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Lead Balloon Ep. 12 - A Creative in the Corporate World

With David Allen Moss: For outsiders transitioning into the world of marketing, it can be easy to feel like a square peg in a round hole.



Not everyone in marketing set out from Day One to become a marketer.


And for outside creatives transitioning into the corporate world, there are tough lessons to master, dangerous pitfalls to avoid and unwritten rules to learn.

Before he was brand strategist, David Allen Moss was an industrial designer, an artist and a musician. His impressive and meandering career as a marketer has touched brands like Best Buy, Wynn Las Vegas, Gateway Computers, Costco and Red Lobster. And the time he spent working for American Greetings and EDR Media in Ohio is littered with war stories of high-profile clients, high-pressure business meetings and high-strung personalities.


These days, David is the Chief Creative Officer at Evergreen Podcasts in Cleveland. But he says his experience in the trenches made him the professional he is today, even if, as an idealistic creative in the corporate world, it was an especially vexing puzzle to navigate.



Transcript


Dusty Weis:

The world of PR and marketing is a very singular professional environment. There aren't a lot of others like it. So, for people transitioning into this world from another profession, it can be kind of easy to start to feel like a square peg in a round hole. David Allen Moss didn't set out to become a creative director. It just sort of found him. A polymath, artist and musician with endless energy and interests, he was drawn to the creative aspect of the job, but he sure didn't fit the mold in a world populated by high profile clients, high pressure business meetings, and high-strung personalities.

David Allen Moss:

I come to his office and he's sitting at his desk. I just came around. I said, "Is everything okay?" "You want to do my (beep) job?" He jumps up, and he runs through the door. He's breathing in my face, "You think this is easy? This is Best Buy."


Dusty Weis:

Now, the Chief Creative Officer at Evergreen Podcasts in Cleveland, David's impressive and meandering career has wound through some high-profile operations, including American Greetings and EDR Media. His work has shaped brands including Gateway Computers, Wynn Las Vegas, and yes, Best Buy. Through it all, he's kept his feet on the ground and his heart on his sleeve, an outsider still in many ways to the world of marketing.


Dusty Weis:

He's got the war stories to prove it. Because whether it's managing pressure cooker creative teams, defusing hair trigger tempers or watching your flagship client walk away from a contract, marketing can be a hard knock, cutthroat business. It's especially tricky to navigate as a creative outsider in a corporate world. I'm Dusty Weis from Podcamp Media. This is Lead Balloon, a podcast about PR marketing and branding nightmares and the well-meaning communications professionals who lived them.


Dusty Weis:

Thanks for tuning in. One of my favorite things about this business is the interesting people you meet. They don't get much more interesting than today's guest. But that's really what Lead Balloon is all about as a podcast, finding the fascinating people who work in strategic communications and celebrating the stories of the times that they've overcome adversity. If you're new to the show and enjoy what you hear, make sure you subscribe in your favorite podcast app. Follow Podcamp Media on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to see what else we're up to.


Dusty Weis:

If you leave me a review in iTunes, I will read it on the show. Like this review from Dena who says, "The music introduction and narration are very well done, and the production quality is top notch. I love the idea of shedding light on PR mistakes. It makes for a very personable show. Highly recommend." Dena, you're going to give me a complex. So, I met this week's guests about a year ago. David Allen Moss is the CCO of Evergreen Podcasts. We got to chatting at a podcast conference in Orlando. We're both strategic communicators who have moved into the podcast space. We're both bearded guys with shaved bald heads. We will both talk to anybody about literally anything, which of course means that COVID quarantine has been tough on both of us.


David Allen Moss:

My hair is getting too long. This is only two days. What's really amazing is being home, it grows a lot faster.


Dusty Weis:

Is that how that works?


Dusty Weis:

A Cleveland guy by birth, David originally set out to study industrial design. The path that he took to find his career as a marketer and brand strategist helps explain why he's never really fit in with the marketing crowd.


Dusty Weis:

Do you prefer David Allen Moss or just David Moss when I'm talking about you and your kind of title?


David Allen Moss:

The first time is fine, and then just the first name after that is fine.


Dusty Weis:

Yeah, yeah.


