It’s not often enough, in this crazy industry, that an opportunity arises to do good work and make a difference in the world. To make even one person’s life better, happier, and more fulfilled. This past fall, I was given the opportunity here at GSD&M to do all of that. And then some.

Honor Flight Austin, a non-profit organization that honors Austin’s veterans, requested our help with marketing and branding. They raise money to transport our nation’s heroes to Washington, D.C. to visit and reflect at their memorials. To enjoy a day of honor, remembrance and celebration from a proud and grateful nation.

When I was first briefed on the assignment, I was instantly passionate about it. Not only do I believe that the Honor Flight program is a wonderful cause– it also happens to be one I have a personal tie to.

My maternal grandfather, Robert W. Kentner, LT, USN, was a WWII veteran and POW. He kept a diary during his 3.5 years in a Japanese prison camp where he documented when prisoners passed away and of what causes. He managed to hide this from the Japanese and bring it home with him to help bring some of his fellow prisoners’ families closure.

Like most WWII veterans, he didn’t like to talk about his experiences during the war. And rarely shared much, until later in his life. I had a very close relationship with him and was lucky enough to hear some of his stories first hand. I am so grateful for the 22 unforgettable years I was able to share with him. He showed me how to truly enjoy life, appreciate family and friends, and to always see the good in people. He’s without a doubt one of my greatest heroes.

As I started diving into the Honor Flight assignment, it quickly became much more than an “assignment” for me. I volunteered to be a Veteran Guardian on a flight in my grandfather’s honor and I was beyond excited about the opportunity. I was paired up with Navy veteran, Bernard Snyder, the second coolest WWII veteran there is.

As a guardian, it was my job to stick by Bernard’s side at all times, assist him as needed and ensure his safety during the trip. I was prepared and honored to do just that, but had no idea how much I’d be getting in return.

We left on a Friday and returned the following day. During the seven hours spent sitting next to Bernard on the plane to and from DC, and all of the activities in between, I learned so much. And I gained a new friend. These brave men and women truly are “the greatest generation” and I was reminded of that fact countless times during my trip. It was a humbling, unforgettable experience I will be forever grateful for.


Check out the work we did for Honor Flight Austin here.


The latest in our agency segment – “Getting to Know Ya.” Get up close and personal with our always put together and ever so charming President Marianne Malina.

David Hughes – Interviewer
Maureen McFee – Art Director
Agathe Fay – Agency Editor
Arial Quintans – Editor
Beast – Edit house

Fellow SXSurrogate, Melanie Mahaffey and I had the pleasure of running into this hot piece of completely absurd “outdoor advertising” after our 3:30 panels. This tighty-white wearing, cowboy hat topped, branded, man was impossible to miss upon leaving the convention center. Better yet, he was accompanied in Austin by a parade of people sporting flesh colored unitards with the same “let’ sculpting” signange.

What exactly were they trying to drive SXers to? I admit, I was a bit curious myself after this encounter so I typed in the url.

My advice: DON’T DO THAT.

Luckily, I was on my work computer, so whatever X-rated site that url would have taken me to is blocked. So, after googling “coolsculpting” (the brand underneath the url on his underpants, I arrived here:

I guess it’s some type of non-surgical way to lose unwanted fat. Thought it was a weird site/product to be so flamboyantly advertising during one of the biggest interactive festivals in the country. But it’s SxSW, brands and people have to really standout for people to stop or care. Regardless, you have to admire the total absurdity and creative effort the arguably “boring” brand put forward.

So, thank you weird, tan, underpants wearing, guitar player for gracing us with your presence this week. 🙂



Having just moved to Austin in June of 2010 from the east coast, it did not take me long to realize that the well known phrase “Keep Austin Weird,” was much more than a slogan created to promote small businesses. It’s a mantra. I have never lived anywhere else that not only accepts the people, places and things that embody true weirdness, but actually celebrates it. It’s one of the many awesome things that I love about this city.

It goes without saying that the passing of Leslie Cochran, Austin’s platform heel wearing, attention-loving, scantily clad, icon of weirdness, more lovingly known simply as Leslie, is a great loss. The man was Austin’s unofficial mascot, often referred to as the Ambassador of Weirdness, and unarguably a local celebrity.

In fact, his name even appeared on the ballot for Austin Mayor on more than one occasion. Below are a couple of campaign posters that fellow GSD&Mers, Mike Ferrer and Bill Bayne created in 2001.

KEEPAUSTINWEIRD.COM is a website that refers to itself as a “Collaborative fission of coordinated individualism.” Sounds so sophisticated that way. 🙂  Of course, if you explore the Current Weirdness section, you will find Leslie front and center underneath “People.” This city adored him.

According to an article written today, the Austin City Council was reported to have observed a moment of silence in Leslie’s memory at their morning meeting.  And they are expected to declare an official “Leslie” day in the future. I love it.

