Jason Gaboriau

Last June, Gaboriau was part of a trio (with Charles Rosen and Doug Cameron) that left Cliff Freeman and Partners to launch New York boutique Amalgamated. The fledgling agency’s work so far includes a campaign spoofing MTV’s Beach House for music network Fuse and Ben & Jerry’s print ads featuring hyper-real illustrations of the ingredients. Besides an impressive list of mentors, 32-year-old Gaboriau, creative director at the 15-person shop, cites the Republican party and heavy metal as his biggest influences. Q. What are some of the things you learned from each of the advertising personalities you’ve worked for?

A. From Gary Goldsmith, I learned how to be a creative director. He was patient, articulate and never gave up on the people he hired. Woody Kay was a great art director/ designer who really helped me make my ads look better. Andy Berlin taught me how to keep my overhead low. Bob Jeffrey has been a great mentor. He taught me about the importance of client relationships. Cliff Freeman taught me how to keep the advertising human and to remember the consumer.

Is Amalgamated more or less successful than you’d hoped at this point?

As far as the work production and the level of work, I am excited and pretty surprised. I knew we could do it, but I didn’t think we could do it that fast. As far as cash flow, we’re already making money. We’ve been able to hire more people than I thought we’d be able to. And we’re hiring more.

What other small independents do you admire or consider successful?

Modernista!, davidandgoliath and Venables Bell. We started at a tough time, but at least it was turning up a bit. They started at the beginning of the recession and managed to stay together and grow.

Where do you hope Amalgamated will be a year from now?

I hope we’re talked about in the same breath as agencies like Mother. That we’re the great, fun creative shop that everyone wants to work at. We want to be part of the small-shop revolution.

What work are you most proud of?

Budget [while at Cliff Freeman]. Some ESPN News campaigns from Goldsmith/ Jeffrey. The Working Today campaign [now at Amalgamated], “Welcome to Middle Class Poverty.”

Have you always wanted to be in advertising?

I have. I realized it in high school while watching PBS—they ran a special on advertising, and I got chills and thought, “Oh, my God. That’s what I really want to do.”

You went to the Fashion Institute of Technology. Did you do well there?

I failed out [of advertising class] because I had an internship at Chiat/Day. I missed classes because the only place I wanted to be was Chiat/Day. So I did this whole guerrilla campaign to get them to reverse my grade and brought all this info on Chiat/Day and said, “You don’t understand. This is a great opportunity. How could you not understand that?” I did eventually graduate.

And later you taught there?

I was at an awards show, picking up a bunch of awards for Budget, and I ran into a teacher who remembered me. She couldn’t believe I had done so well. I told her what I thought the department needed: a younger, more creative voice. I’ve been working with her for the past three or four years, and now FIT students are at Crispin, at Ogilvy, at Amalgamated, at Cliff Freeman and at McCann. Not because of me, but because I was able to bring in teachers from different agencies. My one requirement was that they hold class inside the ad agency. I taught while I was at Cliff, and the kids would walk down that hallway filled with awards. And so you know they’re going to listen to you.

Outside of advertising, what are your greatest influences?

I’m a huge Republican, so they’re almost all going to be Republicans. When you grow up in Massachusetts and you’re surrounded with liberal politics, and then you come to art school in New York City, it’s just a natural tendency to rebel against it. So I’d say Ronald Reagan. I’m a huge W. fan. What I always liked about that party is that it says, “It’s up to you to make it happen, not the government.” That’s a theme that always pushes me. Also—I don’t know where I’d be without Black Sabbath. It’s the energy of heavy-metal music that I like. I probably have the only creative-director iPod that has Whitesnake and Iron Maiden in it.

What’s the last ad you saw that made you think, “I wish I had done that”?

The “Born a Donkey” Super Bowl spot [for Budweiser] made me proud to be in advertising. In a sea of fart jokes and clichés, the donkey was such a cute, great story.

What’s your favorite film?

Caddyshack. It has everything: physical humor and smart, dry humor.

What’s your biggest fear?

To be in a plane crash and as I’m falling, worrying that our agency speaks with only one voice and is typecast.

Give me three words to describe yourself.

Loyal. Devoted. Hairy.

Do people comment a lot on your eyebrows?

My chest hair and eyebrows are the butt of a lot of jokes. So I’ve been known to do a little eyebrow maintenance, with my wife creative-directing the process.