How’d We Get Here?
Earlier this month, we had the pleasure of hosting a group of bright-eyed young professionals from the UW-Madison AdClub for a whirlwind morning of agency-ing.
Our interdisciplinary, rag-tag group was caffeinated and ready as students filed into our Third Ward offices. They attentively listened to our stories – both what we do as an agency and within our respective roles – then in hushed tones, asked about the olden days. About how, exactly, we ended up here.
By walking in 3′ of snow to and from work. Up hill. Both ways. Obviously.
For many of us, it brought back memories of when we were in their shoes – neck deep in course work and wondering what the future holds. Though some had been in the advertising world for decades and others only months, it offered a chance to step back and reflect on the passions and opportunities that led us this far.
These are our stories…
Ethan Keister, Junior Art Director
If you’d have told high school me that he would end up living and working in Milwaukee, he probably would’ve given you a vacant look of confusion then asked where Milwaukee was (yeah, seriously). But that’s what happened – I moved halfway across the country from rural New York to attend college for graphic design and illustration.
After visiting Milwaukee and the college (which I learned was in Wisconsin), I fell in love with the city. I had originally planned to attend school on the east coast but took a chance and went with my gut. It’s still one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. While in college, I followed my gut again and took up an internship at ZG during my junior year. That too, proved to be a good choice. After taking some time to travel abroad after graduation, I had a city and job to return to.
I’m new to the game – not just in my creative career but as a fully functional adult. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s to trust your instincts and not just seize opportunities, but to recognize the unusual ones that crop up. Other than that, be nice and work hard. Oh, and learn your geography.
Becky Binns, Media Planner and Buyer
In third grade, my teacher hosted a class exercise where we got to stand up and talk for as long as we could without stopping, while wrapping yarn around our fingers to serve as a measurement tool. Most of the kids got through a yard or two. I ran out of yarn.
Needless to say, none of my friends and family were surprised when I eventually decided to declare a major in Communications Studies. As I delved into the major, I became interested in how people respond to different types of communication. At first, this meant learning about different communication theories, but it slowly morphed into research. I learned to dive into databases and overlay demographic and psychographic data in a way that helps inform business decisions. “Yes!” I remember thinking to myself, “This is how I can make my Communications degree useful!”
From there, I segued into my current world through a media internship; I knew very little about media at the time, but I knew it included doing audience research with the databases I had been using. That was enough for me to give it a shot. I quickly became hooked on digital campaigns – from the planning stages all the way through post-campaign performance analyses. And now, here I am.
I still love reporting to clients and providing them with valuable audience insights. I continue to find joy in researching trends and finding out how updated AI/technology knows even more about our online habits. Media will never grow stale – there will always be a new and improved way to get your message in front of the right audience at the right time. Lucky me!
Aimee Dierbeck, Senior Copywriter and Content Strategist
Two things you should know about me: one, I’m a naturally curious person, and two, I love museums.
When I went to college, I was sure I was going to be a museum curator. My first job as a junior in high school was working in the gift shop of a museum in Wichita, Kansas. On nights and weekends, I’d help the curator rearrange and develop exhibits, until, eventually, research and exhibit design were my sole responsibility.
It was in a quiet back office that I realized that my love for museums didn’t stem from the appreciation and preservation of artifacts themselves, but from how their stories are interpreted and relayed to the public through exhibits. I loved the challenge of turning billions of years of history into something digestible and giving context to artifacts by creating written and visual experiences.
And that’s how I got into the creative side of marketing some dozen years ago. Whether working client-side or agency-side, copywriting or strategizing, I appreciate that every day presents a new opportunity to learn and connect.
Mike Wisniewski, VP Social Media
I was introduced to marketing at a young age by my Big Brother from the Big Brothers Big Sisters program. He worked at a marketing firm and opened my eyes to what a career might look like.
From high school through college, marketing and adverting classes were the ones I received really good grades in – they were just more interesting so I found myself more engaged. So, I always just kind of knew that I would have some type of career in this field.
Over the years, my career has taken several twists and turns – from the agency-side, freelance or the start-up world. However, throughout those changes, I’ve always found joy in the process of developing, crafting and executing ideas and concepts. We work in a very inspiring industry, I love being surrounded by that and sharing that with my peers.
Tony Seaman, VP Creative Director
I didn’t “discover” advertising as a career option until my last semester in college at UW-Madison. I went in eyes wide open – and was immediately hooked.
Fast forward to today, and I still try to approach my job that way – open to new ways of solving old problems, open to creative ideas anywhere they might be, and open to learning something new from a client or co-worker at every opportunity.
It took me a long time to start a true advertising career, working a number of creative-but-dead-end jobs before landing in an agency, and so I never take this profession for granted. I’d like to think that equal parts creativity and persistence got me into an ad agency, and patience and curiosity has kept me going to where I am today.
Steve Koeneke, VP Interactive, Creative Director
I knew from my junior year of college exactly what I wanted to do. I fell hard for well-crafted headlines married with great visuals and decided it was going to be my mission to bring brilliant ad concepts to the world.
Then I graduated and took a job in an agency as a broadcast production assistant. Not exactly the glam copywriting gig I had envisioned. But at least I was in an agency. I harassed the writers to let me help on the projects they were working on. A couple of them humored me and I was able to put together a portfolio of spec work. And I took that spec book (portfolios used to be called books back in the analog days) to an agricultural agency in St. Joseph, MO where I was hired as a copywriter working on tractors, seed corn, herbicides and animal health accounts.
Fast -forward to Minneapolis where I worked as a copywriter in a number of agencies, including Carmichael Lynch, throughout the ‘80s. Best stretch of my career – at least for learning. Minneapolis at the time was the epicenter of creativity in the ad biz. I worked with, and for, some of the most talented individuals in the industry. Recruited as an ACD at Frankenberry, Laughlin Constable (now Laughlin), I moved to Milwaukee where I saw a chance to do it bigger and better.
Over the years, I’ve been a copywriter, creative director, and founder; opened, closed and merged shops; and won lots of awards, earned lots of recognition, and put forth lots of attitude. Call it stubbornness or maybe ignorance, I always believed that I could do it better than the other guy and that things would always work out if I worked hard enough. And so far, so good.