Creativity Is Your Best Weapon-AAF-Orlando’s First Webcast

When your first webinar guest is a man who graduated from a circus and worked at a place called WONGDOODY, how could you not want to get to know that man better?

Watch how Cal McAllister, co-founder, CEO and Executive Creative Director of Wexley School for Girls turns average consumers into loyal fans.

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photo of Cal McAllister in spacesuit

If you want to learn more about Cal we asked him some interesting questions too:

Q. Tell us a little about yourself and Wexley.

My name is Cal, I’m the co-founder, CEO and an ECD at Wexley School for Girls, an agency in Seattle that focuses on creating fans for brands in all sorts of disciplines; experiential, guerrilla, traditional, social and digital. I was born in Detroit, and spent most winter breaks in Sarasota where my mom lives now.

Q. What do you do for inspiration?

I find inspiration a lot of different places, but most consistently when people are in their zone and performing. Music, art, writing, surfing, doesn’t really matter. When people are at their best, I want to be at mine.

Q. What was your first project?

I’ve never been asked this. When I was freelancing in Chicago after a few years of writing for the Chicago Tribune, I worked at a little agency that had a piece of the U.S. Postal Service. We were assigned to promote the 1-800-ASK-USPS line. My concept was a mailbox where the receiver of the phone was the top of the box. They made it into magnets. They still make it into magnets. As successful as I may ever be in this business, I fear I will never have the reach of that goddamn magnet that I still see at the Post Office next to Wexley.

Q. What is your all time most memorable moment and favorite project at Wexley?

The most memorable and exciting moment for me was when the U.S. Army asked us to help with guerrilla marketing during the Afghanistan 2009 presidential elections. The Taliban are exceptionally talented when it comes to vandalism, faking U.S. communications and scaring the shit out of people. So we helped the Army create projections and audio blasts, things the Taliban couldn’t tamper with, as well as helping them communicate with the Taliban on social media. I am both a chicken and a wimp, so the idea of me bravely representing our great nation when things got serious wasn’t ever on anyone’s radar. But getting a letter of appreciation from a commanding officer of the Stryker Brigade Combat Team felt like getting a medal.

Q. What does the next 10 years of advertising look like to you?

Quantifiable results. There have been giant steps forward in analytics and digital measurement, which makes it easier to find a justifiable return on investment—but it doesn’t mean the numbers are actually right. This is statistics. Anyone can make any numbers say anything, really, because there is no proven scale of success until you look at sales. But I have people who want us to pitch and promise numbers. I can promise a million YouTube views; anyone can, because you can go buy them. Does that mean they are valuable to the brand, or that the ad is a good investment? Get serious. This new era of measurability has a lot of folks screaming, “Finally!” without truly looking at what they’ve found.

Q. If you weren’t working in advertising, what would you be doing?

I love this question. If no one ever took the time to create an industry in which one just sits around and gets paid to make stuff up, travel the world, create reasonable influence over people they’ll never meet, eat at the tables of the world’s best chefs and then bitch about it all…? Ugh, I don’t even want to think about what that looks like.

Q. If there are any pivotal experiences/decisions you could point to that helped shape your career, what would they be?

When I was finishing up at Creative Circus, I was whining to my advisor, Mike Jones Kelly, about writer’s block. After listening to a solid ten minutes of my bitching about creative stagnation, he told me the most valuable thing I’ve heard: “Cal, you’re not good enough for writer’s block.” Writer’s block is giving up, and it’s an excuse. Take a break, but don’t quit.

Q. What advice do you have for students/people just starting out in advertising?

I think it’s important to be tireless and exhaust people with good ideas. That doesn’t mean be difficult or never accept no as an answer. I just mean don’t give up. It’s a marathon. Other people are going to give up first. Just keep going.

Q. Where can people connect with you or learn more about Wexley?

I’m easy to find, @cal_wexley on Twitter, on email, I’ve done a couple talks and Wexley has some press once in a while. This here internet makes finding those easy.

Q. Before you go, is there one last piece of wisdom you can drop on us?

Do your thing. All the proof I see tells us we get one trip around. Make it your own.

headshot of Cal McAllister

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