Five Things Learned On The Way To Getting A Lifetime Achievement Award

Last month Steven Aramini, Foundry’s Creative Director, was nominated for the Thomas C. Wilson Lifetime Achievement Award by the American Advertising Federation Reno Chapter. Steven shares what he’s learned along the way.

IT’S TAKEN A LIFETIME TO WRITE THIS BLOG.

“Getting the Lifetime Achievement award was a tremendous honor, one I was a bit shocked to receive, to be honest. I mean, at 49 years old I feel like I still have a lot of gas left in the tank. Nevertheless, I started doing the math and realized I have indeed been at this game that we call advertising for over 25 years now.

I graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno in 1996 with a degree in Journalism and a focus on advertising. It took me six years at the college level to finally figure out what I wanted to do with my life, but when I discovered it, I immersed myself in the industry.

It began with an internship at the Estipona Group, which gave me my first taste of real advertising. I was then fortunate enough to land a role at Bayer Brown Advertising as a Junior Copywriter. After a few years, the Creative Director moved on and I found my position elevated to Senior Copywriter and eventually Creative Director.

I met Jim Bauserman during this time. That was over 20 years ago, and we immediately hit it off and had a great rapport. Jim trusted me to take the reins creatively and I have been honing my craft ever since. Today, Jim and I are still joined at the hip, working together to continue to shape Foundry as a premier brand-building agency. Along the way I’ve learned a lot about writing, about thinking creatively, and about finding new ways to communicate to customers. Here are a few creative tips I’d like to share.

FIVE THINGS THAT HAVE MADE ME A BETTER CREATIVE PERSON

1.    WORK WITH WHAT YOU’VE GOT

Marketing is about more than communicating what your client’s product or service is. It’s about identifying what makes it unique and bottling that uniqueness in an intriguing package. When we were first brought on to brand the new Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Lake Tahoe, we had no assets to work with. The hotel looked like a construction zone, there was no memorabilia, no staff, no design elements. However, we did have two things that were unmistakable: a rockin’ theme and a beautiful, serene setting. We combined those two seemingly incongruous things to create a one-of-a-kind campaign that was distinctly Hard Rock Lake Tahoe and instantly conveyed the experience at a glance—a destination where tranquility and beauty played effortlessly with rock & roll.

2.    SOMETIMES LESS IS MORE

When we first heard that we were going to get to work on the new Discovery exhibit “A T.Rex Named Sue,” our initial thought was how cool it would be to feature the dinosaur in all of the advertising. I mean, this is a friggin’ T.Rex! Few things trigger excitement and awe so easily. However, the point of the marketing was not to show the exhibit, but to entice our audience to want to see more. We decided to focus each ad on just a glimpse of the T.Rex—the teeth, the tail, the claws—enough to intrigue while still leaving the audience wanting to see more. It’s a method that great filmmakers like Steven Spielberg have employed in their movies (for example, you don’t see Jaws until over an hour into that film), and one we adopted for this campaign to great success.

3.    DON’T SELL PRODUCTS, SELL EXPERIENCES

If we walked into most car dealerships and told them that our marketing strategy was to not sell a single car, they would’ve laughed us off the lot. Yet, that is exactly the strategy we have adopted for Dolan Auto Group. Working closely with the Dolans, we came to the realization that the unique selling point of their dealerships was not the cars they sell, but the experience that comes with it. We completely abandoned price point-driven advertising and focused on what makes up the Dolan difference—a non-commissioned sales environment, experienced and well-trained staff, no pressure to buy, service and caring after the sale, and a family-based operation that supported the community it serves. We coined the phrase “Get in and join the family,” inviting everyone to become part of the experience.

4.    THINK OUTSIDE THE DOOR HANGER

Going back to Hard Rock, they asked us to come up with the hotel collateral pieces, everything from cocktail napkins to menus to room signage. One such project was their door hangers. Now, we all know what door hangers look like and what purpose they serve. There is a “Do Not Disturb” side and a “Clean My Room” side, and we could have easily gone that route, slapped on some leopard print and leather and called it good. But we tried to make every collateral piece contribute to the rock & roll experience. For these door hangers, we shaped them like neckties and gave them some attitude, as if to say “let loose and lose your corporate stuffiness. You’re here to rock!” The door hangers were eventually replaced with more traditional ones, not because they weren’t loved but because so many guests were stealing them when they checked out. From an advertising standpoint, this was the ultimate proof that we had nailed the concept.

5.    TAP INTO YOUR AUDIENCE’S EMOTIONS

Sometimes knowing your audience is as important as knowing your client’s product or service. For Mt. Rose, we were in the midst of the pandemic and needing to entice skiers off their sofas and onto the slopes. Rather than hide the fact that guidelines were instructing you to keep your distance, we used this to our advantage, emphasizing that our expansive resort and wide open trails were the perfect way to escape the masses. This helped distinguish Mt. Rose from the crowded ski villages of competitors and gave our audience a reason to get out and enjoy life again.

These are just a few angles we’ve taken. Hopefully something inspires you here. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my lifetime as an advertising professional, it’s that there is no set rule for being creative…and that’s the beauty of it. Every client and every project are one-of-a-kind, and finding what makes them unique is what ultimately leads to a better solution.”