Day 425

WE DID IT! As of tomorrow evening, we've officially completed The Great Agency Adventure and although it took 14 months to get here, a part of me wishes it could continue for another 14.

For the past few months, I’ve constantly found myself wondering how best to close out this unbelievable journey. I’d write down some ideas here and there, but they were all deleted out of frustration. I just couldn't come up with a summary that gives this tremendous experience the curtain call it deserves. There’s too much to discuss; too many people to thank.

I’ve met so many wonderful individuals across this great nation of ours and connected with thousands more via social media. I’ve found friends in places I’d only read about in books. I’ve seen sights that some only experience through pictures. This project has been a dream come true and I hope everyone enjoyed taking part in it. That’s why I’ve decided to use this blog to highlight the individuals that helped make #TGAA not only possible, but incredible. If there’s one thing I learned time and time again, it’s that friends make all the difference. Friends are a constant that transcend boundaries, borders and state lines. Friends open up your world, introduce you to new things and stand by you regardless of where you are.

So, while I know this list is available on the “Great People” page of the site, I wanted to include it in my final #TGAA blog as well. Everyone below deserves an endless amount of praise, because they helped make this entire thing happen and I’ll never forget that.

Connie Taylor — John E. Taylor — Louis Maldarelli — Peter Gargiulo — Tim Horak — Andrew Brienza — Tom Albrighton — Shawn Webster — Joe Meadows — The lovely individuals at Kreative.com — Birch Norton — Brittany Birkett — Chris Jungjohann — David Oakley — Dion Hughes — Jason Schwartz — Jim Harper — Kim Berndt — Laura Kubinski — Leila Thabet — Maureen Morrison — Rufina Chang — Steve O'Connell — Tim Dyer — Tim Zeller — Vera Fischer — Alison Strickland — Barbara Levy — Dave McMurray — Monica Saylor — Kelly White — John R. Taylor — Tom Lix — Jillian Kurvers — Mark Gross — Juan Sanchez — Theresa and Dennis Balogh — Kyle Klein — Becky Gorman —Orlando Rosas — Holly Jee — Bria Topper —Alison Murphy — Zack Kinslow — Allan Kneale — Kristina Jansons — Jared Scott — June Leddy — Dave Batista — Mr. and Mrs. Kevin Smith — Jared Wicker — Ben Whitla — Jeremy Borthwick — Andy Primeau — Josh Sims — Richard Shideler — Josh Teixeira — Scott Niejadlik — Marita Stapleton — Josh Deane— Tim T. at This Advertising Life — Levi Patterson — Scott Huber — Davis Cox — Stephen Swift — Ryan Work — Ashley Riehlin — Miranda Fung — Rebecca Gibson — Ceci Menchetti — Grace Gordon — Luke Carrell — Jillian Pavsner — Melanie Hope — Nicole Ghobrial — Jacob Wilson —Alexandra Skae — Melanie Niklas — Fiona Callaghan — Jay Newell — Garrett Close — Kristen DiLandro — Kristen DiLandro — Benjamin Arnold — Connor Rose — Roxanne Oliver — Charlie Glover — Dan Kleinman — Daniel Stein — Todd Taylor — Woodbine — Ben McCool — The great people at DesignTaxi.com — Allison Berger — Dan Orlando — Jillian Wong — Pete Norwood — Rafael Oliveira — Meg Dibley — Andy Joos — Bryan McGee — Vic Carreno — Doug Keith — Allison Berger — Steve Red — Kelsey Kovalcik — Annie Heckenberger — Mark Likosky at the Philly Egotist — Farheen Aqueel — Jason Sicilliano — Abbas Naqvi — Ray Bartkus — Daniel Harris at IWG — Gordon Young at TheDrum.com — Philip Di Salvo at Wired.it — Jason Schoch — Drew Shaman — Cristen Capron — Mike Borell — Nick Nemeth — Danny Gassaway — Ashley Reker — Mary Gross — Maggie Deininger — Emily Haney — David Hamrick — Fran Taylor — Curtis Petraglia — Matt Mroczka — Ben Santoriello — Matt Rubel — Jennifer Faull — Kenya Madyun — Eliza Carney — Lindsey King — Adam Oldfield — Claire Oakley — Geri Holmes — Ben Couvillion — Mandy Young — Kelsey Taylor — Blaine Loyd — Hallie Miller — Laura Drangmeister — Martin Wilford — Ben Colar — Warner Russell — Michael Phillips — Andrew Lebowitz — Casey Latiolais — Sara Latiolais — Jeff Rifkin — Sarah Rockwell — Holly Whitfield — Jake Houvenagle — Dave Scott — Parker Gibson — Rick Hecke — Monica Castello — Darrick Hays — Wesley Hoffman — Javier Leiva — Kevin Kelly — Matt Reedy — Joe Stephens — Archie McKinlay — Claire Wasserman — Jon Copp — Tony Biaggne — Heather Durham — Craig Miller — Ben Ruggiero — Aleksa Westwater — Gary Hudson — Amado Carrasco — Louis Feider — Kyle Goethals — Jeff Canzona — Angela Vitzthum — Luke Hausman — Eric Guth — Aleksa Westwater — Bob Berg — Judy Oskam — Eric Fawcett — Kevin Hughes — Eric Fawcett — Lotti Anderson — Danielle Fullerton — Bill Roden — Debbie Fischer — Heath Rudduck — Dustin Naugle – Matt Thompson — Elyse Ash — Sam Johnsrud — Russ LeBlanc — Perry Morris — Maria Roepke — Heather McCollum — Brian Skalak — Chris Spong — Andy Sims — Tim Letscher — Eric Husband — Victoria Sullivan — Russ LeBlanc — Mary Funk — Briana Chenkin — Olivia Claypool — Zoe Cooper — Kristen Humphrey — Daniel Alvarez — Carson Barker — E. Gigi Taylor Ph.D. — Larry Coffman — Amanda Wood — Jim Haven — Phil Shigo — Matt Peterson — Elise Drake — Hilary Lee — Gage Mitchell — Michelle Taraba —  Alison Tintle — Jaclyn Hardgrove — Chelsea Nybo — Jaime Diskin — Benj Burke — David Alkire — Nicole Gleadle — Chet Ford — Ryan Hammill — Ryan Mitchell — Jake Ferrigno — M'Elena Holder — Anna Taylor — Maria Scheleen — Lauren Willoughby — Erin Leach-Kemon — Ben Waldron — Rob Rosenthal — Maschell Cha — Josh Schield — Barry Amundson — Travis Fulton — Katelyn Kerns — Ann Kaleshnik — Craig Schommer — Dave Becker — Lenny Self — Chad Wallace — Duncan Alexander — Scott Carver — Adam Shaylor —  Simeon Roane — Buck Wise — Jesus Cameron — Ursula Tran — Christine Hurty — David Bird — Miranda Maney — Patrick Maravi — Alex Grinton — Steve Babcock — Lee McKenna — Shane Ginsberg — James Gassel — Michelle Sjöberg — Michelle Maben — Jacqui Abel — Karin Djelaj — Matt Dimmer — Ryan Scott — Joanna Mostov — Aaron Thompson 

