How Advertising Changed Me From a Creative Director Into a Strategic Marketer.

5 min readMar 11, 2021


Roy Spence, the “S” of GSD&M once said that “It’s not what you sell, it’s what you stand for.”

It was the first time in my life that I understood the shot across the bow. It’s not the ad that opens a wallet or purse, it’s the big idea the company stands for. Wal-Mart stood for Always the Low Price. What your “stuff” is in life, it’s cheaper here. The $60 jeans at the Clothing Carousel downtown are only $18 here.

Texas Lottery stood for: Hey we have our own Lottery!!!!

Fannie Mae stood for: you don’t have to be rich to own a home.

Chilis stood for a wonderfully prepared meal that was reasonably priced and served like you were in a fru fru restaurant.

When I became the creative director on the United States Air Force, one of the best clients I have ever worked with their massive research department. They looked at everything, especially recruitment numbers in any configuration and they had ongoing conversations with potential recruits.

We learned that accession into a military organization is different with each service. The Army is Be All You Can Be. OK, you might not end up at the top of the executive ladder, but we will give you job skills. The Navy said “Life’s an Adventure.” Yes, two thirds of the Earths surface is water. Get out of that little town. The Marines would stamp you and galvanize you into something you are not yet. That’s why they were the Few…the Proud. But the USAF seemed to try and find someone and fit them into the right job.

So they begin with who you are. We created a campaign called “We’ve Been Waiting For You.” Here we showed a seminal moment in a kid’s like and showed how it all worked out with where they are in the USAF.

That said, there were three streams of input, two very active that fed information to the creative teams: One was the USAF. the other was GSD&M’s own planning department, and the third was Omni Com , GSD&M’s holding company. So to make it, to thrive, you had to learn a deeper kind of thinking.

Not long afterwards I became the ECD of R&R Partners, made famous with the What Happens Here Stay Here campaign for Vegas. That strategy was created by a planner and her idea was dead on: Americans get two weeks of vacation, and that’s it. We are over worked, exhausted, and need a time to blow some steam off. So whatever happens here, we will all keep it quiet.

It was brilliant and concept friendly. The LVCVA, or Las Vegas Convention and Visitors authority also did copious amounts of research and they provided some information about their prospective visitors. All of this translated into one of the best consumer campaigns around.

What Happens Here Stays Here.

In regards to the Air force and to the LVCVA, there were conversations arising about the work, the news and the culture. So LISTENING TO EVERYONE became a strategy for survival. Even the boring daily statistics revealed truths to us that we could tap into to motivate our customers.

Wal* Mart

What was exceptional about Wal Mart was that the director was famous and cultural and brilliant; Albert and David Maysels shot Gimme Shelter and Grey Gardens. David passed away and we hired Albert to shoot Wal Mart.

His advice to us was: don’t go to a set. Go to the store. Like Sam Walton says, Wal Mart’s founder, “if you ever get confused, go to the store, the customer has all the answers.”

So we did. We shot people who were fat and skinny , young and old, black and white and all shades. This notion did not come from the researchers or the planners. No, it came from the filmmaker. So I believe the ability to listen and to process one idea is almost there, but to paint it into a bigger canvas, in brand building is the key to getting to interesting and long lasting marketing.

Boy Scout, Camper, Former Hunter, Leader

(I have run departments, run agencies, run blues jams, and run companies my whole life: GSD&M Air Force Group, Zimmerman Agency, R&R Partners, and Peace Council, my own 501 (c ) 3 )

I did hunt when I was young and didn’t know anything and didn’t know where my heart was. And I call myself a former hunter because one day 40 years ago, I killed a deer and then asked myself how that would add to my life. It was in those moments that I decided I would take my innate knowledge on how to thrive outdoors and eliminate the need to kill anything.

I love to camp. I am addicted to the outdoors.

Catfish Russ Director/Screenwriter/Writer/Historian

7 Years at The Martin Agency.

A little like attending Harvard but for Madmen in an industry few recognized.

11 Years at GSD&M

My go-to example of the best place I ever worked. Inspired by Roy Spence, we created great things there for The United States Air Force, for Wal Mart and Fannie Mae and BMW. We warned folks not to Mess With Texas and reminded visitors that Texas Was Like A Whole Other Country and we want our baby back baby back baby back ribs.

2 Years at R&R Partners

What Happens Here Stays Here.


3 Years Freelancer/Contract Creative Director

Piggly Wiggly Carolina Company, USS Yorktown Museum

Rawle Murdy, Charleston

3 years/Vendor/Blackboard/Creative Director

Nike, Tillamook

3 Years Owner Digital Production Agency Nice Monster/Austin

3 Years at Nexstar Media, Data Driven Creative Marketing/Austin

Things That Make Me Cool

2nd Degree Black Belt

25 fights, 14 pro fights

Fought on CBS Sports Spectacular

Stand-up comic 11 years


Speak French, a little Hebrew and Yiddish

Studied to be a rabbi.

Did not take

Founded a reasonably popular military history blog

It’s 12 years old and I have had as many as 10,000 to 15,000 readers a month.

I have written two screenplays that have been accepted into dozens of screenplay and film festivals.

Good at:

Working with a rapidly growing cross functional team of intelligence analysts, machine learning experts, brand strategy partners, product, sales, and marketing professionals. I like to radically collaborate with other internal partners who have a stake in the success, develop the brand then champion and present the brand and findings to the client. I often earn the respect of the client and become the go to daily partner. I enjoy a fast pace.

I love seeing people succeed and grow.

702 557 9975

Memberships: Professional Comedian Association, New Milestones Foundation. Professional Karate Association. Austin Blues Society. Judaism.

Here are my various portfolios: