Throughout Ryan’s tenure at Imre, he’s developed several industry and agency firsts. He co-created a creative leadership model specific for social media, prototyped one of the industry’s first creative studio models for digital marketing and helped to architect a social and digital native healthcare practice, Imre Health. His day-to-day role includes leading an integrated team of 40 artists, conceptual thinkers, writers, influencers, directors and strategists with dedicated healthcare and consumer expertise across four offices and two creative studios. Over his career, he has created platforms and designed campaigns for global brands including Pfizer, Under Armour, AstraZeneca, Bausch + Lomb, Johnson & Johnson, STIHL, Target and the NFL.
Ryan has two children, Quinn and Penny, and loves his Instagram account. Chops got him to sit still to answer some questions.
So, what do you do all day?
How would you describe life as a creative to someone who’s not familiar with your job?
I’ve heard a lot of leaders in our industry describe their job as firefighters. They spend their days putting out fires and clearing a path for success. I think the best creative leaders must be fire starters, and spend their time igniting the passions of other talented creatives.
Did you ever think you’d be doing this? If not, what did you think you’d do?
I’m the son of an ad-man, so in some ways I was destined to do this. But my path diverged towards fine arts earlier in my career and lead me to wrestle with creative purpose and fulfillment. It reinforced my belief that, despite the cynicism surrounding advertising, there is a creative pursuit that is ultimately good and valuable to the audience.
What can you point to in your past and your education that prepared you for this career?
My fine arts background taught me two distinct principles that I’ve carried to this day.
1. Critiques. Learning to talk about art; your own and others, is imperative to a thriving creative team. My team has to share their work. I compare it to when you play rec league soccer when you’re a kid and the rule is that you have to pass the ball three times before you score. Our team’s willingness to talk about their work opens up the process and ensures we’re not individual creatives but instead a team, working together towards a singular vision.
2. Creative Process. I always tell my team the best painting I ever did took me 36 hours and the second-best painting I ever did took me 15 minutes. The point being that art is hard to estimate, hard to plan for and often inspired. So that means we need to be fierce protectors of the creative process.
Any quirks in your career path? Odd jobs? Bad jobs? Cool jobs?
Ice cream scooper at Baskin-Robbins. My right forearm is still swoll.
What’s the ideal office set up for you to do your best work? Quiet? Music, and if so, what? Open work space or closed door? Home or office?
I was the kid who was always getting in trouble for doodling in class. I see it now with my own kids; some people just think better when they’re moving, writing, singing, whatever.
Name five things that help you do your job better.
You know the meme where John Travolta looks lost?
What piece of work/project/campaign/creation are you most proud of?
Our team just recently executed an awesome campaign for a woman’s health drug called VYLEESI that treats women suffering from distress over loss of sexual desire. Our campaign “Ghosted by Desire” was one of those creative ideas that was a perfect execution of the strategic brief that helped us discover what makes this woman tick. We asked ourselves a very simple question, “if you knew you lost something, what pushes you over the hump to go and find it?”
What’s your favorite color right now?
Gen Z yellow. Don’t @ me!
Which individual has had the most influence on you as a creative?
My father’s business partner was famous ad-man Gene Azzam. Gene is a pioneer of the industry and the creative behind famous campaigns such as “How many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop?” and Scrubbing Bubbles. Gene taught me to back up from my artboard when I would draw. This was a literal lesson but has stuck with me as a figurative one as well. Always take a step back and survey what you are doing. Only then can you truly see it.
Do you create on your own time? If so, what do you do and why?
You can’t make time, so why let it stress you out?
Name a single piece of work, in any medium, that gives you the greatest pleasure.
Wayne Thiebaud’s Cakes. IMO, it transcends medium. It’s oil paint you want to lick. That’s a lesson for anyone getting into art. Your medium can also be concept.
Name a single piece of work, in any medium, that leaves you thinking, I wish I had done that.
Anything by Edward Hopper. His mastery of light is what I’ve been chasing my entire life.
Name a single work, in any medium, that leaves you wondering, How the hell did they do that?
Chuck Close’s mastery of perspective confounds me.
If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing?
If I say President does the current one have to leave?
How do you recharge?
Twitter. I know.
What’s your happy place?
Pastel or oil? Oil
Sound or vision? Vision
Strings or horns? Strings
Clear or cluttered? Clear
Morning or night? Morning
Design school or liberal arts? Liberal arts