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Alumni Spotlight – Mike Ward

VP Creative Director / Writer at Leo Burnett

#AlumniSpotlight The Creative Circus graduates the most sought after creatives in the industry. Take a moment to read about the lives, careers & personal stories of some of our fantastic alumni.

Mike Ward – VP Creative Director / Writer at Leo Burnett
Creative Circus Alumnus – Advertising (2002)

mike ward leo burnett creative circus

Advice to the Graduating Class:

Think about you when it comes to your first agency gig – not just the agency that extends the offer you’ve been dreaming about for 2+ years. You can do great as a jr at a big agency and at a small shop. Everyone is wired different. Find a fit that works for you and where you can learn as much as you can while doing as much as you can. This is not to say you should choose comfortable. Comfortable is a creative death sentence. Find an in-between.

Whatever you choose, go in without ego, no matter how hot-shit you were at ad school. You’re at square one on day one of real life. Prove yourself as someone who strives to understand client problems, doesn’t get overly discouraged when things don’t go your way and keeps coming back with a better idea than the last time. Accomplish that, and you’ll do great.

Advice to the Incoming Class:

Don’t be late. To class. To meet with partners. To deliver killer ideas on deadlines. In 2 years, you’ll have real clients whose deadlines are not flexible. You’ll curse them. But you won’t change them. Start practicing now to meet them.

Also, recognize many of your instructors are likely on deadlines of their own but giving a bit of their time to you. Let them know you appreciate it. Excite them with your thinking.

Oh, yeah. Have fun. This is a team sport. You’re going to make a lot of friends here. A few who’ll be in your inner circle long past ad school. A handful who will someday be in a position to hire you. The industry is small and sticky. Play nice, even when you’re at your most competitive.

What do you wish you knew while in school?:

Clever is great. But clever doesn’t always solve a client’s problem. And that is what you should be striving to do. Doing it in the most creative and engaging way with all the attention to craft you can muster.

What does the Circus mean to you?:

For me, the Circus was a time when it was okay to be almost singularly focused on advertising, surrounded by a mix of people who all shared a borderline unhealthy passion for it.

Describe a monumental, light bulb moment for yourself while you were at The Circus:

Talent, timing, tenacity, luck. I think over my 2 years at Circus and constantly reaffirmed post-grad, I’ve learned that all of these come into play when it comes to success in this business. You can only control so many. Just do your best with the ones you can.

Best Advice you’ve been given:

Don’t f_ck this up. (spoken or left unspoken before every shoot ever)

Favorite project you’ve worked on:

Brooks Running was a great client to work on and one of my more recent really hands-on projects. We poured all we had into helping them combat the unfairness of Rule40 on American Olympic athletes’ ability to earn a living in their respective sports during the Olympic Games. It was insurgent by nature – that was the brief. The budget was very low but it was cool to see what could happen when agency enthusiasm was very high.

Also, my first experience for Allstate Insurance at the end of 2017 let us take the Mayhem character in a new direction during the college football bowl season. It was great to write for an actor like Dean Winters and all our cast that played opposite him.

Work Examples:

rule40: Join athletes in their fight against rule40, which prohibits them from marketing themselves during the 2 weeks of the olympics.

mike ward rule40

Allstate “Resolutions Are Mayhem” Film

How best to bring back an iconic advertising construct for the new year and remind people that Mayhem never takes a year off? A New Year’s resolution that may or may not be broken.

Spots began running during the 2017 college bowl season with the finale airing on the BCS National Championship Game 2 weeks later.

Role: CD / Writer

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