2 Minutes With … Brett Essman, CD at Preston Spire

On being uninhibited and persistent

Brett has over a decade of experience as an industry creative. Stints include FCB, Havas, The Via Agency, Martin Williams and Periscope. Brett is currently a creative director at Preston Spire in Minneapolis.

We spent two minutes with Brett to learn more about his background, his creative inspirations and recent work he's admired.

Brett, tell us …

Where you grew up, and where you live now. 

I grew up in Adrian, a 1,200-person rural town in Minnesota. Now, my family and I live in the suburbs of Minneapolis.

How you first realized you were creative.

I was always bored in school. But when I was introduced to art classes, my mind was blown. I remember learning how to draw block letters in elementary school, which I still draw to this day. There was something exciting about having a sheet and putting what you saw in your brain on paper.

A person you idolize creatively early on.

I loved watching Pee Wee's Playhouse growing up. Looking back, it's brilliant. The wardrobe. The props. The puppets. It was sensory overload. I recently watched Beauty Is Embarrassing, the documentary about Wayne White and how that show was his big break. It's fascinating.

A moment from high school or college that changed your life.

The college I went to only offered a few creative classes, but the instructor was this guy from New York. He was intense. He pushed our thinking. And if you were late more than three times, you failed. So I took it really seriously. I remember making a print ad for Gold's Gym. I used this really beautiful black-and-white portrait of Bruce Willis. I put this big headline on his forehead, and the body copy led you to look at his eyes. My professor was so moved by that ad, which was inspiring.

A visual artist or band/musician you admire.

I love The National. And I even love how they embrace "sad dad rock." I went to their show when they came through town and it was a great experience. The lead singer walked through the crowd with a huge cord attached to his mic—it was crazy how they pulled it off.

A book, movie, TV show or podcast you recently found inspiring.

The Making of Another Major Motion Picture Masterpiece—a novel written by Tom Hanks.

Your favorite fictional character.

Jeffrey "The Dude" Lebowski. I love how The Dude doesn't care what anyone thinks of him. He just does his thing. If we encouraged more people to bring their "uniqueness" to work, we'd be better off as an industry.

Someone or something worth following in social media.


One of your favorite creative projects you've ever worked on. 

We told three different stories in these films for the Twin Cities Marathon.

A recent project you're proud of. 

We partnered with Change the Ref, an organization founded by Manny and Patricia Oliver after they lost their son, Joaquin, in the Parkland School shooting. We brought bulletproof vests via a fake product, "The New Life Vest," to places that could very well need them if gun violence continues to escalate. 

Someone else's work that inspired you years ago. 

When I first saw the "Identity Theft" work from Citi back before I knew advertising was a thing, I thought, "Holy shit, this is incredible." Another idea that was so simple but brilliantly executed was Nike's "Write the Future."

Someone else's work you admired lately. 

My friend Carl Peterson is a creative director at Mischief and I love his recent Tubi work

Your main strength as a creative person. 

Being uninhibited and persistent almost to a fault. 

Your biggest weakness.

Not knowing how to say "no."

What you'd be doing if you weren't in advertising.

I'd be a chef. I almost dropped out of college to go to culinary school.

2 Minutes With is our regular interview series where we chat with creatives about their backgrounds, creative inspirations, work they admire and more. For more about 2 Minutes With, or to be considered for the series, please get in touch.

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