Paul Forsyth, vice president and director of brand content at Ligget Stashower, began his career in advertising at age twelve, dreaming up ad concepts during math class in grade school in suburban Boston. Continuing this precocious path, he graduated several years later from the Rhode Island School of Design with a BFA in illustration. After graduation, Paul worked as an illustrator doing quirky photo collages for magazines such as GQ, Brides, and Washington Monthly. He joined Ligget Stashower in 1999 as an art diirector and he now oversees the creative department. He has won national and international recognition for his craft, which has been featured in Communication Arts, Print's Design Annual, the Graphis Poster Annual and US AdReview. In his spare time, Paul paints, draws, plays a little guitar - and, yes, dreams up concepts for his client's brands.
Dawn of the Dead Resilience
If you have a degree in what field is it? I have a BFA in illustration from The Rhode Island School of Design.
If you could choose one person to work with (outside your own agency), who would it be? I shot a commercial several years ago with Leslie Dektor. He is a true artist, in every sense of the word, and creates these wonderfully imaginative documentary films. To be involved in making of one of his films would be an amazing experience.
Who was the client for your first advertising project? In the third grade I won a competition to redesign our school logo. I sketched a fierce eagle with its wings outstretched and talons splayed. My first client feedback came shortly thereafter when I was called into the principal’s office and he abruptly asked me to make the eagle’s eyes “less angry.” I didn’t listen to him.
If you were to change professions, what would you choose to do? I would be a painter.
What do you consider to be the greatest headline of all time? It’s a headline from one in a series of ads for the Economist campaign from BBDO. This particular ad stands out for its brilliance and simplicity. The headline was “Trump Donald.” With a line like that, nothing else is needed.
From where do your best ideas originate? I love the idea-generating process. You have to love the journey of culling through mediocre concepts until you land on one that stands above all others. It can seem daunting at times because of the dynamics at play—deadlines, budgets, strategy and the personal desire to deliver work at a very high level.
How do you overcome a creative block? It’s all about trying new angles or access points into the creative problem-solving process. A typical mental block comes when I've wrestled with the assignment for a couple of days and produced nothing of value. I'll move on and go work on a completely different type of project. Sometimes diving deeper into the client’s manufacturing process gets me there or I'll bounce ideas off one of the writers that I’m teamed with, who, when they see a kernel of an idea, will help push it along.
If you could choose any product to create an ad for, what would it be? A luxury boat manufacturer (imagine the photo shoots) or a micro-brewery (imagine the beer).
Do you have creative outlets other than advertising? I play guitar and listen to a lot of music. I’ve also been known to fill a lot of sketchbooks.
What’s your approach to balancing work and life? I’m a dad with three kids and my wife’s a full-time psychologist. Some days it’s completely out-of-whack, with too many kids’ activities and multiple projects at the agency. What gets me through it all is having a supportive family and a team mentality towards life. When it feels too daunting I turn to others and ask for their help.
What product/gadget can you not live without? Venti Iced Americanos and wireless Internet access. It’s high-octane fuel coupled with high-volume online content immersion.
What’s your favorite quote? “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.” —Vince Lombardi
Do you have any advice for people just entering the profession? To succeed in this business you have to be willing to let go of any preconceptions or models of yesteryear and embrace change. The new paradigm is constantly being reinvented. Bring your ideas. Bring your passion. And bring your Dawn of the Dead resilience.
What’s one thing you wish you knew when you started your career? How quickly my hair would turn gray.