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Tom Hudder executive creative director at Rodgers Townsend joined the St. Louis shop in February 1998 from crosstown agency The Glennon Co., where he was chief creative officer and partner. His twenty-two years of experience also includes stints at GSD&M/Austin, DMB&B/St. Louis, Tracy-Locke/Denver. His work has been recognized by Communications Arts (including being asked to judge in 2003), One Show, Graphis, Cannes Film Festival, Art Director’s Club and Archive. His client list includes Anheuser-Busch, AT&T/SBC, Ameren, Pepsi, Frito-Lay, Tabasco, Midas Mufflers, Wal-Mart, US West, Phillips Petroleum, Pearle Vision Centers, Royal Crown Cola, St. Louis Rams, St Louis Children’s Hospital and Ameren.

07.09.08

A Connection with Your Work

If you have a degree in what field is it? I have an advertising design degree from Art Center in Pasadena.

If you could choose one person to work with (outside your own agency), who would it be? Lee Clow. I’ve been fortunate to meet him on a couple of occasions and have heard him speak numerous times. I really respect his approach to the business and his clean, simple idea of art direction. And, his overall laid-back, no BS demeanor is very refreshing in an industry full of posers. To me, he is the icon of modern, West Coast, creative problem solving. Years from now we’ll fully realize his influence.

Who was the client for your first advertising project? I was at school and doing some work at Julian Ryder and Associates. The project was for a swap meet in Los Angeles called the Roadium at which they were giving away a VW Rabbit. The office emptied early one afternoon because the Belding Awards were that night, leaving me to my own devices to write, lay out and traffic the ad to the LA Times. I wrote the headline, “This weekend the wabbit wuns wild at the Woadium.”  It became apparent, immediately afterward, that art direction was my only career option.

If you were to change professions, what would you choose to do? If I were to change professions, I’d likely really change it and get far away. I’d do something outdoors—farming, ranching, tree farming or maybe even breed German Shepherds.

What do you consider to be the greatest headline of all time? I don’t know if I have one all-time favorite. Of course, like many people, I love the early VW work. An impressive collection of great lines. A favorite from that body of work would be, “Every new one comes slightly used.”

From where do your best ideas originate? Typically when I’m doing something else and not trying to create. I know it’s cliché to say this but often in the middle of the night when I’m just percolating things. I also have ideas at times just driving around running errands.

How do you overcome a creative block? If I get a block, I need to get far away from the business. Get outside. Play racquetball. Eat. Cut the grass. Whatever. What never works for me is to try and stare down the block and plow through it.

If you could choose any product to create an ad for, what would it be? One of the things I like best about this business is the opportunity to learn about so many different things. In that context, it would be something I’ve not worked on before. But I'm a sports fanatic so I’d probably really enjoy working on Nike or Adidas.

Do you have creative outlets other than advertising? I like taking photographs. I like the design of photography and also the incredible idea that you are potentially preserving a moment in time every time you take a shot. (That concept never ceases to amaze me.) I also like landscape design, creating interesting spaces and putting unusual materials and plants together, though I tend to get bored easily so I am never satisfied with what I’ve done.

What’s your approach to balancing work and life? Recently, we’ve been facing some tough family medical issues. So now, more than ever, I try to just enjoy the moment, wherever I am or whatever I am doing. There are parts of the business that get frustrating and it’s hard not to take those frustrations home, but, in the end, I still really enjoy what I do.

What product/gadget can you not live without? Unfortunately, I have to say my BlackBerry. I am truly addicted to the idea that I am always connected to everyone. I know that’s supposedly not good for stress, but for me, I’m much more stressed when I don’t have my BlackBerry within reach.

What’s your favorite quote? I’m not sure who authored it or whether I have it exactly right, but, “What you did yesterday is your reputation. What you do tomorrow is your future.”

Do you have any advice for people just entering the profession? Don’t look back. Things are changing so fast, don’t worry about how things used to be done, or who used to be good. Focus on how to stay ahead of all the change. It’s an amazing time for the business—if you can embrace, and even promote, change. Also, understand that actually doing a layout by hand gives you a connection to your work that a computer simply cannot; there’s something about a pencil and a piece of paper that a keyboard and monitor can’t ever replace.

What’s one thing you wish you knew when you started your career? When I got in the business (1986), technology, certainly the computer, wasn’t part of the ad world. I wish, at that time that, I’d had a deeper understanding, and appreciation, for how things were about to explode and how the changes would eventually make things better—certainly more efficient. We spent too much time bitching about how technology was compromising things rather than focusing on the benefits of it.