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What sparked your interest in advertising and design? I was first drawn to advertising as a kid because I liked the pictures. Advertising can take you places, introduce you to experiences and be a medium for great ideas. It understands the power of an image. Early in my career, I spent time focused on other professional areas before moving into what might be thought of as advertising almost 20 years ago. For me, the field offers a way to combine my interests in business, design and technology while satisfying my curiosity to learn.

How did you, with 50,000feet, break into working with clients in financial service categories? What are some of the more memorable projects in this sector that you’ve worked on? Our earliest clients in financial services were proprietary trading firms working in the commodity and derivative markets. In some ways, you can’t get any closer to the markets. Our work focused on helping transform their brands as they moved their trading operations from open outcry to online trading. In many ways, we were helping address the same challenges that businesses and brands wrestle with today as they move from physical to digital environments.

Throughout the last two decades, our team has deepened our industry expertise by working with brands across commodities, derivatives and securities; asset and investment management; insurance and diversified banking; hedge funds and private equity firms; and innovative payment and fintech brands. We have a roster of incredible clients who are some of the brightest in their respective categories, including BBVA, Mastercard and the New York Stock Exchange.

An interesting trend that has recently emerged is integrating financial and healthcare solutions to holistically address consumers’ needs from a more inclusive wellness perspective. Enabled by technology, these digitally integrated experiences are becoming powerful nexuses for consumers. From a creative perspective, this intersection offers fertile ground for exploring, imagining and envisioning how two important worlds can—and should—come together.

Many creatives might find the limits imposed by the finance sector to be too restrictive to their work. How do you turn those boundaries into inspiration? You might say that creativity begins by discovering the graceful solution that lives among limitations. For our team, working with financial brands has offered great opportunities to tell great stories. Because financial services are foundational to our economic development at every level, creativity for financial brands lies at the intersection of many topics that influence political, social and cultural discourse.

The nature of the industry provides a canvas—or screen—to tell stories that touch every one of us; it offers a range of storytelling on both an epic scale and at individual moments. For us, this has included everything from helping consumers become more comfortable using digital payments to developing a global integrated campaign to celebrate the New York Stock Exchange’s 225th anniversary.

Many of the most visible and respected brands in the arena of finance have set out to educate their audiences and demonstrate unique insights to impact shareholders and stakeholders in positive, powerful ways. These brands are talking about and taking on topics concerning their purpose and the contributions they make beyond just delivering returns on investment. They are helping address greater diversity, equity and inclusion within their organizations and the profession as a whole. And they are highlighting the critical role that environmental sustainability has in the health of our economy, our financial wellbeing and our lives.

In the last two years, financial brands have helped to lead important conversations that have been brought to the fore in light of the global pandemic, becoming bellwethers for brands in other industries that are making positive changes within their respective markets and communities.

What do you consider great creative? Great creative is relevant to and resonates with its audience to help forge and foster meaningful connections. Depending on the objectives and context, connections may involve an emotional bond or a rational appeal. It may make you stop in your tracks, or it may be so subtle that it goes unnoticed until you realize that you have been surrounded and supported by a brand for years.

Although some things in life will come easier than others, everything begins by showing up—and trying.”

Do you find yourself following a trusted process to come up with ideas for your clients, or do you generate more ideas serendipitously? In life, you hope to be smart and lucky. A process helps provide the foundation to make a creative life more manageable, offers the ability to collaborate with others within a common approach and makes multidisciplinary tasks easier. With that in mind, serendipity, surprise and the spark of imagination should always be part of the process.

From what sources do you seek inspiration? Anyone who lives a creative life can find inspiration anywhere and in everyone. It’s found in the books you read, the films you see, the travel you take, the people you meet and the conversations you have. It’s in the stories people share—and the stories they don’t. It’s in our moments of victory and defeat. It’s found in the natural world around us. It’s in the seemingly ordinary and everyday, and it’s in the most unexpected, surprising places you may have never imagined. Inspiration is everywhere if you’re open to seeing it.

What’s one challenge currently facing ad agencies that they need to address to remain relevant? Technology presents the greatest opportunities as well as the biggest challenges for advertising. It offers more ways to tell and share stories. It helps create brand experiences that are more immersive, multidimensional and pervasive. And it gives us a stage on which to reach more people across markets, cultures and timezones.

At the same time, technology has enabled a proliferation of messages and media that has led to an increasingly crowded, competitive landscape. While technology has helped to enable always-on digital connections, it has sometimes led to a sense of isolation among its viewers and readers. And although technological innovation has given us more options in terms of products, services and experiences from which to choose, it often leads to confusion that makes the market less easy to navigate and the purchase path more complex.

What trends in advertising are you most interested in and why? Our team hopes that our recently increased focus on great diversity, equity and inclusion within our profession and as represented within the work is more than a trend. Together, we can change the world for the better.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given in your career? A word of advice: try. Although it seems so simple, it’s powerful and wonderful to live by. I’m a lifelong believer that, although we can’t do everything, each of us can do anything. The longer I live, the more I believe that most of us are more capable of things than we could ever imagine. Although some things in life will come easier than others, everything begins by showing up—and trying.

One doesn’t necessarily associate poetry with the day-to-day business of a thriving creative agency, but Jim Misener has found great success being an exception to the rule. Most early mornings, you can find him deep in thought on clients’ businesses, and by midday, he’s making rounds with tasks in hand. Misener received a BA with highest honors from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and completed the AIGA program Business Perspectives for Creative Leaders at Yale and the executive program at the University of Chicago Management Institute. He is a board member at the Design Museum, Chicago.  


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