The true magnitude of this city’s weirdness became very apparent to me on my first day at GSD&M. I was walking back from my “Howdy Lunch,” with two other new hires and Dorian Girard, (head of our People dept/agency mom) when I heard what sounded like a bicycle bell approaching from behind us.  I turned, and was immediately stunned, to find a man wearing nothing but a golden bronze tan and a baby blue g-string passing us on his bike. Myself and the other two Austin newbies were clearly amazed by this siting, but Dorian just smiled at us and said “Welcome to Austin!” We realized that this was not unusual,even in the slightest, by Austin standards. The cyclist is well known around here as “Naked Bicycle Man,” and is spotted regularly riding nude around town. But my favorite part about the whole spectacle is that it’s totally accepted.

I’d like to think that Leslie was a role model to Naked Bicycle Man and many other local Austin weirdos. 🙂 God bless him for having the courage to fight conformity and just be. He may not have won the race for mayor, but he was the inspiration to many people’s Halloween costumes (see below: our very own Sean Hayden a few Halloweens ago) and was stopped regularly for photo ops during his time in Austin.

It’s safe to say that the icon of weird will be missed. But I hope that his legacy (this city’s weirdness) lives on. Rest in peace Leslie.

Explained most simply, it’s an online pinboard, or some may call it an “image sharing network.” I’d agree that it’s both of those.  And a whole lot more.  It’s social bookmarking that makes sense and is highly fueled by recommendations from friends. Or people you choose to follow. (Similar to Tumblr in that sense)  I think a big part of Pinterest’s appeal is its simplicity. All shared content, is image based. Any item, recipe, idea or tip  that users decide to post is represented by an image. Additionally, the source of where the “pinned” item was found is documented right below its image. You can even add a “pin it” button to your bookmarks toolbar of your browser to easily save content you want to include on one of your boards.

To me, what’s so amazing about Pinterest is its versatility. It’s an extremely useful tool for both personal and business purposes. As an individual, I can browse and create boards for design inspiration, project inspiration, shopping ideas, cooking, decorating, you name it. And as an art director, I respond better to pictures of course 🙂  So, the visual way to explore the content is very appealing to me.

But what I found even more awesome about Pinterest is the opportunity that’s out there for brands to thrive on the site. We all know by now, the benefits of social media. And most of you are probably tired of hearing those words even. But let’s be honest, when used properly, it’s effective. And cheap. It makes a ton of sense to go where our consumers are, rather than create yet another online destination and hope they find their way.

A few brands I’ve noticed that have used Pinterest in interesting ways are: Whole Foods, Lands’ End and Nordstrom. Each of these brands utilizes Pinterest in a very different, but equally beneficial way.

Whole Foods actually has a variety of “boards” that range from gardening tips to Christmas project ideas. On their Creative Christmas Projects board, they’ve posted all types of different projects for users to do at home. Anything from how to make really cute paper ornaments to making your own snow globe. In my opinion, it was a really smart use of the site. Whole Foods is gaining even more affinity towards their brand by giving people a variety of free tools to make their holiday season a little more fun and festive.

Lands’ End used Pinterest to create a contest called Pin It To Win It. They challenged people to create their own pin boards with their favorite Lands’ End Canvas products. The winning boards, which will be judged on creativity, composition and style expertise will be qualified to win one of 10 $250 Lands’ End Canvas gift cards. I thought this was pretty cool. Lands’ End gets free promotion of their products by giving their fans a voice and making them feel important. Lisa Petrilli, CEO of a company called C-Level Strategies talks more about this promotion in a recent blog post of hers: read more.

Nordstrom gives their consumers a fun and organized way to browse their merchandise. They have boards ranging from “Holiday Sparkle,” which has a variety of festive, holiday outfits and accessories to “Bold Bangles,” which showcases a bunch of fun bracelets they have in stock.

For those of you who have not yet experienced the fun and awesomeness that is Pinterest, I encourage you to do so now. But I will warn you, it’s addicting!


Like myself, Mary Toves is a graduate of the VCU Brandcenter’s Creative Technology track. I learned during my final year at the Brandcenter, and as Mary’s 2nd year mentor, that she was perfect for the track. And a huge asset to our industry.

Fresh out of the Brandcenter, (and I mean that quite literally – her ceremony was only 6 days ago), Mary is ready to take on her next challenge. She recently accepted a job at BBH in New York as a real live Creative Technologist! A question commonly posed to most CTs is “What exactly is a Creative Technologist?” A fair question for many, being that it is, in fact, a very new role in our industry. So, its safe to assume that by week 60 of grad school, most CTs are armed and ready to answer this exact question. We’re basically trained to. 🙂 When I asked Mary, her response was second nature:

A creative technologist is a multidisciplinary, technically-minded person working in the creative department at your advertising agency. This could be one of your dev guys who’s whip-smart with code, but also kick ass at copywriting. Or an art director who has taught herself user experience design and front-end development. What’s great about creative technology is that each CT differs from the next. But whole-heartedly I believe that a CT should be able to code well enough to develop a working prototype. And that experience design should be an essential part of the creative technologist’s role. We design with the experience in mind. And, as Mark Avnet says, “We sketch with technology.”