David Allen Moss:

The reason I've had the Allen in there is there are a number of David Moss's in town. One is a local TV personality and he's the Moss Man. So, the times I met David, he told me, "You're the original." I said, "What do you mean?" "Well, my family, they changed their name when they came over on the boat." I said, "Well, you're right." I just tell everyone, I'm the original. And then I have to explain. He does movie reviews and sits down with chefs, a lot of the morning show type stuff. He's an all right guy.


Dusty Weis:

Okay. Sounds like he's at least not territorial over the name. So, that's good.


David Allen Moss:

No, he brought me on the show one time. I used to own a company called Emerging Chefs. There's very different stories about that. But it was pop up dinner party, we did about 36 events in two years. So, we would bring the chefs on to these morning shows. He had met me once before when we were at a comedy club with a big group of people and I asked for the check. It has taken a long time. Finally, this server comes, "You wouldn't believe what just happened. I took this check to the other David Moss, the Moss Man. He said, 'What the (beep) is this?'" It was like a $700 bill for him and his wife. So, it's fun running into him once in a while.


David Allen Moss:

So, I'm on the show and he says, "Why don't you come on the show?" So, he has me sit on the show at the very last segment. He's wrapping up the show and he's like, "And we have an interloper in the studio today. Apparently, his name is David Moss." And then the camera went to me. I'm like... That's it. That was it. That was my moment with David.


Dusty Weis:

That was worth it.


David Allen Moss:

The other David.


Dusty Weis:

That's pretty good. Sounds like a fun guy.


David Allen Moss:

He's alright.


Dusty Weis:

So, David Allen Moss, Chief Creative Officer at Evergreen Podcasts, brand strategist and creative director. It's also worth noting a Big Ten guy. You went to school at Purdue if I'm not mistaken.


David Allen Moss:

That's right. Hail Purdue!


Dusty Weis:

Like a lot of my favorite professional communicators, you started your career in classic journalism before transitioning to the field of strategic communications. What course did your career take after you left Gannett in Lafayette, Indiana, and what were you doing at Gannett?


David Allen Moss:

Well, I was a features reporter. I also did a little art direction. There was a great... It'd be kind of like, you probably had one of these sort of entertainment mags in Madison. So, it's called Campus Weekly.


Dusty Weis:

Oh, yeah. Okay.


David Allen Moss:

So, I kind of was chasing love. I ended up at the archrival, Indiana University. I was on what they call the 11th Semester Program, Dusty. I was really enriched in the liberal arts experience. So, much that I changed my major twice and finished at a third school, but it's the end game that counts. So, I ended up at IU, working three or four jobs. Working at a lumberyard, working at a small convention center, and then pasting up. I got into pasting up ads and ad design in something called multi-ad creator at the Indiana Daily Student for $4.25 an hour.


Dusty Weis:

Oh, wow. Alright, yeah.


David Allen Moss:

So, I was still in it. I never really got out of it until I got my first real jobby job. I was a graphics multimedia director right out of the gate for a career education clearing house so. And then I also fell into the whole music scene down there. It was a great music community. So, I had a couple bands and friend of mine starters studio. So, I got into the recording arts. It was always rich media, always, even though I was so established in the traditional. I just got into publication design, brand design, as a part of that. So, I kind of started out right out of the gate as an art director. And then one thing led to another. My family had moved away from Northeast Ohio. I ended up moving back to Cleveland, 1999. So, I was gone for about 10 years.


Dusty Weis:

What I like about it is you've got a non-traditional background. Your learning curve of coming from that non-traditional media background of moving into a realm where you were working with clients and trying to deliver strategic objectives to them, how was that learning curve for you? How did you go about making your way along that?


David Allen Moss:

Part of it was I was able to kind of have this sort of enterprising startup, really more of an entrepreneur in terms of the way I approach things. So, even that, Learn More Indiana, that program, after a couple years, they were the first group to put career interest inventories and career profiles onto the internet. They needed a web services director and web was pretty new in 1996, 1997. I said I'll do it. So, putting yourself in this sort of trial by fire and I started in industrial design. And then I just felt like "Well, I don't want to just be designing products." Well, we've come full circle because certainly podcasts are a product, but they might have a little bit more human and intentional spirit and soul to them than just "I'm going to design a blender." So, I switched out of that industrial design.


