Looking Back: A Retrospective With Longtime Friends

This month, we’re taking a chance to look back on our work with some of our longtime Friends at GS&F. Join Roland, Lisa, David, Leslie, Laramey and Scott to explore lessons we’ve learned, challenges we’ve overcome, and how it all impacts our work moving forward.

What lessons have you learned through your time at GS&F?


Roland Gibbons, Co-Owner & Chief Creative Officer: It’s hard to sum up nearly 38 years at GS&F, but through it all the one constant has been that it’s all about the idea, which means the idea has to have a strong reason and strategy for being. This has been true during the typewriter/drawing board days and remains so with computers and the internet driving client needs. Don’t get too caught up in tactics. Keep the idea at the forefront.


I once had a prospective client ask me what I thought was the most effective commercial I had seen. And I said, “I don’t know; I would have to know the strategy and idea behind what led them to that solution before I can answer that.” He told me, after we won the account, that my answer was one of the reasons they chose us.


Lisa James, Group Media Director: Laramey (Lawson) has always told me, “The only thing constant is change.” As a creature of habit, I have learned to embrace change, good and bad, and work to find the positive in that change. I spent four years as an Account Supervisor here at GS&F. It was a recommended career shift after 14 years in media, and I was hesitant but gave it my best shot. It was the most difficult four years of my time here at the agency, but I learned so much and experienced so many different aspects of the business in that time.


David McCracken, Courier & Support Services: One of the best discoveries about my role at GS&F has been an especially personal one. It took me a long time to learn that I am best served when I don’t try to navigate this adventure alone. Things clicked into place for me when I allowed myself to be known by the community of friends that I work with. One of our greatest goals at GS&F is to help our clients succeed, but GS&F also takes great pride in seeing every teammate experience personal growth and success.


Leslie Torrico, Production Director: Manage expectations! Don’t overpromise and be realistic with deadlines, costs and deliverables. This makes it easier to pivot and put a plan B in place. There is always a way—it may not be the easiest, cheapest or fastest, but there is a way.


Scott Brooks, Transmedia Production Manager: It’s just work. Make sure you’re doing it with and for the people who mean something to you.

Which clients and projects have been most impactful—or challenging—over the years?


Laramey Lawson, EVP, Director of Insights & Engagement: Honestly, every client or project has challenged me and impacted me on some level—most notably, partnering with the Bridgestone brand in various capacities over the past 25+ years and watching their ongoing evolution as a global leader.


RG: Helping build our relationship with Bridgestone/Firestone and LP Building Solutions over the years has been very rewarding. Bringing the then Oilers to Nashville was an amazing and challenging time—we shouldn’t have been able to get the work done in the time we had. But we did. A true team effort.


They all have their challenges. And we all have those projects that just didn’t come to fruition for some reason or another (at least as we imagined it), but there’s another one right behind it and with that an opportunity to do something amazing.


LJ: A highlight was when Bridgestone began their diversity initiative in 2002, which impacted our print paid media plans. It allowed us the opportunity to have a dedicated budget to support Black, Hispanic and LGBTQ publications with dedicated creative aligned to each audience segment. At the time this was forward-thinking for a global company of this size, and I was excited to be part of the important efforts.


SB: It was exciting to be a part of pitching and winning the work for the Indy Racing League. Designing the intros/outros to their TV spots was my first opportunity to do some cool motion graphics work aimed at broadcast.

What’s been most challenging about your work—and most impactful?


LL: The ongoing proliferation of touchpoints across all paid, owned, and earned channels has been most challenging—it is both exhilarating and daunting. The people I’ve had the privilege of sharing my 30-year career journey at GS&F with have been most impactful.


LT: One challenge comes to mind—during the August 1997 UPS Strike, we had 3,000 Bridgestone POP kits that had to ship to 3,000 individual locations. With the help of a trusted longtime vendor we pivoted, figured it out, put in the work, and made the ship date! We bought and hand-applied about $24,000 worth of postage stamps, plus address labels, to each of the 3,000 boxes in a sweltering warehouse.


RG: Without a doubt, managing people. When I first became a Creative Director, it was eye-opening. You get caught up in employees’ lives, personal ambitions, growth, interoffice disputes, good times and bad. You have to be a coach and camp counselor while keeping the agency’s interests at heart. I am not as involved with the day-to-day managing as I once was, but I am always there if anyone needs me. It just becomes a part of who you are.


SB: Obviously we have to stay up on trends—but that’s fun, and I don’t consider that extra work. The most challenging year work-wise was 2020, because it’s difficult having to force synergies with colleagues where they come naturally when you’re in the same room, often sharing a drink or a laugh and not looking at a timer to the next meeting.

How have the lessons you’ve picked up along the way influenced your work moving forward?


LJ: A unique aspect to paid media is how it is constantly evolving. I understood early on that the only way to stay current in this career is to keep learning. Often our client’s objectives and target audiences dictate the best media mix, but even if a media tactic doesn’t align for any of my existing initiatives I want to learn about it so I have it in my “toolbox” if an opportunity ever arises.


LL: I’ve learned to always, always, remember that, as Lou Holtz said, “Nothing is as good as it seems, and nothing is as bad as it seems. Somewhere in between lies reality.”


DM: Allowing myself to be known and following my desire to know my co-workers well has helped me to be a better collaborator, a better communicator, a better employee and a better Friend.


SB: I really have learned not to take the work too seriously. We want to make great stuff that makes our clients happy and that we find meaningful. We want to shake up the industry in all the best ways. But I think 2020 has shown us that blocking off time away from all that is just as important and beneficial to ourselves as it is to GS&F. We bring our best when we’re at our best.


RG: I am never satisfied with what I do. I always think the work can be better, and the next time I try to make it so. You can never stop learning whether it be creative trends, techniques or influences, but to bring it full circle the idea is the most important thing.


When you surround yourself with truly talented and creative people, that energy compels you to get better. That’s why we try to find the best people we can, because at the end of the day that’s who GS&F is.


Are you looking for your next step? As we celebrate some of our longest-tenured Friends, we’re also excited to welcome new faces and new perspectives. Check out some of our openings to see if GS&F might be a fit for you!

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