People of OH: Frank Ippolito

I first met Frank Ippolito, Senior Creative Director, when I was walking into the OH office for my job interview. Shaky and nervous, I saw Frank wearing chucks and a t-shirt with the words “Yoga and Whiskey” written across his chest. I was sold.

Since then, Frank and I have truly never had the opportunity to work together one-on-one, or even sit down over a cup of coffee. I had always thought of him as an enigmatic leader, with sleeves of tattoos, who listened to breezy jazz and clearly held unparalleled creative talent.

What I learned very quickly is that every one of my assumptions were true. The words exchanged and the advice Frank gave me over $3 coffee was the dose of inspiration I didn’t know I needed. Any doubts about my creative talents flew out the door. Frank boldly and simply reminded me that if you’re not having fun, you’re not doing it right. Here’s a taste of what the eminent Frank Ippolito has to offer.

So, I usually start with what you do at OH.

I think it would be best described as fostering creativity. It’s not necessarily coming up with ideas for me anymore. I used to think that being a creative director was making sure that your people are creating something. But what I realized is that it’s to truly inspire everyone to be creative. It’s making sure that everyone is having a good day, because the work is stressful.

I check in to pollinate the vibe of “Hey, we’re supposed to be having fun here.” If you’re not having fun, you’re not doing it right. This is literally the best job in the entire world. It really is.

Why do you say that?

I told the interns, I had the Star Wars admiral that says “It’s A Trap.” There were blank stares, because I don’t think anyone has seen Star Wars, but I said to them, “This business is a trap.” Because, if you do it right, you can wake up everyday and go to work knowing that it is the best day of your life.

We get a chance every single day, to wake up and go to work, and love our job. But only if we do it right. And that’s a gift. You can do it for a very long, long time. I’m probably Exhibit A for doing this for a very long time.

Regardless what anyone tells you, advertising is not just a young person’s game. It’s more about what you put into it, because what you give into it will come back to you. If you don’t put into it what you need to, you’ll be a miserable person and know that you’re doing it wrong.

Wow, that was a very quick therapy session for me.

It’s a great gig, man.

How did you find your way to OH?

I went to art school in Arizona and dropped out after two semesters. I realized that I didn’t need school to be in advertising. What I needed was to be creative. And I have that.

My first job was a Production Artist when they used Xacto blades and there wasn’t a computer in sight. I was fortunate enough to work at an agency that insisted that everyone was a writer. If you were in the creative department, you were also a writer. That’s where I found my niche, I could write funny sayings and radio commercials.

Soon after, I quit being a production artist and became a full-time writer. After being at most agencies in Phoenix, I went to work for Matt Moore as a creative director. It’ll be four years with OH in September.

What is your family like?

They’re so Sicilian, it’s insane. My mom is an Italian mom, she just feeds you. If you’re not eating at her house, there’s something wrong with you. Being a vegetarian-ish person, and being gluten and pasta free, she thinks the devil has taken over my body.

You can quote me on this, my parents still don’t know what I do. I could tell them that I’ve won hundred of awards. I could tell them that I won an Emmy. The only thing my dad asks me every time I speak to to him is, “How’s work going?” And all he really wants to hear is me telling him it’s going great and I’m having fun. He doesn’t want to hear any of the other shit.

What feeds your creativity?

I used to think that creativity was internal and innate. What it really is, for me anyways, is taking in everything that is around you. Film, books, novels, the internet, cat videos. That’s where people live and that’s what inspires people. We’re in the business to inspire people to do something. If you’re not tapped into what’s happening from a pop-culture standpoint, you’re going to get left behind.

I take in as much pop culture as possible. I’m attached to my phone, I’m attached to the internet, because that’s where people are living and that’s where inspiration lives.

What do you think makes Arizona special?

Phoenix, from an advertising standpoint, has had this vibe about it that we’re less than. We have that dilemma going on because we’re not New York and we’re not Los Angeles. We’re just stuck in this desert.

I feel like advertising in Arizona has been Jan from the Brady Bunch. We’re the middle-child. I think that OH specifically is going to break that mold. We’re going to finally break out of that disfunction. If we look at this agency, and we look at the work we’re doing, we don’t have to be anywhere else. We can be totally okay with ourselves.

As far as Arizona goes, it’s weird. Having family in the East Coast, and seeing them suffer through Chicago winters, I realize we’re just so lucky to be here.

What are some of your favorite brands?

It’s not necessarily a specific brand, it’s brands that evolve. I tell this story too much, but its like milk. Fresh milk is a given. You don’t go to the store and wonder what brand of milk is fresh. It’s the same thing with Pampers diapers. You poop in Pampers, it’s a one time thing, right? So what they did was so amazing. They conducted this study that first time moms always pick Pampers because they know they can trust it.

The second time they would go to a cheaper brand, because they realize it’s cheaper and at the end of the day, the baby is just pooping in the diapers. Second-time moms are like, who cares? Then, they did something amazing. They rebranded themselves not because they’re better but because “pampers=love”. Those are the brands that I look at and say “wow, you’re evolving”. You’re keeping yourself relevant.

Think of eegee’s. eegee’s is a sandwich. What do you do after that? What do you do after the slushie? How you make yourself relevant with new customers is key.

How do we keep our content relevant?

Content is all about storytelling. That’s where people are living and that’s what they respond to. So if you can tell your brand story in a 15-second post or in a 2-hour film, it’s no longer about TV advertising. It’s living. We have to live in the 6-second universe now. The brands that realize that are the ones that continue to grow.

I like to make fun of content, but the Wendy’s social media team needs a raise. It’s lit AF, man. They torched IHOP and it was the best post ever. They get it. They make no excuses and they stay relevant. They don’t ever apologize.

What do you do outside of work?

Well, I’m a musician. We have two albums under our belt. It’s super indie pop. I also try to box, maybe three times a week. I have two kids, grown kids. Thankfully they’re fully functioning adults.

I try to stay involved. Coming from suburbs and now living in the Coronado historic district, there’s a difference. Being an introvert, I’m now forced to interact with humans. That’s been a real eye-opener. We’re super involved in our little community, which I love. We have charity events, music festivals, and we just try to be a good neighbor. The older I get, the more I crave human interaction. I think it comes from being at work and just being that pollinator. I find it satisfying and interesting.

What is a goal you have in 2018, both personally and professionally?

Personally, I want to continue to travel and see as many people and places as possible. I’m up to eight countries now. I have a travel bug like nobody’s business. To explore and to experience other cultures, is a big personal goal.

Professionally, winning awards is great, but I’m finding it more satisfying when people in the agency get a chance to experience that feeling. I’ve won enough awards. I’m good. I want to see everyone win as many awards and get the recognition that they deserve. That’s my professional goal.

What do you think makes OH special?

I think it really starts with Matt Owens and Scott Harkey. I think they have realized over the years that people spend a vast majority of their lives at work. Especially in advertising. They’ve created this place that you want to come back to. You’re not walking in there with this intense dread.

They’ve created this environment where people can be themselves. They’ve hired people that want to do this day in and day out. They’ve created the environment that people want to come back to and that’s rare in this business. It’s rare in the professional world in general.

What do you think is next for OH?

That’s a good question. That’s a super good question. I’ll use a music analogy. We’re standing at a crossroad. Are we going to sell our soul to the devil to become famous? Or are we going down the other road and make our own fate?

So many times, agencies get so big that they start believing in their own press. They start believing in their own awards. They start believing that they can do no wrong. They’re satisfied. And they end up imploding.

We have a choice. But we’re basically the only ones who can determine our fate. We have to stay humble and remember that we’re simply just happy to be here.