Jason Gaboriau, VP and executive creative director, at Crispin Porter + Bogusky in L.A., talks start-ups, good work, and great graphic design.
Q: What should creatives do to foster meaningful, fruitful client relationships?
A: They need to learn to listen more rather than react. You shouldn’t presume to know more about a client’s business than they do. Sometimes listening more than talking makes you seem smarter.
Q: Having cofounded Amalgamated (now Silver + Partners), can you share a few core tips for starting a successful creative shop?
A: It’s a lot easier than people think. You just have to do it. First, if you’re going to have partners, choose them wisely. Don’t start without a shared vision or it’s going to be a short-lived agency. You also have to understand that your target is brand managers, and they have to go back to their bosses and say, ‘We want to put $10 million or $100 million of our budget into this startup agency.’ They’re taking a risk in going with you, so even something like having the right name is important. It’s why we chose ‘Amalgamated.’ It sounds big and important, but also fun. If you have a name like Popcorn Fart or Robot something, it’s hard to seem serious. Imagine the brand manager going back to their boss and saying, ‘We have the solution to our marketing problem…it’s Popcorn Fart.’
Q: What’s an example of recent work you’ve seen that’s really floated your boat?
A: I love great storytelling, and I love work that seems simple and smart. I like what’s going on with the insurance wars. It’s interesting how competitive the agencies are and how they’re fighting it out. In the category there’s GEICO, Farmers, Progressive, Allstate—their message is the same, but creatively they’re doing things so differently. It’s a great lesson in branding and tone.
Q: Good Morning America described your work with Amalgamated as “the best viral marketing New York has ever seen.” Is it possible to create something viral or is that magic you just can’t plan for?
A: It starts with great research. Dig through cultural materials. We have great cogs here [at CP+B]; they’re like cultural anthropologists. They’re always looking to see what the discourse is out there and doing discourse analysis. What are people talking about? What are the magazines talking about? Blogs? Movies? What’s going on in the cultures and subcultures? There are cultural tensions that are more scalable and more relatable to consumers, and this kind of work resonates culturally.
Q: Who’s your graphic design hero?
A: I had the honor of working with DDB legend Helmut Krone early in my career as a junior art director right out of FIT back when you could still smoke inside. I was trying to throw out ideas, and he would just sit there, not talking, smoking and looking at me the whole time. Then, when he did speak—he had these brilliant ideas. He would always talk about knowing the client’s business, not just doing cool things that’ll win at Cannes. Because really knowing your clients’ business leads to great work and happy clients.