As for my blog, I’ll continue to update it once I’ve had some time to reconnect with my family (I haven’t seen them in over a year after all). I’m not sure what’s next for me or where I’ll end up, but until I figure all of that out I can’t consider the project over. So, be sure to stay tuned as we begin the next chapter.

I hope to see you again soon,

-Steve-

Day 228

It always excites me when someone truly understands what I’m trying to do with this project. I’ve met so many wonderful individuals in every city I’ve been to and the level of encouragement they offer me is absolutely outstanding. I always try to make it a point—that while I’m the one writing these blogs and documenting the experience—this whole project belongs to all of us. Without any of you, this thing would just be about me wandering around, and trust me, I’m way less interesting than I appear.

Though I’m only halfway through my time here in Chicago, it’s already shaping up to be one of the most interesting months I’ve had. More and more people are contacting me about meeting up, I’m getting recommendations left and right, and the city itself continues to be a wonderland of great street art and creative neighborhoods. I’ve always been a fan of this place, so it’s a lot of fun to finally be experiencing it all—from the Museum of Science and Industry and Wrigley Field to Kuma’s Corner and Millennium Park. But for me, the one location that holds a special place in my heart is Leo Burnett. After all, it’s no mistake that I quote the man behind the name as often as possible. He was—and will always be—one of the best ad writers to have ever lived. 

"Curiosity about life in all of its aspects, I think, is still the secret of great creative people."

— Leo Burnett

Oh and speaking of wonderful individuals, I need to thank Jeff Canzona and Ben Santoriello for treating me to some great lunches and even better conversations over the past two weeks. On Monday, I also had the pleasure of grabbing dinner with the incredibly wonderful Angela Vitzhum, who just happens to work for #TGAA sponsor, The Creative Group. It was a great time from start to finish, although as a fellow whiskey fan, I still have to introduce her to another of my sponsors, Cleveland Whiskey. I may have already mentioned this, but Angela even invited me to speak with her class at the Chicago Portfolio School next week. So, I'm greatly looking forward to that as well. And finally, despite my body trying to talk me out of it, I’m still going to run in two 5K’s this weekend. I just hope this weather holds up, because running around in muggy 90º weather doesn't sound like very fun to me. 

I think my time here in Chicago is going to get rather interesting from here on out, so stay tuned and I’ll see you all at the finish line!

-Steve-

Day Ten

The Recess Team posing by the tree with some Cleveland Whiskey. 

Throughout all the agencies I’ve worked at in my career, I can honestly say that Recess has the best team structure I’ve experienced thus far. That isn’t to say other agencies are structured wrong, just that I feel most comfortable within this one. I know there are some agencies that falsely claim to blend fun and creativity with hard work and expertise, but Recess is the real deal. They own it. They live it. With Recess, what you see is what you get and that's truly magical.

Some agencies segment their departments, others break into teams and many don’t have a structure at all. At Recess, I’m finding that everyone here is on the same page at all times. The structure is one of a group mentality. We all work together toward a common goal. Sure, we might be working on different projects now, but chances are we'll all touch it before it leaves the door. I think that leads to increased collaboration, which in turn leads to a better product.

That’s the thing I really like about Recess. It feels as if everyone here has a say. Even last week, when we were discussing the upcoming Christmas party, everyone was able to share their ideas openly. In the past, I’ve worked at agencies that felt more like a dictatorship than a democracy and I just don’t think I fit into the mold. When I write a batch of copy, I want to know any missteps I have, so I can correct and learn from them. I don’t want to send my copy to a supervisor, only to later find out that they changed it. That doesn’t help me become a better writer and it doesn’t help the agency foster their talents or create quality creative.

However, since everyone at Recess has a say in what we’re creating, we have the benefit of shaping it through our collective styles, experiences and personalities. So, instead of pushing creative through the cookie cutter mold of one person’s vision, we’re capable of shaping every project differently. In the end, I think it benefits everyone involved and elevates our belief in the agency itself. 

That's what I think everyone looks for in an agency—to feel like a valued member of a tight knit and creative family. 

-Steve-