Steve Coulson is partner/creative director at Campfire and leads the creation of marketing solutions that launch products and change perceptions through storytelling. His experiences ignite the communities that drive business for clients such as HBO, Discovery Channel, A&E, Harley-Davidson, Verizon FiOS and American Eagle Outfitters.
An ad man with an accent, Steve received his BA in film, photographic and video arts from the University of Westminster and before coming to the US worked as an assistant to photographer/video director Anton Corbijn. He's designed marketing campaigns for Fortune 100 companies and has expertise in rich media and social media marketing, video and entertainment concepting, alternate reality games and mobile and emerging technology. He began his career as the first digital creative in the New York office of McCann-Erickson and has also held executive creative positions at JWT and Razorfish.
The Electricity of A Truly Magical Experience
If you have a degree in what field is it? I have a BA Hons in film, photographic and video arts from the University of Westminster in London.
If you could choose one person to work with (outside your own agency), who would it be? I worked my way through college as a table-hopping magician and was heavily influenced by the great Chicago magician Eugene Burger (who was great not only in terms of technique and presentation but also in the craft of dramatic storytelling and audience engagement). I think the electricity of a truly magical experience is something we continually try to create in marketing, and I would love to work with a great magician and storyteller like Burger.
Who was the client for your first advertising project? I was the sole digital designer employed at McCann-Erickson in New York in 1996 and I created the first generation website for I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter. I also remember teaching myself Macromedia Director over a weekend so that I could code a bug squashing game for Black & Decker.
If you were to change professions, what would you choose to do? To be honest, marketing is changing so fast, I feel like I change professions—if not my job title—every twelve months. It’s still an exciting time with so much change on the horizon.
What do you consider to be the greatest headline of all time? A simple phrase that pretty much sums up most people's life goals: “How to win friends and influence people.”
From where do your best ideas originate? Cliches aside, I get my best thinking time in the shower. A shower stall is the ultimate Faraday cage for the 21st century—it blocks out the distraction of calls, emails, tweets and check-ins. Jonathan Cranin, who was the ECD at McCann in New York once told me that “There are some things money can’t buy, for everything else, there’s Mastercard" came to him in the shower. I was part of the pitch team that developed that “Priceless” campaign and, even as a junior creative, that presentation really drove home to me how a great strategy can set up a great creative idea. It’s heavily influenced my approach to the multi-layered work we do at Campfire, like the multi-sensory campaign for Game of Thrones, The Maester’s Path and the Dark Score Stories experience for Bag of Bones.
How do you overcome a creative block? Take a shower. I recommend all small agencies install a communal sauna for brainstorming.
If you could choose any product to create an ad for, what would it be? I really wish I’d been around to work on the Kodak account in its heyday.
Do you have creative outlets other than advertising? I have a modified dSLR camera that only takes black-and-white Infrared images. When shooting Infrared, you never quite know what you’re going to get, because the technology uncovers hidden layers. It’s very ethereal. I have some of it on Flickr.
What’s your approach to balancing work and life? Regularly working after 7:00PM is a sign of inefficiency, not dedication.
What product/gadget can you not live without? I’ll have to go with my iDevices (and I have one of each—iPhone, iPad, Apple TV), if only because they’ve allowed me to make the complete switch to digital media (music, movies, books, photography, comics, newspapers, magazines). They’re essential physical objects because they free me up from the baggage of so many other physical objects.
What’s your favorite quote? “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” —John Lennon
Do you have any advice for people just entering the profession? It’s not about you, it’s ALL about the work. Ultimately you’ll succeed or fail not by what you say, or how high your profile, or your job title, or your “personal brand” or number of followers, but by your work.
What’s one thing you wish you knew when you started your career? Buy Apple stock.