t deserve the same innovative ideas, because it would require too much work or effort to convince them of the value. It quietly justifies that it’s ok to not try to sell great thinking to all of your clients.

    Q: Your youth anti-tobacco effort for Colorado and the national Truth campaign developed in partnership by Crispin Porter + Bogusky and Arnold share tactical similarities. Can you tell us the ways you were inspired by the Truth campaign and how you evolved the thinking to make it your own?

    A: Yeah, we have huge respect for the Truth campaign and the innovation they have had. However, our research showed that teens were growing tired of Truth’s strategy. CP+B hit on a strategic insight when they launched Truth back in the 90s. At the time, teens were very anti-establishment and that strategy played really well for many years. But now the Truth about big bad tobacco is established and anti-smoking messaging is literally a part of teen culture. We had to do something fresh to help reduce the growing 21% teen smoking rate in Colorado.

    It all began with great insight. Our research involved many methods allowing us to be submersed into teen culture so we could hear what teens had to say about everything in life, not just tobacco. Themes developed that showed kids were very independent thinkers and wanted to make their own choices sooner than later in life. Blame it on media, tech or the over-protective parent onslaught, but teens today want more independence sooner. With the on-demand lifestyle of teens and the “long-tail” attitude permeating teen life — smoking became just another lifestyle choice folded into the mix.

    So we realized we needed to remind them that all choices are not equal — that they need to enter into certain choices with some trepidation. This approach works well since it speaks to all teens, not just the tobacco users, or the ones who haven’t confronted the choice yet. And this strategy also taps many other teen health discussions like sex, drinking, drugs, health, fitness, etc. Choice seemed to be the common denominator. So the basis for Own Your C is to empower teens with the resources to make wise choices and to remind them of the consequences of those choices. We aren’t pointing the finger or blaming anyone. We’re merely giving them the tools to be accountable for their choices.

    Maybe we have some tactical similarities with the Truth campaign since the Own Your C campaign is creating a sincere dialog with teens about health issues, but strategically it is very different. Truth also set out to merely make not smoking cool – they focused on prevention, but not cessation. Own Your C focuses on both.

    So far, Own Your C is working. In only the second year of the campaign, recent statewide surveys have declared the teen smoking rate to be at about 16%. Our C-ride and street team has visited about 200 schools and youth events across the state. We’ve connected to teens at the Own Your C-sponsored Detention high school rail series. Brand recognition for the Own Your C brand is extremely high and memorable. Brand involvement is also very high with our online forums and some new viral tactics that are delivering way above what we had forecast. Most recently, we’ve experienced a huge response to our online video contest with over 90 submissions from local high school students. One other success within the Own your C campaign is the free online and text-messaging tool we developed called FixNixer, a tool specifically designed for teen smokers to help them quit on their own terms.

    Q: What is the trick to getting inside the mind of a teenager with advertising, since your staff is obviously not their age?

    A: Research, and solid planning, the right way. Our account and media teams were extremely creative about how they developed the strategies and tactics, and how they guided the creative team along the way. We did our homework and got inside the culture of teen life. We didn’t just go to the mall. We joined chats, MySpace, Friendster, and developed our very own blogs and micro sites to help us gain insight. It helps too that many of us have outside passions like snowboarding, skateboarding, etc. Before a creative even sniffed a Sharpie there was a ton of research and insight gathering.

    Q: Why should the rest of the country be paying attention to what’s going on in Denver right now?

    A: The tide has turned from the rule of the big agencies to many thriving small creative shops. It will be, and has been, amazing to see the agencies that have either been born or gained steam in the last few years begin to win significant business and really prosper. Colorado agencies are consistently getting into the books now, and getting more attention in national press. That’s why I volunteer for the New Denver Ad Club and am really proud of what Matt, Brian and Gregg did with The Denver 50. National clients are starting to take notice and Crispin’s move here has certainly helped… It’s just the beginning.

    Q: Can you and Cactus help lead Denver to a better, more meaningful creative place? If so, how?

    A: I can’t say that it’s a goal or a mission for Cactus specifically. For one, that just sounds cocky and is not our place to determine or even debate. I’m baffled and fed up with people thinking Denver and this region is a crap hole. There is brilliant work being done here by agencies and the artists and talent who produce it. I love it here and I have many friends that are doing well, winning awards, making a living and enjoying the life we get to have here. There are crappy agencies and assholes in every market. Dan Wieden doesn’t lay awake worried about how bad the agency down the street is. If you are one of the people who think it sucks here, then just do better work and stop complaining. I think that it’s interestingly convenient to cast criticism on others rather than on yourself and your own work.

    Q: If one account from anywhere in the world magically dropped into your lap right now, what would it be and why?

    A: Burton. I love everything they are about. They are true to the root of their business and have never wavered on their standards or lost sight of who they serve. It shows in every detail. Maybe I’m just biased because I grew up schlepping a Burton Woody up Berthoud Pass with moon boots on — so if I could wave a magic new biz wand, that’d be my pick.

    Q: Cactus had a great year. How will you top it in 2008?

    A: Thanks. Hopefully we can continue to make smart new business moves and new hires. We want to continue to grow responsibly, but we don’t want to be big just for the sake of it. I’d love to see us grow more while maintaining our quality, culture and creative standards.

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