Technology Helps Link Indiana and Colorado: Small Agency Keeps Its Creative Director

By Scott Hume

CHICAGO-Blaising St. Claire Associates’ offices are in Carmel, Ind., outside Indianapolis. Yet its executive creative director, Steve Preston, has his office in his home outside Denver.

The rapid development of interactive technologies have made the “virtual office” arrangement not only doable but efficient for the $25 million agency.

Preston left the shop for Colorado three years ago, succumbing to what agency president Bob St. Claire called a “hankering to be in the mountains” as well to take graduate classes in communications and adult education.

A successor to Preston was hired, but did not last. The agency then approached Preston about returning to active duty, without moving back to Indiana.

While he flies in to the main office for important meetings, much of Preston’s contact with the agency is done via the Internet and America Online. Some layouts are even e-mailed to him by a freelance art director in Milwaukee.

“There are times when I’d like a face-to-face conversation with someone,” Preston said. “But there are other times I’m happy to be distanced from the day to day chaos of agency life,” he said.

“As the head of a creative department, you find all your time spent in meetings instead of doing work. I have the freedom to concentrate on doing what I love, creating advertising,” Preston added. “I know that I’m more productive, and I believe my work is better because it’s easier to step back from [advertising].”

“I think all of us have ambitions to do things [other than our jobs],” St. Claire said. “This has worked out ideally personally and professionally for Steve, and worked well for our clients.”

The arrangement with Preston is similar to other links the agency has made as part of an ad hoc structure to serve clients, St. Claire said.

“We work with a research company in Bloomington, Ind., and a database consultant in North Carolina as well as [with] Steve in Colorado,” he said. “It allows us to tap into talent wherever it is, without the overhead of in-house expertise.”

Such cost-efficient decentralization can help small shops compete and attract and keep talent, St. Claire said. He predicts this will become more common among agencies. °

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