A fifteen-year agency veteran, Gary Nelson is a creative director a SapientNitro where he leads the creative department in the New York office by overseeing the development of holistic experiences, brand websites, innovative campaigns and social engagement platforms. Prior to joining SapientNitro, he served as executive creative director at Organic, part of Omnicom Group. He also held a creative positions at Agency.com and account positions at Chiat/Day, Ammarati Puris Lintas and J. Walter Thompson. Recognized for his award-winning concepts for Bank America, British Airways and Discovery Networks, Gary holds a BA degree in sociology from Brown University and a Masters in creative writing from New School University.
If you have a degree, what field is it in? I have a BA in sociology from Brown University and a MFA in creative writing from New School University.
If you could choose one person to work with (outside your own agency), who would it be? I’d love to work with Lee Clow (one of the greatest creative minds of our time).
What client did you do your first advertising project for? My first advertising project was for Citibank and it entailed an animated .gif banner for a credit card that ran on a gaming portal.
If you were to change professions, what would you choose to do? I’ve always wanted to design shoes for men. Or help the folks at CERN search for the “God” particle.
What do you consider to be the greatest headline of all time? “Think Different,” followed closely by “It’s Miller Time.”
From where do your best ideas originate? Hard to say. They come from everywhere and anywhere. Sometimes ideas live in obvious places; sometimes I have to go exploring for them.
How do you overcome a creative block? I hit my reset button by changing location, changing my mindset, switching to another problem; in other words, I try to fool myself into believing that I’m thinking about something else completely. Tackling a separate, (different, not connected) issue tends to help, but can turn into procrastination, which can be an issue when working against a deadline (which happens often).
If you could choose any product to create an ad for, what would it be? This question is tougher than I thought it would be. Any product that effectively does what it’s supposed to and fulfills its promise to consumers—without painful caveats—and theoretically makes those people’s lives better.
Do you have creative outlets other than advertising? I write fiction when I have the time. I like to draw as well.
What’s your approach to balancing work and life? I don’t know that I have a specific approach, but I do believe that if you love what you do, work doesn’t actually feel like work and instead feels like something you’d choose to do in your “free time.” I love what I do and it creates the perfect balance of work and life.
What product/gadget can you not live without? Definitely my iPhone.
What’s your favorite quote? “He who rejects change is the architect of decay.” —Harold Wilson
Do you have any advice for people just entering the profession?
Yes. Embrace change. Be flexible. Our ever-evolving industry demands it. The “accepted” way never implies that its the “only” way. Everyday is a learning opportunity.
What’s the one thing you wish you knew when you started your career?
It’s impossible to name just one. So... everything that I know now.