Capitol Communicator is running a series featuring an in-depth look at communicators in the mid-Atlantic. In this “Up Close and Personal” profile, we feature Darren Easton. Photography for the series is by Cade Martin, wardrobe styling by Pascale Lemaire and Sybil Street for THE Artist Agency; and hair and makeup by Patti D Nelson, Janice Kinigopoulos and Lori Pressman for THE Artist Agency.
Darren, please provide us a short bio.
I’m the Vice President/Creative Director for The Cyphers Agency. I’ve been with Dave (Cyphers) building an amazing agency for over 20 years now. We’re proud to represent more than 50 brands in the retail and business-to-business world offering everything from traditional advertising to the latest in digital marketing. I’ve been an ad man my entire professional career. I started out doing layout and copywriting in-house for a national furniture chain. It only took a few months for me to realize that advertising the same brand day in and day out would slowly make me insane and run off to join the circus or worse. I became an agency man from that point on. I’ve worked on brands from the U.S. Navy to Harley Davidson to Seasons Pizza. I spend my day doing time as an idea generator, account strategist and overseer of an amazing group of talented people. After all these years, I still get a tremendous thrill out of building brands from the ground up and specializing in those maddening little interruptions we call advertisements. They irritate nearly everyone, yet hypnotizes them into buying things they really don’t need.
Are you involved in any other organizations?
Community and giving back is pretty important to me. I support and volunteer my time through the Rotary Club of Columbia Patuxent, the Arc of Howard County, sitting on the board of the United Way of Central Maryland and other non-profit organizations in Maryland.
What are the things you are most proud of?
In today’s evolved, digital marketing landscape, it’s easy to measure R.O.I. But, throughout much of my career, I always thought I was pretty good at what I do but there was no real tangible proof. Today, nothing is cooler than actually seeing how many eyeballs looked at, clicked on, interacted with and purchased something I was selling. There’s a sense of pride and a rush when you see that the work you do produces results. As I preach to my team on a regular basis: if we don’t sell (expletive), we don’t survive.
Who are your personal role models?
That’s a tough question for me. I’m thinking of influential professors, early agency mentors and even the work ethic and civility instilled in me by my parents, but the #1 answer would have to be the scribes of the numerous books I read early in my career. For four or five years straight I was on a crazy quest for knowledge where I bought every advertising book I could find – a tall order since this was before Amazon was Amazon. I didn’t want to learn patiently while practicing my craft, I wanted to cram and learn from the best: David Ogilvy, Bill Bernbach, Alex Bogusky and Luke Sullivan to name a few.
Did these role models offer advice that helped you in your career?
Fundamentals that still apply today: That there is an actual science to what we do. Much to the dismay of the many who think they are creative and that it is all subjective, ideas are not conjured in a vacuum, you work off of a strategy. A strategy must have a clear objective and a unique selling proposition to achieve it. People don’t buy creativity, they buy brands. Brands aren’t just a name or a thing in a box. A brand is all the emotions, images, history and promises you deliver. It is brand equity. Oh, and I also learned what every ad person agrees with 100%, that focus groups are the worst and a poor measure of success. Take my eyes before making me sit behind that one-way glass watching people being paid a stipend and a lousy lunch to sit around a table discussing how my campaign could be better.
What professional advice do you have for others?
If you don’t love the work you produce, someone is gonna’ know it. Your client or even worse, the consumer. If you don’t love the strategy behind it, the message or the execution, don’t pitch it. Toss it. Take your feet down off the desk and try again until you LOVE it.
What’s on your Spotify and Pandora playlists?
Uh, right now Portugal. The Man is playing on a Halsey station. From time to time I revisit my glory days of Eddie Vedder, Chris Cornell and Scott Weiland (R.I.P).
What’s your favorite restaurant?
Blackwall Hitch. Great vibe, greater food
Is there anything else you would like us to know about you?
Well, on a personal note, when I’m not obsessively trying to create that next big idea, I am most passionate about my home life. It’s important to me to make time for my family: the love of my life, my son, our three dogs, my folks and close family back home. Secondly, I am a huge tech nerd and Apple fan boy. “Hey, Siri… turn off the office lights and turn down the AC because this Q&A is over.”