David Allen Moss:

It all accumulates, Dusty. I had started out in formal art study when I was five, every week for a couple hours. So, I had all this fine art and I always knew boy, that's going to power something. All that creativity, really learned, see the world a different way. Anyway, fast forward. Shifting to the thing, I think what really was the real deal is I found across an opportunity to work for AmericanGreetings.com when I came back to Cleveland after six months, just trying to freelance.


David Allen Moss:

Going into that space and having all these internal clients and creating specialty websites with a very small team and leading that team into six or seven websites over that year span taught me a lot about how to carry yourself in those settings and how not to. I got to tell you, some of the people I came across, they're just not real. Those are the people I didn't spend a lot of time with, if I could help it. It's just, "Hey, what kind of shoes you're wearing? Man, you must be really creative." Just no, that's not the measure.


Dusty Weis:

Yeah, no, yeah. American Greetings, of course, is the world's second largest producer of paper greeting cards, runner up only to Hallmark itself. Today, they employ 27,000 people worldwide. If you remember back to the turn of the century, American Greetings was making a huge splash in the online space with its web-based electronic greeting cards, which in today's world, is adorable to think that the internet was ever that cute and harmless.


Dusty Weis:

This of course presented a huge opportunity for someone with David's background in both art direction and web design, because unlike today, those were considered to be distinctively different fields in that era. But as a creative outsider of sorts, David quickly discovered that there were things about life in the corporate world that kind of rubbed him the wrong way.


David Allen Moss:

The appeal of American Greetings... This is like social expressions. ... was the jam. I mean, everything was going e-card at the time. They had about 200 people in a division and they moved us all into some big warehouse off of the mothership into this huge... It's like 5,000 people working at this place or something. We were so excited. So, excited, we get over there, the day they open up and it's six-foot-high cubicles as far as the eye can see. We go up to this lounge.


David Allen Moss:

One of my colleagues, because there's certainly a lot of cynicism in the creative ranks, said, "They built us a hog farm." So, we were pretty miserable right out of the gate, and then it was supposed to be all French industrial. There's a foosball table in the back. You can believe I spent a lot of time at that foosball table. I can tell you, "Well, my wrists were... They get a little tight, I need to go and shake it out."


David Allen Moss:

So, they were going to go public, and here I was working with myself, a writer and a programmer. We were running. We had our own little internal agency. We did the AmericanGreetings.com corporate site. We did like Secret Santa for the military ornaments. We did design water balloons. You learn a lot about like cooked brands. That's where I learned about really finished brands, was working with those internal clients. Some of those internal clients said, "Who told you to put the Pokémon balloon on our home page?" I mean, this was their life. So, I came in one day, and I got there right around 9:00 on the nose. A bunch of my group who worked on all the cool stuff, Blue Mountain and American Greetings, the cool card like e-cards, and things were getting animated.


David Allen Moss:

The only thing I was animating was like banner ads. They had me doing the banner ads in Flash. We had a meeting, the whole web group had a meeting. I said, "I didn't even know about it." What do you mean you don't know about this? This was all about this and that, a new direction. I said, "What do you mean?" She said, "Well, we're not doing corporate sites anymore." I was like, "Somebody's going to tell me about that? That was my whole job. What am I doing now?" Well, you'll have to ask Bill. Bill French was this little troubadour that would march around from cube the cube. He was always sweating, kind of out of breath, and just kind of really intense, really intense.


David Allen Moss:

So, I sat down with Bill later that morning. I said, "Hey, Bill, this is really interesting. When were you planning to tell me that I didn't have anything to do after this?" Oh, yeah, I'm really sorry. You're really talented. He barely knew me. He was like the department head. But we'd really love for you to stay. I don't think I can stay out of principle. I just don't know if I... Fortunately, I had applied for an art directors job at the big production and media company across town. They called me that very week. They were like, "We're ready for you." I had talked to them six months prior and like "We think we're ready for you." I said, "I think I'm ready for you."


Dusty Weis:

So, David accepted role at EDR Media, a leading Midwestern production house. But while the profile of his client portfolio continued to rise, the change in scenery didn't mean that he really fit in any better with the corporate crowd.


