The word “fun” comes up a lot in conversations with Keith Cartwright. That’s how he recently described his position as creative chairman for a new, still-unnamed and still-unannounced San Francisco-based shop he’s joining. “It’s amazing. I can’t tell you how much fun it is—it’s new and different and exciting,” he says.
His new venture is part of a natural progression that started with an interest in communications design at Syracuse University, a stint as a graphic designer and positions as advertising agency art director. He eventually transitioned to creative, most recently as group creative director at the Martin Agency.
So far the most memorable—and fun—campaign he’s worked on was Nike’s Jordan brand while he was at Wieden+Kennedy. “I had the most fun working on that brand,” he says. “The chance to relaunch and reposition the Jordan brand was amazing. It was an honor to work with Michael Jordan—I’d grown up admiring him and will remember the experience for the rest of my life.”
Something else he remembers frequently are the words of Ken Hine, a favorite instructor at Syracuse University. “He used to talk about how to look at a problem and dissect it to find the real problem—and the best answer. Often what a client tells you is the problem isn’t really the problem. As creative director, you have to listen to what they’re saying to figure out what they really need—and that’s the fun part.”
Cartwright takes a similar approach when it comes to a focus on diversity. “I don’t consciously think about diversity when I’m working on a campaign,” he says. “I first think about the problem and how to solve the problem. If we tell the story right and if the work is smart and respects the brand you’re working on, it should appeal to any race or any gender.”
Donna Lamar loves to tell a good story. “I never think of what I’m doing as working in advertising,” says the creative director at TBWA\Chiat\Day. “I don’t think of it in terms of trying to sell something, but in terms of how I can tell the best story about whatever the product is.”
That’s the kind of thinking that was critical to the success of her team that created the much-lauded rebranding of Gatorade. Consider one of Lamar’s favorites: Mission G, an online sports and entertainment network featuring original content, entertainment programming and social networking. That led to Gatorade Replay, a multi-faceted campaign that revolved around restaging classic games between high school rivals, and included webisodes, a documentary TV series, a Facebook app to help reunite old sports teams and more.
The multiple elements echo Lamar’s own wide-ranging background. During her 20-year career, she has been head of production for Wieden+Kennedy/Amsterdam, produced art films, and written and directed a documentary that was screened at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York. “Everything I’ve done feeds on the last experience,” says Lamar. “Part of why I’ve done well so far is because I was a producer and I understand how things come together. Having an idea is great—but you need to be able to make it happen.”
And Lamar is a woman who can make things happen. Her path to creative director wasn’t conventional. Initially, they wanted her to be an executive producer, but she convinced the agency that her diverse experience had instead prepared her for the creative team. “Sometimes the industry cleaves to the outdated thought that creativity is something that is held by just a few,” she says. “But we’re all creative—it’s just how it’s expressed and how it’s nurtured.”
Lamar believes the diversity in her work tends to emerge as a natural extension of the experiences she’s had. “I try to come up with a story that I’ve experienced that I can apply to what I’m working on in a way that is identifiable to other people,” she says. “People know and understand the truth of an experience.”