Capitol Communicator is running “Up Close and Personal” profiles of communicators in the mid-Atlantic. In this profile, we feature Deb Hagan. Photography for the series is by award-winning Cade Martin. Wardrobe, hair and makeup by Michelle Torres.
Deb, please provide us a short bio.
Throughout my career, I’ve been fortunate enough to have worked at some of the most prestigious agencies and most successful brands in the country as either a creative director, client marketer or film maker. The work I’ve created has won nearly every international award including gold Cannes Lions. So that’s fun. But it’s not everything. If you can do innovative work that makes a greater impact on a business challenge, than that’s what really matters. As a client marketer, I worked for the little Arkansas-based retailer, Walmart. We were able to do creative that won awards and turned around nine quarters of sagging sales. I like that. A lot. I also have a huge passion for visual storytelling. I’ve studied film making and screen writing and was able to bottle up all of that experience and direct a feature film for MGM called College. It’s a raunchy, rated-R, coming-of-age teen comedy. Consider yourself warned. Check out my IMDb page.
I’m a mom of three kids that rock my world. I love to travel. Put me on a plane, destination anywhere. Being near water is my jam – fishing, boating, kayaking, yes please. I’ll never say ‘no’ to wine or tequila. I like clean hands – my parents can tell some stories! And, if I had a deserted island food, it’d be a BLT on gluten-free bread. Do they serve those there?
What are the things you are most proud of?
There are three things I’m most proud of. First, being a girl from small town Ellicott City, MD, the daughter of a rocket scientist and a mathematician, who knew nothing about advertising and has been fortunate to have forged my way into a very nice career. Second, the mentorship and career networking I have been able to offer to young talent in our business. I love to see them flourish. Third, making a movie that my family and friends still send me screen shots of when it’s on HBO. And finally, being able to raise three young kids who are going to be forces for good as they enter adulthood having been raised by two moms. Oops, I guess that makes four! Good thing my mathematician mom didn’t catch that!!
Who were your personal role models and why?
I’m a long-time fan of Hitchcock. His simplicity of storytelling is bar none. He can drop breadcrumbs like no other storyteller, without any bells and whistles of fancy film making available today. It’s pure genius and often forgotten how artful simplicity makes the most compelling stories.
Did your role models offer professional advice that helped you in your career?
My first job out of school was as a Junior Art Director working at Ammirati & Puris in NYC. Thinking I was a creative and could roll in wearing anything I damn well pleased, I showed up wearing shorts (rolled up jean shorts specifically) and surfer t-shirts to this NYC ad agency known for its impeccable taste, pristine design and high concept work. After some time, Ralph Ammirati asked the creative resources manager, “who’s the young gal in the shorts?” He later imparted a message to me which I live by today, “be subtle in your appearance so you can be outrageous in your work.” I immediately started shopping at Barney’s.
Before going to Fallon, I interviewed with Art Director legend Bob Barrie. As I sat in his office under shelves that literally sag from the weight of all his awards, he and I chatted about how we approached client feedback. He said, client feedback was simply an opportunity to make the work better. Such a simple, glass half-full way of viewing what made other creatives throw things. I live by Bob’s words still to this day.
What professional advice do you have for others?
– Don’t stop at ‘no.’
– Be as compassionate as passionate.
– Always be curious.
– Don’t forget your please and thank you’s.
What’s on your Spotify and Pandora playlists?
I listen to everything. But the tradition in my house is Sunday Bloodies and Blues. Anyone is invited. Tito’s, Clamato, Texas Pete, Pickled Jalapenos and some of their juice, couple shakes of citrus Hella Bitters, Lime Juice, rimmed glass with a house blend of Chinese Five Spice and Old Bay, Bacon, Blackened Shrimp, Pickled Green Beans, Grape Tomatoes PLUS Mavis, Etta, Sam, Curtis and Otis.
What’s your favorite restaurant?
Perch, East Coast Provisions or Tio Pablo’s in Richmond. Merroir at the River. Raoul’s when in NYC. Blue Plate Oysterette in Santa Monica.