2 Minutes With ... Jay Russell, Chief Creative Officer of GSD&M

His creative journey, from BMW to Radio Shack to Popeyes

Jay Russell has been chief creative officer of GSD&M in Austin, Texas, since 2015.

He began his career at DDB, working on brands such as Bud Light, PBS and American Airlines. He spent time at Square One and TM Advertising before joining GSD&M the first time, where he ran the global BMW business.

He helped to launch the Windows phone at Crispin Porter + Bogusky before returning to GSD&M in 2011. 

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


Jay, tell us...

Where you grew up, and where you live now.

Born in Houston, grew up in St. Louis, I now live in Austin. Just an average kid from the Midwest.

What you wanted to be when you grew up.

Since I was 14 I wanted to be a creative in advertising. I went to a middle school career day and attended the lawyer, doctor and advertising sessions. The advertising guy rolled up 20 minutes late and talked about the fun he had working on the Bud Light account. Decision made. 

How you discovered you were creative.

When I was a kid I entered some contest where you had to draw a monster and then draw its footprint. I drew the monster in a pair of Nikes. So that was the footprint. Apparently it was "hilarious" and I won something. Made the Houston Chronicle but was not even shortlisted at Cannes. Lame.

A person you idolized creatively growing up.

Paul Westerberg from the Replacements. He's still my idol. I arguably wouldn't be doing what I do today without listening to his music.

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

It's hard to point to one moment. It was more of a slow realization that I should focus on what I'm good at instead of trying to be mediocre at stuff I just wasn't interested in. I drew a heck of a lot of doodles in my notebooks during classes and was really happy to find I could get paid for that down the road.

The first concert you saw, and your favorite band or musician today.

First concert was the Kinks. Favorite band is and always will be the Replacements.

Your favorite visual artist.

Raymond Pettibon. He did the artwork on a ton of early records from my youth, and now he's a big fancy artist.

Your favorite fictional character.

Video games count, right? My character in World of Warcraft …  Jaytaco. I'm a nerd.

The best book you've read lately.

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead.

Your favorite movie.

Red Dawn.

Your favorite Instagram follow.

@moronsdoingthings

How the Covid-19 crisis has changed your life, personally or professionally.

Same as most people ... focusing on what matters, people not things. Plus, I get so much more done in two-thirds the time, being out of the office. Focus helps.

Your favorite creative project you've ever worked on.

Radio Shack Super Bowl … pretty much every single celebrity from the '80s crammed inside a Radio Shack from the '80s. Mary Lou Retton is an absolute sweetheart … Alf is a bit standoffish.

Radio Shack | The Phone Call
Your favorite creative project from the past year.

Popeyes Chicken Sandwich Wars. Have never seen anything blow up like that. It's still getting celeb tweets a year later. Anything that gets into culture that deep is what we all work for in this industry.

Popeyes Chicken Sandwich Wars
Someone else's creative project that inspired you years ago.

Years ago, when I was three months into my first job out of school at DDB, there was a spot for Tabasco where a guy was sitting on his porch eating pizza with Tabasco. Mosquito bites him … flies off … long pause … mosquito blows up. So simple. Set an early bar for me.

Tabasco | Mosquito
Someone else's creative project you've been impressed by lately.

That Nike spot. The split-screen one with the most amazing editing and footage search of all time. I don't know the official name … lets call it "Jaw Dropping."

You Can't Stop Us | Nike
Your main strength as a creative person.

Enthusiasm. If I love something, I am going to will it to happen. 

Your biggest weakness.

Best advice I ever got was from our client Jack Pitney at BMW. "Jay, don't try to make us all happy. We pay you for your opinion. We value it, so always give it to us straight from your gut." I've been working on that skill for a long time. Can't make everybody happy, and generally people appreciate that for the sake of the work.

One thing that always makes you happy.

Running. It's my happy place that's all mine and nobody can tell how to do it. My best thinking happens on the trails. Haven't missed a day in years.

One thing that always makes you sad.

Starting the day watching any news outlet.

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

I got into a lot of architecture schools, but opted for advertising because I was told there would be no math. It was the correct choice—there is indeed no math.

2 Minutes With is our weekly 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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Tim Nudd
Tim Nudd is editor in chief of the Clio Awards, editor of Muse by Clio, and host of the podcast Tagline. Previously, he was creative editor at Adweek.

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