My story begins in 2002 when I launched an experiential marketing agency in New York City, called CEMENT. I worked to define creative strategies that connected with leading edge consumers to expand my clients’ press appeal and bottom lines. By 2004, I had a staff of 15 who worked out of a swank loft space in downtown New York City’s Soho district. I worked obsessively long days and induced sleep with exhaustion.
Then, in the middle of a routine lunch meeting at the Mercer Hotel, I felt a sudden severe pain, which I learned after going to the emergency room, was a stomach ulcer.
After that I realized I needed to live a more balanced life but to do that I had to re-evaluate. Needless to say, re-evaluation is easier said than done. Despite my efforts to be physically fit and mentally sharp, something in my approach was not quite right.
I started looking around for people and things that might help answer the questions that I was asking: What would constitute the next chapter of my life? How could I re-center my focus and clarity?
The following 4 points are insights I’ve gathered over the past year.
Tuesday, November 8th 2005, 7:00P.M., Maritime Hotel, NYC
I was having drinks with a friend, who I’ll call Mr. Smith, at the Maritime Hotel in New-York City. He said that he recognized himself in me and went on to bluntly state that, just like he had at one point, he could see I had forgotten how to listen and be present. It was confronting to hear that.
Meetings with Mr. Smith had always produced numerous cocktail napkins covered in scrawled notes and ideas. At the end of the night on Tuesday, November 8th 2005, napkins 2, 3, 4 and 6 told me I needed to:
a. Slow down
b. Listen to the natural progression of the conversation
c. Match yourself to the moment
d. Listen for opportunity
If you do all these things, I guarantee you will know what step to take next.
Wednesday, May 10th, 2006, Noon, CEMENT office, New York City
A friend approached me to design and be the creative director for a men’s clothing line, after throwing ideas around that idea morphed into FashionFetish. The concept was to photograph models in the season's current fashion collections (ex., Etro, Marc Jacobs to Valentino) while they were engaged in erotic fetishistic narratives.
There was a time when less was more and minimalism was the credo of creativity in all sectors from food to interiors. Everywhere I looked I could see fetish erotica being gradually infused into mainstream popular culture.
In New York I could also see fetish erotica seeping into pop culture at the highest level of influence: student fashion shows, club interiors, to advertising campaigns by Diesel, Vivienne Westwood, Patrick Cox and Agent Provocateur all making reference to irrational obsessions. I distilled the idea of fusing erotic fetish imagery with advertising down to the barest elements and took it further.
For the prototype shoot I made myself one of the subjects and on camera as I was blindfolded with a Valentino tie. When you are dealing with something as delicate as a fetish the smallest details are the most important.
FashionFetish, for me, is one of the rawest attempts I have made at fusing my own organic desire into my professional life and while I executed the project I had to be present physically, emotionally and intellectually.
Wednesday, May 31st, 2006, 6P.M., Gansevoort Hotel, NYC
I was at the Gansevoort Hotel in New-York City, talking with a friend, I’ll call him Mr. Black, who is a powerful member of America’s
advertising elite. During our conversation he offered me the names and contact details of three high-powered colleagues. I was essentially being handed these opportunities, ready-made, on a silver platter. For some reason my instincts said not to contact these men. I was unsure why at the time but later came to realize that, at that point, I lacked the confidence to present my work and myself. I knew I’d only have 30 minutes with each of these chairmen and even with a genuine and rare recommendation from one of their contemporaries my presence still had to be relaxed, clear and authentic. I didn’t feel I could sincerely be all those things at the time. So I waited.
4. Star Gifts
Wednesday, June 7th, 2006, 7PM, Studio, NYC
I finished a two-week consulting gig and I wasn’t content with the work I’d done. I met with Mr. Smith and he noticed I wasn’t myself. He suggested I would benefit if I wrote a list of everything I had accomplished by myself, with no help from anyone. The list I finally came up with was startling. It comprised of things from loading film into a camera when I was a kid to growing my company, CEMENT into a thriving business.
Just from looking at the list, I immediately saw that I am a creative thinker, entrepreneur, problem solver and aesthete. Prior to writing this list I’d been selling my visionary nature with no clear idea of where it came from or how it worked. People tended to love my perspective but they didn’t know what to do with it after we met.
At the base of everything my passion is anchored in strategies that deconstruct or reconstruct brands and companies. I realized after 8 weeks of self-examination, that I am not suddenly a different person I am just able to do a better job with what I have.
Brian Supler's career began with Grey Advertising in Brussels and Moscow, where he led an experiential team for Procter & Gamble. Since Grey, he has worked for boo.com and kirshenbaum bond + partners—and launched and managed two New York City agencies: .COMies for The Ad Store and CEMENT. During that time, he has created branding and experiential marketing work for Beyonce, BMW, Columbia University, Diageo, Coty-Lancaster, Procter & Gamble, and Veuve Clicquot Bubbly.
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