BW: Speaking of secondary markets, did you find that the Boston Cartoon Network incident was good for business since it got your name out there?
SE: When that happened, we literally went from 40,000 Google search results to 5.5 million in a day or so. But it's not really the way you want to get your name out there. I think for a little while, we were the poster child for alternative media. While that was helpful for a lot of small, challenger brands that said "I want to invest," we had a challenge with the big Fortune 500 companies that don't want to get that kind of attention. So that was the challenge for us: How do you make those companies comfortable that they're not going to get the same treatment? That was the hardest part. I would say six months later, our profile had been lifted, but we weren't identified as much with the problem. It was more a case of "Oh, you're the guys who did that."
BW: What's the hardest part of your job, coming up with ideas, convincing the client to do it or actually executing it?
SE: The creativity's never been a challenge for me. I have a slight ADD problem. I'm also looking and embroidering and collecting all this different stuff. I put stuff on my computer -- images of stuff I see that tickle something -- and I put them in a folder. A lot of it's based on what's happening in the art world or what's happening in fashion or what's happening in activism -- all of these types of things. You look at it, and you start to see trends that influence the creative work. I find that for 95 percent of my time, if you look at who you want to talk to and what you want to talk about, the creative just comes out. It's difficult in the sense that you always have to be creative and that can be hard, but I like that part. Secondarily, selling clients on doing things that they're not used to is really dependent on the client. There's a lot of hurry up and wait. They'll be like "We've got the money and we want to be creative and we're into this," and then the market drops 5 percent and it's like "We don't have the money now." There's a lot of trepidation about whether or not they should convince [their superiors]. In times of comfort, you go with what you know. Print may not be where they want to be anymore, but they're not going to get fired over it.
BW: What about execution?
SE: Execution is definitely a challenge. It's hard to do well. I've had 15 years of dealing with all the problems that can arise when you're dealing with a public space. It's a difficult job that comes with inherent unknowns. You never know what's going to happen and things like weather you can't control. We did a job a few years ago where I had to clear something with the Coast Guard. I didn't even know how to do that. So I had to figure out who to call.
BW: What did you call the Coast Guard about?
SE: We floated a 30-foot shark fin to promote Shark Week. It turned out it was big enough to be a structure that you had to report to the Coast Guard. So that was something I never knew about.
BW: What's the wildest idea you had that a client didn't go for?
SE: The one that I remember was for a new Adidas running shoe, and there was a big global launch. I wanted to find a way to put a transparent running track above people's heads. We looked at the whole process: How are we going to suspend it from buildings? What material would we use? We looked at all that. I remember looking at the idea and thinking it would be such a cool visual. And in the end, we weren't able to do it.