David Allen Moss:

That's where the war stories took a new fever pitch, because it was the production house. They were doing national, regional commercial spots. There was a full TV production facility. They were doing the lottery campaigns all this on the first floor. But as you went up in the floors, we've got more and more new media. So, I got involved in a new media group.


David Allen Moss:

In that first year, I wrote the proposal with the executive sales group to introduce the Best Buy in store media network. We started with three store sneakernet where we would put all the program and polish it up, put it on DVDs and run it out to the stores every week. And then we grew to 360 stores and then update twice weekly. Best Buy put a T1 line into the building. They put Scala, they put like four or five Scala Players in every store. It was a model.


Dusty Weis:

This is ahead of the curve kind of stuff.


David Allen Moss:

Yeah, this is in 2001. So, it was a model, retail media network installation. The company was just riding high on this. It's our biggest client. In fact, it was 60% of our business. But you can imagine a lot of stress comes with that. It was like probably the most stressful time in my career, for sure. That's really intense.


Dusty Weis:

How did you deal with that? How did you work through that? I mean, that's a lot of responsibility and it's resting squarely on your shoulders.


David Allen Moss:

We had a nice number of icon line managers like director level folks that really kept it all going. Some of them were seasoned. So, the one thing I had to do is learn to shield myself from their deep-seated negativity. They'd say things like, "You go down the first floor." They say, "Well, yeah, we're going to have to pour battery acid on this place to ever make it go away. I mean, this place is just awful." I'm like, "What? Hey, good to see you, man. I'm going to head back upstairs." Managing that stress, I don't know that I did. I don't know that I did. I think that's when I lost all my hair. But the projects, I always go back to that. That was about six years and I always go back to the projects.


David Allen Moss:

Because I was promoted creative director by the guy who's going to tell you a little war story about the VP of Creatives they brought in from New York. He was more of an agency guy. Cliff Hughes was his name. He was a big burly guy, and he was a writer like me. So, he's like, "Listen, David, here's my Amex. Just get what you need." He had such an attitude about it. He'd come into my office. There was a lot of excitement when he came on, because he wanted to build our group up. He really did.


David Allen Moss:

We're going to do, we're doing CD ROMs and we're doing this. We're doing kiosk. We already had been doing a lot of kiosk. In fact, the connection was EDR Media, which is the company I was working for, did the largest kiosk rollout with American Greetings. Something like 20,000 credit card kiosks that went out to Walgreens. You may remember, you could pick your design. It would plot the card out.


Dusty Weis:

Those were everywhere. Yeah.


David Allen Moss:

That was state of the art until they realized they had to maintenance these things. When I was at American Greetings, I used to wander around. They had these Star Wars hallways. Literally were all the services and pipes and things and you could get to other warehouses and places shortcuts. I went into one of these rooms. Here was like droids, must have been 1000 of these credit cards all torn up per parts. Some were shrink wrapped somewhere. Some were missing whole sections. It's like GM bearing those battery powered cars in the desert. It was like, "Wow, this didn't really happen. They pulled every one of those great e-card machines when they started take a bath." But anyway, Cliff was so animated. One of my first big projects for the company...


Dusty Weis:

This is where David's story will have a familiar ring, for anyone who ever entered the world of corporate marketing as a wide-eyed creative idealist. I know it does for me at least, because for the uninitiated, there's a certain naivety when you enter to the corporate world, where you believe that your key to success is exclusively your creative chops. Other skills like inter-office politicking, pitching both externally and internally, and managing the volatile mood swings of unpredictable managers. Well, the need for these can come as a bit of a rude awakening. For David, he got his during a meeting with his boss Cliff and EDR's CEO.


David Allen Moss:

His name was Don McKee. Don was kind of a throwback kind of a madman kind of guy. He came in with Pete Vrettas, the owner who was really that home run vision guy, always wanted the big project. I can tell you about those projects. So, we get into this conference room and here comes Cliff around the corner. He sit down and he leans into Pete. He says, "Are you going to get out of the way?" This is the first thing he says. I'm a young director. I'm making my way. I'm going to get my career here, and I just sat back like, "What the hell?" I mean, I started to shake a little bit.


