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Steve Grimes is vice president and creative director at Publicis Dallas. His work there has helped sell countless German automobiles, energy bars and Moons Over My Hammy. He is also credited with killing thousands of cockroaches and termites. Before Publicis, Steve sold sports drinks, chicken, beer and lottery tickets at Chicago agencies Bayer Bess Vanderwarker, The Leap Partnership and DraftFCB. In recognition for selling stuff, Steve has received shiny trophies and certificates from the One Show, Communication Arts, D&AD and Art Directors Club.


Be Able to Do It All

Where do your best ideas come from? I find that my best ideas usually come from human truths.

What’s the strangest request you’ve received from a client? Rather than asking for more branding or wanting me to make the phone number bigger, one awesome client asked if we could lop off the copy at the end of a spot, run it in west Texas in the middle of the night and enter it in Cannes.

What skills do young creatives need to succeed in advertising today? It seems today you are either labeled as a digital creative or traditional creative. Not too long ago, people weren’t pigeonholed as a television writer or print art director, they were just creatives. And that’s the way I look at it. Of course you need to be digitally savvy, but it’s just another medium we work in. To succeed in this business, you should be able to do it all. Another thing that will help young creatives succeed is presentation skills. It’s not enough to just create great work; you have to learn how to present and sell your ideas.

What do you consider to be the greatest headline (or ad) of all time? Off the top of my head, two of my favorites are: “There is a sign around your neck. Does it say you’re dull and unimaginative?” written by Todd Tilford for McQueeney Ties, and a Harley Davidson line, “When was the last time you met a stranger and knew he was a brother?” written by Joe Nagy.

What was your riskiest professional decision? Casting outspoken atheists in a commercial for a conservative Christian client.

Where do you seek inspiration? Reminding myself that I’m responsible for keeping human beings fed, clothed and sheltered usually does the trick.

What is one challenge currently facing advertising agencies that they need to address in order to remain relevant?
Consumers are still out there; they’re just not in the obvious places anymore. Our challenge is to go talk to them where they are. Actually I should say, have a dialogue with them. It’s not a one-sided conversation anymore.

What would you be doing if you weren’t in advertising? I’d probably go into asbestos removal.

Is the rise of technology helping or hurting the brands you work for? Technology only hurts the brands that refuse to embrace it.

What trends in advertising are you most interested in and why? Given our shrinking attention spans, I've got my eye on microcontent like Vine and Instagram Video—content that consumers choose to watch. I’m curious to see how brands use their six to 15 seconds. Will they create entertaining films or just upload the same spots they run on TV? I think I know what the great brands will do.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given in your career? You are a brand and you need to market yourself as such.

Do you have any advice for people just entering the profession? Don’t take a job at a mediocre shop. If you do bad work, your book will suffer and you’ll be out of the business in five years. I’ve seen it happen many times. Try and start out at a respected, creatively driven agency. People who get in the circle of great agencies tend to stay in that circle their entire career.