Brian Petro has always followed the path of the curious. His library is an eclectic mix of books, from quantum physics to cocktail recipes, biographies to graphic novels. He is an alum of the Cleveland Institute of Art, majoring in Drawing for two years before switching majors to Interior Design for two more. He moved to Dayton to pursue a career in retail design, and ended up exploring every available opportunity, nook, and cranny in southwest Ohio. He has found hundreds of stories to tell, and needs many outlets to tell them. He is always working on his design, writing, and communication skills, helping our clients tell their tales to new audiences.
When the corporate world could not contain his curiosity, he struck out on his own. If you can find him not working or volunteering, he is reading, playing strategy games, or having fun with cocktails. You can try to interrupt him while watching a hockey game, but you assume all risks involved.
What superhero would you be and why?
That is a highly debated question for any comic book enthusiast. My senior thesis in college was a Superman Museum for Cleveland. That being said, I would want to be Mister Fantastic of the Fantastic Four. He is brilliant, and the technology he creates does as much for people as his ability to stretch. His leadership style is more by example and action, which is the style I lean towards and respect the most.
What’s been your best work that you think you are proud of yourself and what about them could you have done better?
The redesign of FedEx Office. For anyone curious, you can see the work in the branch by DiBella’s on 725. It was simple, it made the customers and the client happy, and came in under budget. It was a team effort, with our firm and the client working closely together to provide a solution that the customers responded well to. I would have improved it by managing the project better. Some of the work had to be rushed, which is not the way I like to work.
You’re a new addition to the crayon box. What color would you be and why?
I want to be a multicolored crayon. Shades of green, so if someone wanted to use me to color a tree or grass or a furry green monster, the shades would be already in the crayon. One stick of wax for all your needs!
What has been your biggest blunder at work?
I was fresh into the serving scene at Joker’s Comedy Cafe, and it was my first packed show. It was right before the holidays in 2002, and I had a huge party in my section. Everyone ordered a salad, and while I was delivering them, one woman let me know she had asked for it without tomato. I let her know I had forgotten, and took the tomato out right there at the table with my grubby fingers. Did not think a thing of it.
About a half hour later I realized what I had done. I went back to apologize and she said “Oh, that’s okay. I thought that was part of how it worked here.”
It seems like there are a lot of people from the advertising world spending more energy on social causes. Is this actually a trend?
It is a reality of the current political and economic landscape. Charity dollars are getting harder and harder to come by, both from the private and public sectors. Companies have less to donate, either from shrinking profits or more scrutiny from shareholders, and they are looking for the best impact for their dollar. The government has been hard hit by the recent economic downturn. It caused a drop in taxes coming in while increasing the amount of money that was going to support people that were unemployed. Charities realized the competition stiffened, and needed new ways to get their message out. Ad agencies were also feeling the pinch, since most companies cut creative and advertising when the money starts to dry up. They found each other, and have been enjoying the relationship ever since.
Why are people from the advertising and marketing world joining social causes?
There is a benefit for both the cause and the marketer. The cause gets top notch marketing advice for a lower cost, and the marketer gets to do some good work for the community. I would be willing to bet most marketers are also working with causes that are close to them personally. It is one reason I was doing work for the Miami Valley Literacy Council for so long. It is difficult to explain the importance of literacy until someone cannot fill out a job application, or ends up with a life changing surgery they had no idea they were getting because they could not read.
What’s the most embarrassing thing that happened to you in high school and/or college?
I am pretty sure it was the mullet I had as a freshman and sophomore in high school. There are pictures.
What motivates you and what doesn’t?
Stories motivate me. Being able to tell a good story makes everything better, from the most boring product to the most exciting experience. People react better to stories. And the pursuit of a good story often leads to other good stories. It becomes a virtuous circle.
Bullies and shows or threats of force put me right off. Forcing people or scaring people to perform will get results, but those results are going to be just enough not to get punished. It is a short sighted tactic that gets poor results. It also tells you the type of person you are dealing with.
How does the internet work?
It is a landscape composed of islands of salient, insightful, wonderful thoughts in a sea of cute pet videos, ignorant commentary and other questionable material.
What did you play with as a child?
Transformers were my favorite toy, and still are. I had the classic Megatron gun, which is now something sought after by collectors. I also read like someone was paying me to do it. I still read like that.
When people ask you for a book recommendation, where do you point them?
It depends on what they are looking for. If they want fiction, I send them to Neil Gaiman or Carl Hiaasen. Both of them are great authors in their own way. Gaiman does amazing mythology-based fantasy, and Hiassen’s books are things of tongue-in-cheek beauty. I have been reading quite a bit more on creativity in general. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamont is a great book for writers. Likeonomics by Rohit Bhargava talks about marketing success by building relationships, not Followers or Likes. And I will read anything Hugh McLeod writes. Anything.
What advice would you give to anyone trying to make it in the ad world?
Be patient and use your own voice. That is what you get hired for. In the beginning you are going to struggle to find it and find the right ways to use it. Or the confidence to do it. You will eventually find it as long as you keep talking in it. There are plenty of ways to promote a product, but you are being asked because of your voice, perspective, and way of presenting things. Be confident with that and you can do anything you want.