Communication Arts Insights: Prentice Howe

Walking The Neighborhood Collecting Sticks
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Original article

If you have a degree in what field is it?
I have a BA in advertising from Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

If you could choose one person to work with (outside your own agency), who would it be?
As a mentor, Bart Cleveland of McKee Wallwork Cleveland. He brings big thinking to small settings and champions great work. As a peer, my former partner, Reece Hoverkamp. He left Secret Weapon in December to go travel the world for a year—he’s probably racing a camel through Bahrain right about now.

Who was the client for your first advertising project?
Don Pablo’s, a Mexican restaurant chain. I named their big margarita “The Gulp of Mexico.” I’m both embarrassed and proud.

If you were to change professions, what would you choose to do?
I’d be a cabbie on Nantucket Island. Windows down, fog rolling in, Red Sox game on the radio and an entire family dressed in head-to-toe seersucker in the backseat.

What do you consider to be the greatest headline of all time?
I’ll go with The Economist: “Lose the ability to slip out of meetings unnoticed.” Spot on. And so simple.

From where do your best ideas originate?
Good ideas have no origination; you just have to be receptive to them. I try to declutter my mind so when they do come knocking they have a comfortable place to sit.

How do you overcome a creative block?
Change up my view. I’ll walk around a bookstore or just lie down in a place I typically don’t, like on the kitchen floor. This either spawns good thinking or turns into procrastination in the form of vacuuming. In the end, you just have to push through. Creativity isn’t a science.

If you could choose any product to create an ad for, what would it be?
FOX Sports. Their online property is stellar and I just love the category.

Do you have creative outlets other than advertising?
My high school’s credo was “Teach us delight in simple things.” To this day, it’s the simple things that inspire me most. My daughter and I walked the neighborhood and collected sticks the other day; rediscovering the world through the eyes of a two-year-old is a pretty cool creative outlet.

What’s your approach to balancing work and life?
I’m never in balance. Something or someone is always getting shorted. On the advice of Jim Collins, along with a to-do list, I started writing a list of things to stop doing. It’s a great exercise in focus and creating time for the tasks that hold the most potential.

What product/gadget can you not live without?
The iPhone. For me, it was a game changer.

What’s your favorite quote?
“Mm, I love scotch. I love scotch. Scotchy, scotch, scotch. Here it goes down. Down into my belly.” —Ron Burgundy (Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy)

Do you have any advice for people just entering the profession?
Two things. 1) Your book is never finished. 2) Be good to people. The relationships you cultivate will define your career.

What’s one thing you wish you knew when you started your career?
I wish I had had a better grasp on the business side of advertising and understood what my creative directors dealt with on a daily basis. It would have provided for more clarity and less angst. But now I know. So, Jay, I’m sorry for that time I tried to staple your… aw hell, I’ll just give you a call.