Where did the name Bigfish come from?
It originally comes from a painting of a cartoon fish that I bought in Laguna beach, by an artist who designed the set for PeeWee’s Big Adventure. When I came up with the name, it was after I had just separated from the prior agency I was working with, and I had clients, employees, office space and deadlines so I needed to hit the ground running. I was mulling over what to call the agency, and I thought Blue Sky, which was the street I lived on, but that carries a negative connotation, i.e. unrealistic, impractical thinking. I realized one day, Bigfish, think outside the pond. The idea being that we grow our clients’ business so that they can expand their current market and become the big fish in their current pond, or even enter a bigger pond.
How did you get into advertising?
I was selling radio advertising at a station out of Detroit called WCSX radio, a classic rock station. I sold radio in Detroit for four years, and later moved to New York to do the same thing for two years, and eventually landed back in Phoenix in 92 at KTAR selling news talk.
And how did that lead you into your current position?
So, in radio, people sell air time. I was always the guy trying to productize what we sold. The stations I worked for were never really great at efficiency, so I came up with these prepackaged minutes that I could easily pitch to different industries; automotive, golf, health you name it. So I would find sponsors and at the start of the year I would already have 12 months of contracts lined up.
Eventually I realized that the Phoenix ad agencies didn’t like me because I was going in and selling concepts and ideas to the sponsors, as opposed to the agencies doing that. I realized I was more similar to the agency people than the radio people, and eventually I decided I needed to go into the agency game, and start my own agency.
What mentors did you have growing up? What do you admire most about them?
When I was a kid, my dad for sure. My dad was an entrepreneur, he started the family business and he was a hard working guy.
When I was in college, I read Lee Iacocca’s book, and he had turned Chrysler around. Being from Detroit, I’ve always been in love with the automotive industry. Hs mentality and approach as well as how he brought Chrysler from out of the ashes is really a great story.
Later in life, my brother Jerry. He took the family business and and grew it into one of the largest auto manufacturer suppliers in the industry. So overall I think what inspires me the most are hard workers. People that go the extra mile and put in the effort.
Keys to success?
Hard work and integrity. It matters to me the way my company and myself are perceived. In the old days it used to be, you had an agency, a client and a contract. Nowadays that relationship has to be much stronger and aligned around goals and common values that extend beyond just profit.
Do you see a difference in the way Gen Z and Millenials consume advertising compared to previous generations such as Gen X-ers and Baby Boomers?
I’m an old guy, not Mad Men old, but old enough to have seen the change, and to see that these new generations have an entirely new mindset when it comes to advertising. Because they’ve grown up with a lot more media than in my day and age, so it’s all more second nature to them, which means they’re actually more intelligent about it than we are, the older generation.
I see the X Generation as a hybrid between mine and the new generations. There’s a love and understanding of the old school style, but also a deep pop culture and media consumption gene. Like with Kevin, our Creative Director. He understands both facets of the different approaches, old and new, which is a huge benefit to us.
Any guidance to an aspiring entrepreneur?
First thing I would tell them is to be prepared, because when you’re selling professional services, it’s difficult. We’re a commodity, so if you want to be successful you need to be prepared to put in the extra work and be able to recognize and surround yourself with intelligent, committed people. It’s a formula you have to perfect everyday.
If you weren’t the big man at Bigfish?
I don’t give it much thought because I’ve been doing this for 30 years, and I don’t ever wish I was doing something else. This is the business I love to be a part of.
What would your last meal be?
What place would you like to go you’ve never been?
Italy ironically. But hopefully I’ll be there within the next year to 18 months.
What’s a hobby you wish you had more time for?
I would say Golf but thats more of a sport. I would say read. I want to read more but I’m already reading so much at work that when I get home I just don’t want to make the time to read more. It’s a New Years Resolution that I need to put more effort in.
What’s your favorite golf course?
In Scotland, the Kingsbarn’s Golf Links, hands down. Here in the states we’ve got plenty of great courses, especially in Arizona. Desert Mountain is phenomenal. Silver Leaf is probably my favorite.
What’s the best concert you’ve ever been to?
The Red Hot Chili Peppers. Hands down. And I’ve been in radio so I’ve seen loads of concerts, and each one is different, but I was blown away by the musicianship and the energy of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
What was your first concert?
Chicago. 1977 back in Michigan.
What is your current favorite Netflix series
My favorite of all time is Breaking Bad, then Ozark, then Bloodline. Right now I’m watching Rectified, which is pretty deep and dark, but I’m enjoying it. Todays casting and writing and producers are all so top notch.