Home » Up Close and Personal: Getting to Know Matt Smith, CEO, SmithGifford, Falls Church, VA

Up Close and Personal: Getting to Know Matt Smith, CEO, SmithGifford, Falls Church, VA

by | Aug 3, 2015


Capitol Communicator is running a series of profiles of communicators in the mid-Atlantic. In this “up close and personal” profile, we feature Matt Smith.  Photography for this series is by Cade Martin; wardrobe styling by Pascale Lemaire for THE Artist Agency; and hair and makeup by Patti D Nelson and Janice Kinigopoulos for THE Artist Agency.

Matt, please provide us a short bio and your current title. 

CEO is my current title. Maybe it should be Team Leader. As to my bio, the short version is I have been doing this professionally for 35 years. I started in Richmond, then to Baltimore, San Francisco, New York, Boston, then back to Richmond, and now back here where I grew up. I have been blessed to work for the best of the best from Chiat/Day to Arnold. Mastered the craft of print, TV, video, social marketing, running a team, company, multiple offices, and a loving family. Two amazing kids and a wonderful wife of  26 years. Maybe it’s more? Feels like a month, it’s gone by so fast. That and I am still mentally 12. I love life and change. The new marketing world we live in now is the best time in history to be in the business. So many new and exciting things. It’s just very important to not get caught up in meaningless distractions. A strong plan, idea and strategy still rule the day.

Are you involved in any other organizations? 

I have been involved in many diverse things, even been named Pillar of the community in Falls Church, and served on way too many boards but wind up helping in marketing. So I suppose in the end, I live for the art and craft of marketing.

What are the things you are most proud of?

I am most proud of creating a work place that is fun, creative and nice to work in. We have the best team on the east coast, hands down. I would match this team up against anyone. ANYONE.

Who are your personal role models? 

Ed Eskandarian, the most honest and true man I have ever worked for, Lee Clow, the creative’s creative director, Ralph Ammirati, the art director’s art director, and, most of all, my team. This team here is an inspiration and role model for how a true agency should be. Life is full of mentors, a good spouse, kids, co workers, friends – all have good things to share. Appreciate those things and you will live a blessed life. Focus on the negative and the stink of crap will follow you everywhere you go.

Did your role models offer advice that helped you in your career?

I have had the luck to work for all my role models. The single-minded focus I have been consistent is to be honest, be kind, and focus everything on the work. Not the politics or the process and be courageous to edit your work and what you take on. We turn down more work than we should. Life is too short to fill out meaningless 120-page RFPs  Pitching a client is a two-way street. Be secure enough in your awareness of yourself to say no.

What professional advice do you have for others? 

Focus on the work. Be honest in everything you do. Start from a true insight – AKA the strategy. Take risks, hire creative thinkers, and always have a big idea behind what your message is. Small thinking gets you small results and the work won’t last or can be defended.

What’s appropriate attire for SmithGifford? 

What? This is the dumbest question I have ever been asked. Really? We are talking about our clothing choice? You can wear your PJ’s to the office – in fact we have. It’s about the work. If you feel comfortable wearing a football uniform to work and your work is great, I will buy you a helmet! Any office that is caught up in what you wear is focused on the wrong things. Look at the work, it will be boring, or worse over designed and garbage. Damn what a dumb-ass question. And yet it provoked the most passion. Damn it. It was a great question.

Where do you buy most of the clothes you wear to the office? 

What? This crap again. What is this? A fashion article? These stupid-ass questions are insane. By the way, that is a vintage Paul Smith shirt I am wearing. I bought it 25-years ago when I scored my first huge job in NYC. It was $225 bucks 25-years ago. I thought I was a fool for buying it. And yet here I am years later wearing it like its new.  I suppose it says a lot about my life. I respect great design, great marketing and the tradition of breaking tradition. Damn, these questions are great!

Is there anything else you would like us to know about you? 

I love my family, my life, and my work. I dream of being part of helping make D.C. the smartest marketing area in the country. I am fourth generation from here and have seen a massive change in the market. But not much in the marketing firms’ standards. I am very passionate about everything I do, but not for me, but for making our little world a better place. We can do better, we have to do better.

(You can check out many other profiles, with photos by Cade Martin, in the profiles section of Capitol Communicator, www.capitolcommunicator.com)

About the Author

Cade Martin

The only child of a university art professor and freethinker mother, Cade Martin grew up surrounded by shapes and images. His love of art grew out of summer vacations filled with trips to galleries, museums and art studios. At home he often found himself around the dinner table with an eclectic cast of characters – sculptors, writers and painters. They paraded through his childhood, shaping his art foundation and forming his appreciation for the candid beauty found in people from all walks of life. Cade’s been chasing characters ever since. He seeks out their stories-told through the architecture of their faces or the costumes they wear-whether he’s on a commercial production or setting up an Avedon-like photo booth at Comic Con. They are the heroes in his pictures. His thirst for capturing adventures took its hold while shooting stills on movie sets and then as a photographer for National Geographic covering the railways of India. And it is that sense of adventure that Cade brings to his productions elevating the ordinary to the extraordinary with a cinematic touch. It’s not just a picture. He’s committed to the experience, building beautiful environments and, sometimes for his portraits, simply building trust. A talented storyteller, Cade splits his time between the East and West Coasts creating images for editorial, advertising, fashion, and lifestyle clients


  1. Jacquelyn Lippert

    Matt Smith is not only great at what he does but he is an amazing person to work under. He has a lot of knowledge and passion. And his upbeat attitude is contagious.

  2. Karen Sutter

    I’ve long been a fan of Matt Smith, as a person and for his incredibly inventive thinking. I’m sure all your readers will agree with me upon reading this great conversation with him. Good job!


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