David Allen Moss:

Don's like, "What do you mean?" Get out of your way. How are you going to get out? You're going to let him do his work. I didn't say a word in this meeting. The two guys, the owner and the CEO just stormed out of there. They picked their little thing up and walked out. Cliff gets up and there was a men's restroom right around the corner from the conference room. He just disappears. I'm sitting in this conference room by myself like, "What have I signed up for?" This isn't the first year I'm there. I'm like, "This is really hair on fire kind of (beep). Every day, this kind of stuff's happening.


David Allen Moss:

He comes out of the restroom and his nose is all bloody. He's getting the blood out of his nose. I'm like, "Cliff, oh my god." I mean, it's so dry in here because it's winter. He says, "No, it's my goddamn blood pressure." I was just like, "Holy cow." He's like, "David, I can't be a part of this project. David, you're going to have to take this on. I know you can do a great job. That's why I made you the creative director. You're the creative director now."


David Allen Moss:

So, Cliff was very animated because shortly after that, he'd started coming to my office. He'd say, "David, the foxes are nipping at my heels. I don't know how long this is going to go. Are you hearing anything?" He just wanted to get stuff done really fast. They wanted to be sort of methodical and corporate about the way they carried themselves. I think there was a balance somewhere. I did like some of his approach.


David Allen Moss:

Another experience with him as we started to pick up special projects from Best Buy. We had a very young team, just so talented. We had a couple writers. Flash was a big thing. We had a multimedia animator. We had an art director that we hired. She was so talented. We find ourselves there and it's like 1:00, 2:00 in the morning. We had a lot of these late night got to get it done by tomorrow things for Best Buy especially. We'd come up with this avatar called Best Bud, remember the little paperclip guy? Well, we were making this little yellow PDA guy we came up with. My team is like, "Best Bud." I know it sounds silly. It was a real thing.


David Allen Moss:

We had storyboards and everything. I am not kidding. Best Bud was going to be all the rage. He was going to help you pick out your next computer. I don't know, Best Bud. So, they were sold on the initial concept. So, we're there and we had four different teams doing animations, storyboards, these little presentations that we were going to take up the next day to Best Buy and present, myself, the senior writer and then Cliff. It's 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning.


David Allen Moss:

One of the writers, his name is Brian Tatsumi. I'll never forget. He was in the atrium off this kitchen. Cliff was like fumbling with a big coffeemaker. I'm like, "What? You're making coffee at 3:00 in the morning?" He went out and got a bunch of chocolate for everybody. He just wanted us to be happy. He heard Brian laughing around the corner. He said, "What the hell you laughing? Get down here." He hauled him down to the office and he just laid into him like maniacally laying. You could hear it on the other side of the building. Everyone was like, "What is happening?" I mean, Brian was doing all the writing for three of the teams. He was coming up with a lot of great concepts.


David Allen Moss:

Brian walks by, I thought he was just going to walk right out for good. I'm learning my leadership skills. So, this is my Adam Sandler moment, by the way. I walked quietly down the hall. I mean, it's dead. Everyone's in... We had like glass doors and we called it "the hub," like a big bullpen. Everyone's in there, slaving away in the dark. I come to his office and he's sitting at his desk. I just come around. I said, "Hey, what was that all about? Is everything okay?" You want to do my (beep) good job? He jumps up, and he runs through the door. He's breathing in my face, "You arrogant son of a bitch. You think this is easy? This is Best Buy." I'm standing there, and I'm shaking. The adrenaline like you feel it. I said, "Cliff, I'm trying to be your friend."


Dusty Weis:

Oh, man.


David Allen Moss:

Just didn't come out real good. The managers had kind of those wall to ceiling Steelcase type offices. We call it the wall of shame. Well, as I walked down, the owner's daughter was there, heard the whole exchange, because there was more to it. He just was singling me out for something. And then the Director of Programming, [Mr. Scott Glasser 00:25:20]. I'll tell you, that was it. I mean, I'm fast forwarding but that was it for Cliff. He went on the ball of flames.


Dusty Weis:

Spit balling innovative ideas, collaborating with a talented team of people, designing cutting edge customer experiences, that's the dream for someone like David Moss. But the other stuff, explosive personalities, the do or die pressure, the dog-eat-dog mentality of corporate politics, well, that's its own special type of hell. David didn't know it yet. But as a creative in a corporate world, his worst nightmare was yet to come. That's coming up in a minute. You're on Lead Balloon.


