When I was 12 I wanted to be an animator, but for a kid from a small town in Northern Kentucky, that was like dreaming I could go to the moon (sort of) but wait . . .
Flash forward to age 19, I decided to try to become a Television Art Director. Looking at getting married in December of that. year, nearing the end of my Sophmore year at the University of Kentucky (Lexington, KY), I thought the best way to do that would be to get a job at one of the two TV stations in Lexington. I talked to the current Art Director there. He gave me an assignment to create three Cam Cards for local programs. Three days later I showed him my work and he told the Production Manager, “I’ve got to have this guy.” So I got a position as Assistant AD.
I impressed the management and the current AD so much, that the current AD felt free to take a new AD job at a new station in Louisville and I became the AD.
That was June 1967. In the evenings, I decided to keep working on my first attempt at creating the cells for a :10 second single-frame animated opening for a local show that aired at 11:30 p.m. on Saturdays called “Thriller 18”—Well wha-da-you-know—It worked! I continued making other local show openings and was soon offered a big salary increase by taking the AD’s position at the competing station in January '68. And continued the process there until 1971 when I was hired to be the Creative Director and one of the largest ad agencies in the city.
At the ad agency, I created animated commercials that were seen nationally for General Electric, Hotpoint, Harvey’s Bristol Cream, Long John Silvers, Kentucky Fried Chicken, American Dairy Assoc. and many more, getting huge bonuses for that work in addition to my regular salary as CD.
That made me the 1st Commercial Animator in the state.
The eight-year ad agency experience was eight of the best years of my career to date and I began to dream of starting my own ad agency. Through a series of unfortunate events for the current agency, it closed and friends couraged to start my own shop. But I knew I was not ready.
I took a 3-year position as Director of Creative Services at a TV production company where I gained the “sales knowledge” I would need to venture on my own.
In November 1981, the owner of a large local car dealer (a client of mine at that time) said, “Gene, I want to go with an ad agency and I haven’t found any that I like. When are you going to get off your Duff and start a shop? If you do, I’ll go with you!”
“Are you serious?” I said.
“Serious as a heart attack.” She said.
“Okay, let me think about it a few days.”
Eight days later, the Manager of the Largest Shopping Mall in the area, said the same thing, “Gene, you ought to start your own agency. If you do, I’ll go with you.”
Two different people, from different companies, were saying the same thing within eight days of one another. This wasn’t a coincidence—it was Divine Direction. Time for my biggest dream to take place. I shared my intentions with another client, the owner of the largest sporting goods firm in Kentucky, and he said, “I’m in! Sign me up!” (NOTE: This client stayed with me through the years, right up to my retirement.)
Scared to death, three weeks later, on January 1982, I founded Creative Media, Inc. Other clients came in fast and within the first year, I had doubled my salary from 1981. I never looked back!
On April 15th, 2017, I sold my agency, retired, and closed my shop—50-years to the day since I started. It’s been a great ride. Some bumps along the way, of course. But one heck-of-a-career.
My hope for all of you, is that your story will be as fulfilling and successful as mine!