Bill Roden

Posted by on Oct 10, 2012 in 2012, Interviews

@billroden
Integrated Creative Director @cpbgroup // I like collaborative storytelling // Believe well done trumps well said // Thoughts, musings, rants, etc. are my own.
Boulder, Colorado · http://flavors.me/billrodenwriter

Bill Roden’s answers in RED:

As you mention on your bio, you’ve been doing advertising for 18 years now.

In those 18 years, you have been doing Creative Direction for some time.  How did you go from working in the trenches to becoming a CD?  Inquiring minds want to know and make that transition.

—- Wow, there are so many variables, not sure where to start. Here’s a shot:

1.    I’d say one of the important skills to develop is a strong command of how to talk to clients about their business. This includes knowing how to ask the right questions that guide the confabs to bigger ideas and areas to explore. And includes creating a culture on each account that questions every part of the business from the ground up. Learning how to create the work you want to produce; work rooted in business-innovation areas, really helped me leapfrog my way up the daisy chain. Basically, I married creative development with creative direction.

2.    Less talk, more make.

3.    Hard work makes up for lack of talent.

4.    You should be promoted to the job you’re already doing.

You have also worked for some of the best ad agencies in the world if not the best.  Is there any one move or position that you remember that put you in the right spot to make the transition from one award winning agency to the next?

— I can’t point toward any specific shop. I can, however, point to digital. I was very lucky to see the digital storm brewing back in 1997 after being brought up on TV/Print. And I got out in front of it. Plus, it just seemed a pragmatic way to be more influential on the business. Everyone was beating the shit out each to jockey forTV spots, but I saw a giant hole in the fence going the digital route.

Did you happen to go to art/design/ad school? And if so where?

— Nope. I went to the University of Minnesota/Twin Cities. I prefer colleges that have football teams.

What type of training would you suggest for aspiring Creative Directors?  What skill set would you highlight the most for someone interested in becoming an AD or CD?

— If you aspire to be a CD, learn how to present and think on your feet. Sure, you need to have the native ability to lead people and curate great ideas into a solid show. But holding a room together via a compelling story, knowing your material like a pro, and being able to get kicked in the genitals throughout the process, is what separates the killers from the suckers. You have to be interesting if you want people to be interested.

What medium do you feel is the best place to start an ad?  Do you work with the copy first or the images?

— If I had to write down an “algorithm” on how to create a modern ad, I’d say it’s best to think in actionable stories based on hyper-tuned consumer segmentation. Then create smart bombs that hit the right consumer, with the right message, via the right channel. Start with a big story that asks people to do something meaningful. Then figure out the right executions to bring it to life and get folks to take action. Sometimes, I’ll brief in a job and say, “No TV for the first two weeks of development,” as a way to get people to stretch.

I know you do a lot of hiking and live in Boulder?  Does the altitude and climate in Boulder help with creative brainstorming?  I can imagine an upcoming client presentation looking pretty small 14 thousand feet up, on the side of a mountain.

— Boulder is like living with the Hobbits in Lord of the Rings. It’s a magical realm so beautiful and peaceful that it makes you feel like you’re getting away with something. Or you’ve been hit by a bus and traveled to the other side. It also has a very progressive spirit and people move here to squeeze every ounce of life out of each day. I lived out East for years, and there was always this undercurrent of “Just get through this daily slog.” Nothing beats being out West. It’s still fueled by a sense of wildness and exploration, one that inspires you to become master of your own destiny. Not a bad place to make ads.

Have you worked with CP+B Miami?  What happened to the creative culture once the majority of creatives were moved to Boulder?  Did moving to Boulder have a significant change on the way the collective perceived itself?  Boulder is much more granola and I love me some granola.

— I manage work across both the Miami and Boulder offices. Our offices don’t suffer from “satellite-itis” like the big box shops. We’re a pretty tight culture centered on specific ideals. It’s a strong connective tissue that transcends geography. Plus, we live on Skype.

You have also worked in the digital realm for many many years now.  As an integrated CD what do you feel makes a campaign truly integrated?

Should a campaign start with digital first and if so do you design for mobile and or applications first?

— See my response to, “How to start an ad.” Same holds true here. I’d also add that it’s best to think in “interconnected” ideas. You don’t need everything in a campaign to look like matching luggage. Consumers don’t keep score. Only Commscore keeps score. And their data isn’t always a determinant of success.

Do you notice companies coming to you guys asking for applications or games first before asking for a billboard?

— For sure. I haven’t had a client ask to see OOH before digital in years.

What do you see the future of web design now that mobile and application development seem to have taken precedent?

— I think you’ll see desktop web design/UX that’s more a continuation of your native app or mobile web experience. It’ll also be more reactive/intuitive. You’ll spend less time “setting up the experience” on a desktop experience. It should already know a lot about you given all the dark magic web tools at our disposal these days.

I have a background in the fine arts, mainly as a painter, and when I used to paint I would often reference other artists in my work.  As a Creative Director do you find yourself doing the same?  Do you ever make shout outs to other ad campaigns or designers that the average viewer would not get but that other CDs would find hilarious if not genius?

If so, do you find this being a problem as the average viewer would not get the reference?

— No. I’m a stickler about removing inside jokes in our work. Maybe I’ll add some Easter eggs into digital efforts. But not a fan of adding anything to an ad that may bounce off my audience’s head.

As a young pup when I got into design/advertising I thought that there would be much more of an evolution towards marrying the fine arts with ads.  I see it every so often but not enough.  Do you feel that evolution is happening or is it just a pipe-dream?

— Not a pipe dream at all. I think our audiences are getting more conceptual, and demand more high-end design/production, as movies and TV shows get more conceptual. I mean, imagine trying to sell in the show, “LOST” during the 80’s.

What would your legacy be as an ad man?  How would you like to be perceived when gone?

I’d like to be known as someone who explored too much, too often, and never did what he was told. Someone who pushed and pushed. And wasn’t looking to please all people all the time. Great ideas need instigators. Instigators scare people and challenge their beliefs. If I do this life thing right, half the people at my funeral will be there just to make sure I’m dead. And I’d like my friends and family to look down at my body and say, “After all he threw himself into, how the hell did he live so long?”

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