Dusty Weis:

It was the roaring mid-2000s. David Allen Moss was creative director at EDR Media in Cleveland, managing the massive in-store media network for their flagship clients at Best Buy. For a creative and corporate world, it was a high-pressure position with the ability to swing wildly from dream job to nightmare with no warning whatsoever.


David Allen Moss:

I had told you about Best Buy being our golden goose and we kind of lost track. When you don't have an account manager and you don't have someone up there, calling on them every week and working with them, you're kind of out of sight, out of mind. We just started to lose, not favor with just... The project I think ran its course after four years. So, we had a new sales manager. He says, "David, if we get into this meeting and I think we're losing the account, I'm going to ask us to take five and you're going to follow me to the restroom." It just seem like a lot of drama. Is this just really going to happen? It's so surreal because I saw this one guy who was always a little tough customer. He was tough to peg.


David Allen Moss:

This is when people started to have smartphones and blackberries. He started really head down in his text. That's when we knew we were losing the audience. We were having to convince them why to keep us. We went up there with these binders and all the things we're doing and the new things we were going to do, acting more like an agency, not just a production house. Darrell is like, "Hey, folks, let's take five. This has been a while. Let's freshen up. Let's come back with some new ideas here and kind of wrap things up." David, you got a minute? Oh my gosh, my heart was in my throat. I do remember that period of my career, having more adrenaline rushes...


Dusty Weis:

I think after being in that line of work for a little while, you just get to the point where maybe your body is out of adrenaline for a little while or you develop a tolerance to it.


David Allen Moss:

Something.


Dusty Weis:

After you've been screamed at face to face so many times, it just doesn't have the same impact that it once had.


David Allen Moss:

For sure, for sure. I also used to get not panic, but I used to get like rapid heart rates in some of these meetings like with Wynn Las Vegas and stuff. I was still young, still in my late 20s. Somebody told me that when they go into meetings, the first thing they do is they think about "Well, this person has a home life. This person has problems too. This person got up this morning. Maybe they had a coffee. Maybe they got ready. Maybe they drove, maybe they had to commute." You just started thinking about how they're all just regular people.


David Allen Moss:

The one thing great about Best Buy, you know Minnesotans, they were the sweetest people. I still keep in touch with two of my clients. One of them's not there anymore, but I still keep in touch with them. They were just such wonderful people to have as clients. They weren't ever hard on us, but they knew what they wanted. When they didn't want it, they would tell us.


Dusty Weis:

But in that very nice, "It's not you, it's us," sort of a way. Yeah, no, that's very Midwestern and very indicative of every experience that I've ever had with a Minnesotan outside of a football setting. But that much said, you're pulled into the restroom with your colleague. He appears to be getting ready to what? To go to war. To have a last stand?


David Allen Moss:

I have to tell you, I was very confused. I didn't know what I was going to contribute. I was kind of like, "What do you need me to do?" I mean, first of all, we use the restroom, but then you're having a meeting in the restroom. It's a little awkward having a meeting at the stalls. You're kind of reviewing quickly how the conversation was going, rating the different pivots in the conversation. I mean, there were two salespeople, the owner of the company, myself and this sales director. We brought all the guns, right? I'm the project manager, we brought like six people up in Minnesota, but it's a little too late. You got to know.


David Allen Moss:

That morning, I remember the owner saying, "Hey, let's meet early downstairs, so we can talk about how we talk." I was like, "I think we know. We've been talking with these guys for five years." Okay, but sometimes you just don't get after these things. Some client opportunities, you need to know you're not a right fit anymore or that project really ran its course. I mean, think about it. They didn't need all that content eventually. They probably proved that people didn't want to see all the promotional/infotainment type stuff they were doing at every end cap or in these sort of groupings. I mean, we did a great project for Gateway Computer, and then they were bought and then they closed all their stores. So, you just never know where the project is going to go. You can't get to psychologically invested.


