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July 11, 2014
Advertising Q&A with a Creative Director and a Strategist
For this month’s article, I thought it would be interesting to interview a friend and long-time advertising creative director about the state of the industry. I then thought that it might be fun to compare his answers to mine, so below you will find my 10 questions and each of our answers. The creative director I interviewed is Bart Cleveland, and here is his bio:

After a career of creating award-winning advertising for iconic brands, Bart Cleveland founded Job Propulsion Lab to help people entering advertising plan and manage successful careers. Bart launched Advertising Age’s “Small Agency Diary” and is a contributing author to the book, “The Get a Job Workshop: How to Find Your Way to a Creative Career in Advertising.” He also writes about advertising and career development for TheAgencyPost.com. Bart helps agencies evolve into the new model through his company, Bart Cleveland Creative Development, http://bartclevelandcd.com/.

Question #1: How long have you been in the advertising business? What has been the biggest change in your career since you started?

Bart: 34 years of advertising experience has taught me that change is your life's blood. If you're not willing to evolve and embrace change, you will not be valuable for long. 

Emily: While in college at TCU, I had an internship at an advertising agency and I’ve worked in advertising/strategic marketing ever since then, so I’ve spent almost 20 years in the business. The biggest change that I’ve seen is the rapid growth in technology and digital channels. As an intern in 1995, my computer didn’t even have a mouse. Just two years later, I was working for one of the first interactive-only agencies where we built the inaugural Campbell’s Soup website. Lucky for me, the first eight years of my career were in the digital agency world. This foundation allows me to more easily stay abreast of the changes brought on by the digital, social and mobile marketing revolution.

Question #2:
Describe yourself in six words.

Bart: Happy because I know what's important. 

Emily: Teacher’s pet. Athlete. Marketer. Companion. Mom.

Question #3:
Describe your job in six words.

Bart: Raise the bar. Offer a boost.

Emily: Bringing strategic order to marketing chaos.

Question #4:
What is the most rewarding part of your job?

Bart: Seeing those I work with reach their true potential.

Emily: Watching ideas come to life. I love seeing our work in the marketplace after all of the hard work involved with evaluating a client’s “problem,” developing a marketing strategy, and creating and executing the solution.

Question #5:
What is the most frustrating part of your job?

Bart: Seeing someone with amazing talent not use it to its full potential.

Emily: Not seeing ideas come to life. Occasionally, clients change their minds or budgets shift and we don’t get to execute on a strategy that we developed. It’s always disappointing when this happens. Thankfully, it’s a rarity.

Question #6:
What would you say are the fundamentals of great advertising?

Bart: The strategy must be innovative, the solution ingenious, and the makers never satisfied.

Emily: The fundamentals of great advertising include having the ability to:
  • Truly understand the client’s business need
  • Develop a smart strategy based on this need
  • Communicate this strategy effectively to the creative and media planning teams
  • Ensure that a sound plan is created so that the strategy can be implemented
  • Execute this plan successfully and optimize it based on the market’s response
Question #7: The best campaigns are…

Bart: Those embraced as a mantra by the company. Everything they do underscores the brand story. Current examples: Apple, Coca-Cola, United Colors of Benetton, and Burt's Bees.

Emily: Simple. Creative. Memorable. Capable of driving business.

Question #8: If you had a magic wand to wave, what would you instantly change about your job and/or the industry?

Bart: My magic wand would change the way we nurture young people entering the industry. We would invest more into their successful segue from school into our companies and into their professional development. We would dedicate ourselves to making advertising the most coveted of careers. There are examples of this happening, but too few. Research shows we don't make the top ten list of creative careers people seek. That's shameful.

Emily: Although this would probably make my job less interesting, it would be great to know — in advance of launch — whether or not a marketing program will be successful in reaching the business goal.

Question #9: What does the future hold for advertising agencies?

Bart: The future for the traditional agency is bleak. A new building is needed, built on a foundation of the consumer being in full control of all communication. There is no longer a need for specialists in one media or another, only in those that can know how to bring a consistent brand story to the consumer regardless of the communication channel. The agencies that are expert in this area will rule our industry for the foreseeable future.

Emily: The term “advertising agency” almost seems inappropriate these days. I think the future of marketing companies lies in helping brands develop strategic and creative platforms for “touching” consumers in ways that are truly meaningful to consumers. Simply creating and placing passive ads isn’t going to do the trick anymore. Consumers now expect “advertising” to be relevant to their exact needs and presented when and where they can immediately take action.

Question #10: Is there a question that I didn’t ask you that you wish I had? If so, what is it and what’s your answer?

Bart: Yes, I wish you asked, “What advice would you give someone at the beginning of his or her career?” My answer would have been, “Never deny integrity its due.”

Emily: Yes, I wish I asked, “What is the best way for a marketer to stay current?” My answer would’ve been, “Continue to practice the proven fundamentals of marketing and read as much as possible — case studies, trend reports, articles, commentaries, blogs, news, etc.”

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Emily K. Howarda marketing strategist since 1997, developed her skills at some of the country’s top marketing firms including DDB Worldwide, while working on brands like American Airlines, Pepsi, Bloomberg and Merck. Now as Vice President of Esparza, Emily’s integrated communications approach helps clients find order in marketing chaos. She’d love to hear from you and can be found on LinkedIn or @ekhoward on Twitter.
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