As Mary mentions, and I agree with her 100%, one thing that’s unique about CTs is that no two are alike. Everyone has strengths routed in a more traditional agency role first, but we all have an innate curiosity in the digital space and emerging technologies. We appreciate and understand the value of a well thought out user experience, as well as the necessity for actually thinking through the Information Architecture of any online project.  As Mary explains above, we are at least capable of coding in some capacity and understand what’s possible in the digital space. Some, like Mary, are stronger in that area than others.

Because of how new and misunderstood the role of a Creative Technologist still is to so many in our industry, a lot of us (myself included) fill other roles that we are fit for. But, of course still utilize the skills acquired as a CT. Because whether or not all agencies realize it yet, UX design, IA, and a thorough understanding of what actually makes sense online for a project/brand is absolutely essential in EVERY creative department. I strongly believe that the industry desperately needs more of us. That being said, none of us would ever recommend using technology for “technology’s sake” for any brand or project. And we will happily recognize when technology may not be the solution at all.

Though, many of us do hold other job titles in our respective agencies, one thing that I think is really awesome about Mary was her determination to be a Creative Technologist. Not a digital strategist, not an interactive Art Director or Copywriter, but a CT all the way through. When I asked her if that job title was important to her and why, she replied:

It was absolutely essential. While I believe that a CT could be lurking in any agency under any title … it was very important to me to plant a flag in the ground and say, “This is what a CT is. And this is what a CT can do.” I want to prove the value of creative technology. And I want to do it by relentlessly pursuing well-designed, innovative work.

In my two years of knowing Mary, I’ve always been amazed by her dedication to her chosen track and her optimism in general. Heck, her website clearly states in bold type: I am an optimist. And frankly, BBH is lucky to have her. I asked her what she hopes to accomplish in her new role and she confidently responded:

I just want to do good work. Work that adds value to the brand. Work that I can be proud of. Work that gets noticed.

I have no doubt in my mind that Mary will do just that.

In closing, I’d like to leave everyone with a few nuggets of advice Mary learned from her 60 weeks at the Brandcenter:

Wake up early. Read … everything. Carry a pen.

And more importantly,

“Do or do not. There is no try.” – Master Yoda, The Empire Strikes Back

Well, Marc Ecko himself did so by way of an equation. In probably my favorite panel of the whole interactive festival, I had the pleasure of listening to the famous designer take us through his “journey down the rabbit hole” as he called it. But, basically his personal history and discovery of his passion for creativity and what he believes in. I witnessed my first ever CREATIVE math equation.

In a very engaging and inspiring format, Marc showed us his equation for “AWEthenticity” in his panel: Marc Ecko’s Formula for AWEthentic Connections. (#fightthepaddle) To put it most simply, he explained to us that he came to a point in his career where he felt very compelled to do something good in the world with his talents. He said, “I want my CO2 emissions to be like ‘broccoli cake.'” And honestly, I think more of us should have that goal in mind with whatever it is we do. Having a career in advertising myself, I don’t always feel like I’m making a difference in the world, at least not always for the better and I left this panel feeling inspired to use my passion and creativity to do just that.

A big part of what he ended his panel on was about all of the efforts he’s been working on to help better our country’s very flawed education system. Specifically, his fight to end corporal punishment. I had no idea that there were still 20 states where paddling a child in the classroom was still legal! Texas, being one of those states, and being a mom to a 3 and a half year old, this fact struck a little close to home. I was very inspired by his two recent brand launches: Artists & Instigators and Unlimited Justice. Both were created with the goal of having an impact on the things he really cares about in the world, and in life. He talked about wanting his brand to be “The AARP of Pop Culture,” which I thought was a very cool thought. If only more brands felt that way.

He made reference to the recent documentary, “Waiting for Superman,” which I  had the opportunity to watch a screening of, during a recent production trip to LA.. It’s an extremely well done film on our education system documenting all of the different parts of what’s wrong with it from a variety of points of view. I left the screening feeling very moved and compelled to do something about the issues raises. And it was refreshing to hear someone like Marc Ecko speak about all of the admirable and very creative ways that he is trying to fix some of those problems. He ended by expressing to the audience that, “while we wait for superman, he sleeps.” We don’t need a super hero to fix our problems, “what we really need is Smokey the Bear.” We need more creative, smart minds in this world getting out there and DOING.



Sam & I enjoyed this fabulous advertisement for on the walk to our 12:30 panel. 🙂

Fellow surrogate Erica and I had the misfortune of learning the hard way that 15 minutes is just not early enough to ensure making your panel! Our first choice panel, “Clients are Not the Target Audience. Users are” was already full as was our 2nd and 3rd choice panels.

Lesson learned – give yourself as much time as possible, arrive EARLY. And be sure to include time for pit stops en route to panels 🙂

Really enjoyed this panel, “ Better crowdsourcing: Lessons Learned from the the3six5 Project”

And loved the Ogilvy Notes summation of it! So cool.