Dusty Weis:

Is it tough for you to accept? I mean, after you guys lost the client and presumably went back to headquarters and had a postmortem about it. I think it's always very important to be accountable to your team and for everybody to be honest about what you can and can't control, but ultimately, this one just sounds like it was beyond your control. How long did it take you to accept that really there was nothing you guys could have done to make that dinner meeting turnout any different?


David Allen Moss:

Well, I think because we've gone through such financial hardship as an organization, we took it a little hard. But my team, the people making all the content, they just were disappointed they couldn't make this cool content anymore. A good creative team is just eager for that next project. If you have a good sales and creative direction kind of combo, they can go out and sell good concepts on behalf of the team and then they can make these, man, they're happy. So, we had to quickly find other... That's when we just kept going. Best Buy gave us the leverage to establish ourselves at that time in narrow casting and digital out of home. We were very early and one of the hardest things was to see how our company was actually pioneer in that, content for that.


David Allen Moss:

All the custom programming and things we had to do to get stuff to the screen, that the financial history and legacy of the company ended up just ruining all that. And then the whole company just collapsed. I left before that, but it's too bad. Because you can have people that are so visionary, but when you're on the bleeding edge, you take a lot of lumps. That's why Apple's always been so smart. They let other companies come out with these things, and then they do the David Bowie. They're like, "We could do that. We could do a little better." And then they do it and here comes the iPod.


Dusty Weis:

Looking back at the experience now with all the years of hindsight that you have shaped the way that you interact with clients or the way that you lead your team, as now the CCO at Evergreen Podcast.


David Allen Moss:

Yes. I try to always bring humor into the... I mean, come on, we're not saving lives. People get really intense about their work. I had a strange encounter with a friend of my stepdaughters yesterday. He comes from some marketing group. He runs some kind of call center for some Software as a Service out of San Francisco and he moved back because he's from Cleveland. He says, "I brought my San Francisco salary with me, but I live here now." He says, "Well, what do you do?" I said, "Well, I'm a creative director by trade. That's what I've done for almost 20 years." He's like, "Oh, yeah, well, I mean, what? For an agency? I mean, like really?" Kid, I didn't how to approach it because it's not a game.


David Allen Moss:

You want people to believe in it. The best thing about podcasters is it's easy to get passionate about good storytelling. And then I get to work with the team that puts the right messaging around that. So, that hopefully, these stories will connect with audience, because that's the hardest thing for me right now. We have all these shows, a lot of small networks and growing networks. We've got these shows, but you just never quite know where that audience is. It's a little different.


Dusty Weis:

I've found that very often, especially in a corporate setting, that there are people who get excited about storytelling for storytelling's sake and want to be good and true to the story and want to, more than anything, serve a listener or serve their audience, serve the reader, whomever that might be.


David Allen Moss:

Sure.


Dusty Weis:

And then there are people who take very much the sort of shortcut mentality of "All right, well, let's take the most direct route to the sale." Very often those are people who were in a position of power. Selling those people on the need to take the sort of circuitous and creative route of storytelling and serving your audience without giving them a "But Now" button right in their face every single minute, it can be kind of an uphill battle sometimes. Have you found the same? How do you translate the value of what you do as a storyteller into something that appeals to someone whose primary focus is on making the payroll?


David Allen Moss:

Oh my gosh, not every company, and you know this, not every brand needs a podcast. So, let's start there. Because some are thinking, "Oh, maybe we should have a podcast. We own this really innovative dumpster company. We should talk about dumpsters."


Dusty Weis:

Not a lot of people are going to listen to a podcast about dumpsters.


David Allen Moss:

No, well, that's the thing. It's our challenge as creatives to say, "Well, what's the real story? Is it the history of trash, or is it the history of remodeling? Is it something sort of related to your industry? We can't make it just about that." We had an early project with a light bulb company. Well, they weren't a light bulb company. They were an innovation company. They would go into large retrofits and they'd say, "We can go here. We can do here. We can do solar." LED was the big thing. Here's also how you can get your fleet of stores. We can give you software that will be able to give you the data, but none of that's going to be really that interesting on a podcast.


David Allen Moss:

But on the other side of that, if they do talk about what they know and 50 people listen, and one of those people is a buyer at Kroger. They put them on the approved vendor list, and they get a $5-million retrofit project out of it, that's a great marketing investment. That's cheap.


