The Egotist & Ad Club Interview Bryan Rowles, ECD, 72andSunny

By The Denver Egotist / /

2004. George Bush was elected for a second term. Amy Winehouse launched her debut album. And while Friends was wrapping up its final season, Bryan Rowles was just getting started at a young, scrappy, modern-thinking agency with the name 72andSunny. Staying 14 years in one agency is a rare sight, but it’s loyalty of this nature that paid off for Bryan as he bounced from office to office until he became ECD at the New York location, fostering the culture and business growth there. He will be the kickoff speaker at Ad Club’s 3rd Annual Colorado Ad Day this June 14. Before he arrives, let’s get to know him.

14 years at one agency is an impressive feat. Loyal guy. What’s the secret sauce at 72andSunny that’s been so amazingly attractive?

14 years! Crazy. I think the allure is that there is always something new to learn at 72andSunny. Creatively, culturally, humanly. And it’s filled with wildly creative people who are generous with themselves and their amazing abilities. Since the early days, there has been a deep commitment to embracing and chasing down great ideas, no matter where they come from.

You’ve spent time in the Los Angeles office. And the Amsterdam office. How do you build a culture in Brooklyn where you want an identity tha’st synonymous across the agency, yet you’re in such a different geographic climate?

I’m very fortunate to have experienced three vastly different cities and cultures in LA, Amsterdam and New York. Each office has its own wonderful and independent personalities. We also are connected by deep core values that are at the heart of the company, and share the global mission to expand and diversify the creative class.

Name your favorite idea or campaign inside the agency.

I guess I’d have to go back to the Benetton “Unhate” work that came out of Amsterdam. It was so simple, timely, iconic and visually arresting all at the same time. So brave culturally. What I loved about the work is the UnHate Foundation was born. An ongoing program that continues to thrive well beyond the campaign. There’s a legacy of “good” that came out of that work.

How about outside of it?

I really dig the “Make Google Do It” work that’s out in the world right now. It takes something very technical in AI and makes it both human and useful. Which can be hard to do. Take something dense and intricate and make it relatable emotionally. That campaign definitely makes me want to try out the tech.

Nike, Samsung, Discovery Channel and Xbox are all awesome brands you’ve put your thumbprint on. Being so established, what kind of obstacles do you encounter working on brands such of these?

They’re all so different and presented their own specific challenges. When we first engaged with Samsung, no one knew they made awesome phones. There was Apple and a sea of Android phones fighting for space. It was a pure challenger brand that needed to be loud in culture to get in the mobile conversation.

With Nike and Call of Duty, you’re competing against the thing you made the last time. You have to mine for a wild, new idea in a category that’s seen it all. Then you have to go make it great. Then you start all over again. And then (hopefully) do something even better.

Give us a sample of life pre-72andSunny.

Aside from spending all disposable income on college friends’ weddings, I was pretty much trying to chase down every creative opportunity I could get my hands on. And desperately trying to get hired by someone (Robert Nakata) in Amsterdam (I didn’t). I had a ton of really valuable experiences, with the biggest learning being there are great creative people and great creative opportunities everywhere. In every single company. You just gotta find them.

Your early days were spent at the St. Louis agency CORE. Back then, it was raw, experimental, a visionary of sorts. What was it like during its opening days.

CORE was this unexpected, weird, fascinating place that was mega-obsessed with Radiohead and Kruder Dorfmeister. When I was in art school down the road, the work happening at CORE is what made me fall hard for design. And when they rolled the dice and gave me a job out of college (thanks Graham!), I was fortunate enough to learn the importance of both rigorous craft and wild experimentation. From hours upon hours of kerning, ragging and leading to getting crazy with distressing imagery and type, painting, cyantoping, Xeroxing, woodblocking. It was an amazing five years of design and art-making. And they kinda paid me to do it!

We’ve caught wind that you’re from the City of Brotherly Love, and hence, a die-hard Phillies fan. Tell us a little bit about life there.

Mostly I grew up in South Jersey, just outside Philadelphia. What a gem of a city to have in your backyard! There’s a deep dedication to the arts in Philly, and I grew up going to lots of museums, exhibitions and drawing classes on the weekends. I was surrounded by a lot of support to pursue creativity in lots of different ways.

We’re certainly delighted to have you be part of Colorado Ad Day. What will you be talking about?

I’m so excited to talk about how practicing optimism can help unlock awesome or unseen creative opportunities and great creative ideas. Even when time is tight. Or when a budget just got cut. A product feature you’re about to drop in market is no longer a product feature. All the things we deal with every day. All the real-time changes that often leave us feeling cynical or down on something or completely stuck can actually be the biggest creative opportunities in front of us.

Colorado’s creative scene is on the up and up. Any advice for us as a community?

Oh man, I’m not sure I’m the one whose advice I would follow. Ha! I guess I’d say chase down and pursue the most wildly creative ideas you can, get ‘em out in the world and have fun doing it. We have marvelously weird jobs. Embrace it!

You can see and hear Bryan from 72andSunny at Colorado Ad Day this June 14 at the CU-Boulder campus. Final registration ends Monday, June 4. Click here to reserve your seats now.


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