I spent over forty years creating campaigns for some of the largest clients and smallest clients in the world while working at some of the largest and smallest agencies in the world.
I started out with dreams of becoming an illustrator like my heroes Mark English and Bernie Fuchs. Then I was offered an internship working for an in-house ad agency during my junior year in college as a gopher doing whatever was needed and making sure that I over delivered.
When I graduated from college I had a job as a layout artist waiting for me. Six months into that job I was promoted to Jr. Designer and over two years onto a Designer. During that time I began to experience more of the broad landscape of commercial advertising. I changed my focus from being an illustrator to becoming the best designer I could possibly be.
It is said, that the first job can be the most critical to your career. It was. During those four years, the Executive Creative Director and his team of talented designers never allowed me to accept mediocrity. I was working in an atmosphere where highly skilled designers treated me as an equal and took the time to show me the difference between smart concepts and the lure of lazy solutions. We would meet three times a week in the break room and constructively critique each other’s work. It was nirvana for a thirsty young wannabe like me. Then the day came when my Executive Creative Director pulled me aside and said it was time for me to leave the safety of the nest they created to broaden my career.
I was anxious to make my mentors proud. So, to my surprise, I leveraged my new found knowledge into a position as the Head Designer / Art Director in one of the largest studio in the northeast. Six floors of specialized artists each possessing a potpourri of unique skills. In the seventies and eighties it was the studios that ad agencies came running too, to make the impossible possible. We would accept their insane overnight deadlines to help them save campaign ideas and presentations that were not yet fleshed out. It was my job to creatively oversee all work coming into the studio and to over-deliver on expectations. My life was the studio. I loved taking on the challenges. My time at the studio introduced me to yet another role, the Art Director’s role. The one person responsible for the vision and overseeing it’s flawless execution.
My next stop, a large ad agency offered me the opportunity to broaden my skills into the exciting world of television with the title of Art Director. It was my first experience in a real advertising agency. I spent three years of developing concepts for the broadcast and I loved every minute of it. No, I love every second of it. I was once again fortunate to be working with a group of ambitious creative mentored by a caring and highly talented leadership group. It was a time when mentoring was considered an art and used to develop young talent for the agency’s future. We often referred to the agency as our Camelot. It was.
I got a phone call from a New York headhunter about a job as Sr. Art Director in a trendy up and coming ad agency in Dallas. For the first time, I experienced the feeling of being wooed by an agency outside of my hometown area. It was a great feeling and I took the job.
It was there I was able to exercise my new skills as an Art Director across a broader client list from Fast Food, Cosmetics, Beverage and Travel and Leisure. It exposed to the west and east coast filming, production and post editing houses working on varied television campaigns. With that experience I grew into a VP Senior Art Director position gathering local and national awards, winning Adweek’s Southwest Art Director of the year. Dallas had captured the attention of more blue-chip clients who were looking for that anything is possible Texas spirit.
Because of my Dallas experience, New York headhunters called me again and I was recruited to an even bigger mega-agency as a VP Creative Director for a three hundred million dollar broadcast budget on a national retail account. It gave me immediate exposure to show off my creative leadership skills. After three years of traveling and shooting one campaign after another crisscrossing the continent, I drew an invitation from an even bigger mega-agency with even more national recognition.
They offered me a Sr. VP Group Creative Director in Atlanta on the biggest airline account in the world. I traveled the globe creating and filming local and international travel. Life was sweet. Then after six months of constant travel and work, I realized I had made a mistake. My Chief Creative Officer was not approving the best work. My early mentor’s words were drilled into me, “Mediocrity is a disease.” He was right. I began to search for a new place to land.
By now I had a family that was affected by my decisions. So it took me three years to find at another mega-agency as a VP Creative Director back in Dallas on a competing airline with national and international routes and the offer to work on new business. I took it. They welcomed me with open arms reminding me how it felt to be among creative friends once again. It was the right place at the right time where I we did some very good work.
After two years I a headhunter called asking if I would be interested in taking over the entire creative department for a very small shop. I declined. She called twice more and insisted I meet with the CEO. I did. I decided to take the risk to build a creative department with my philosophy and to build an atmosphere like I was fortunate enough to have experienced in my first job, a feeling that seemed to be lacking in agencies as they grew bigger and bigger each year.
In the first three years, I took the fifteen million dollar shop to a seventy-five million agency with a creative reputation that raised the eyebrows of the big name agencies. After six years we were closing in on one hundred million when the market crashed. My fears of working in a small agency came true. We felt the pain and couldn’t recover. It was time to rethink.
After 911 I started an agency with my ex CEO. Now I had even more creative control. My partner was the account side and I the creative. It worked and we grew to fifty million in billings and counting. But most importantly we had become recognized as a brand-building creative shop. We started out with high expectations but over time we had fallen into the trap of growing bigger. Our clients were becoming less and less creative and more and more frugal. This brought us, clients, I didn’t believe we’re in our best interests. I had ethical and moral problems with our new client list direction and I couldn’t allow myself to watch our creative standards fall into the quicksand of mediocrity. Time to start again.
I had always embraced technology, and because of the advancements, it gave me the freedom to create a virtual agency. So I contacted a writing partner that I had worked with and known over the years. He was a rare talent and a prolific concept guy. Together we formed The Amusement Park, LLC, Brand Marketing, Entertainment, & Content Creation agency. We did well but we were no longer the forty-something hot creative prospects clients were looking for. They embraced our fresh thinking but not our gray hair. We had become victims all creative people face, the misconception that the ad business is a young person’s game.
It was something I always feared and recognized early on. So I needed to prove that theory wrong. I set out to do something I never dreamed I would do. From the very beginning of my creative journey, I kept mental notes of personalities I met and places I’ve been to, circumstances I was privy to be part of and events I found unique only to the creative world I was surrounded by. I had become addicted to the agony and ecstasy of the ad game. It had come time to reinvent myself as an author.
Enter my debut as a fiction writer and the debut of Kachada Toscano. A three-part series where two parallel universes—the chilling ancestral traditions of the Comanche Tribe and the ruthless code of the Sicilian Mafia—mysteriously intersect.
The Kachada series is the story of one man’s unimaginable journey through life. From his inaugural breath to his very last breath. Kachada is a survivor forced to live his life, not by the year, month or day, but by the minute as he battles the mysteries of his malevolent past and the obstacles of his precarious future over five decades.
The first of the series DAY ONE: Birth is a death sentence begins in 1954 and takes us through 1976. We see how a bright young man who dreamed of saving lives becomes unintentionally lured into becoming very dangerous a person taking lives.
I write stories about real people, places and things that I have fortunate enough to have been part of. I then use the same principles I have always used when working on a blank sheet of paper. I utilize my accumulated knowledge to create an idea with a soul that is original, entertaining, useful and unpredictable. You will find Kachada is unlike any other protagonist you may have encountered.
But you might want to warn your friends about this dangerous assassin before he unexpectedly drops in on them. The best way to do so is by going to my website, donsedei.com to preorder the first of a three-part series DAY ONE: Birth is a death sentence that launches February 4, 2019. And not far behind is DAY TWO: Leave no enemy alive, part two in the series releasing sometime in early 2020.
Others who have read the initial manuscript have told me it is a winner. But I would like to know what you think.
Don Sedei Reinvented