David Allen Moss:

So, I think it's up for us to see where the real story is and that it can't just be podcast for podcast sake on that case. I do have a problem with going back to this young man who wondered if I was a real creative director, which I would say I chortle. I thought he was being churlish. There is a predisposition in the agency community. I like to call it playing house. There's a lot of gamesmanship. There's a lot of disingenuous or let's just call it false bravado about where you are position wise in the organization. There's a ton of hierarchy still, it's not flat.


David Allen Moss:

I find that a lot of people in the agency environment puts so much of that bravado out in front that I just really can't, in many cases, get through that veneer and really even believe that they're really that creative. I just don't. So, part of that is I've always played the gap between production, design technology. I've never been somebody that the agency will quite understand, because I've been able to play in all those spaces. So, I ended up just making my own path.


Dusty Weis:

Well, what I really respect about that is that your approach of not judging somebody by their job title, but judging somebody by the body of their work, it's not easy. It takes a lot of effort on your part to really understand a person for their creative chops. But by that same token, I've always really been a lot more impressed by a creative person side projects than I ever have been by their job title, if that makes sense. Because side projects are, by definition, extracurricular and it's not something that anybody's making you sit down and do it, something that you do for the love of it. It's something that you do because there's something inside you that you need to get out.


David Allen Moss:

Sure.


Dusty Weis:

An itch that the day job doesn't scratch, essentially. So, when I first met you almost a year ago now at Podcast Movement, one thing that impressed me right out the gate is you're a guy that has a lot of side projects. You want to tell me a little bit about Mossom and the new content that you guys have been putting out into the world?


David Allen Moss:

Sure. Mossom is a high energy prog rock, hard rock duo. I met a young man by the name of Russ Herbert at my wife's high school reunion. He's a very proficient drummer. We started playing. We actually were playing with one of my old colleagues from EDR Media, who was the audio director there. For one reason or another, we just had to part ways. So, here we were with the bass and drum combo about a year into it. People saying, "Listen, I don't think you guys need anything else, I think you can make this just the two of you." So, we just went for it.


David Allen Moss:

Like I said, I've been in bands in Bloomington, but there were things that I unsettled. I put music down for good 10 years to start my family and go through all this fun and games with the big clients and stuff. Once I got a taste of it again, it was like, "Oh, I need this. This is for my soul. This is for my soul." So, it's a place where I can do creative that then recharges the other creative.


David Allen Moss:

I think what can happen with burnout is that you're in one type of work and it's taking all of your mojo. If you don't have something complimentary to that or something that actually recharges the other, so you can have different creative pursuits all at once. They should kind of recharge one another. If they're taking away, if they're kind of pulling you too far apart, then something's not right with the mix.


Dusty Weis:

I think that's one of the biggest pitfalls that creatives can fall into is not carving out a little time in your schedule. It doesn't have to be much. It doesn't have to be something that you do every night or something like that. But just falling into the daily grind with something that you have to be passionate about, not having anything on the side that you just get to have fun with. When your passion becomes the only way that you're winning bread for your family, it puts you in a dangerous position of coming to resent it over the time. So, just find those ways to recharge those batteries. I did enjoy my dalliance into the work of Mossom recently. I hope these are compliments to you when I say them. I heard a little bit of rage. They're a little bit of Dream Theater and maybe a little bit of Primus coming out.


David Allen Moss:

You sure did.


Dusty Weis:

I enjoyed everything that I heard there.


David Allen Moss:

I don't know he remembers meeting me, but I met Les Claypool back in the '90s-


Dusty Weis:

No way, really?


David Allen Moss:

... at a H.O.R.D.E. Festival. He was just what I thought he'd be. He's like, "What's going on, man?" He's sitting around, he'd been out jamming. They had a little side stage. There was this something I remember, everybody's starstruck and one guy's like, "Whose name was that?" Well, that's my mom. Why you got your mom's name on your shirt, man? He was just like quick, quick, quick jabbing. Yeah.


Dusty Weis:

Like any polymath, David has made his way through a number of creative ventures in the years since his time at American Greetings and EDR. His dabbling in entrepreneurialism eventually led him to accept the role of Chief Creative Officer at Evergreen Podcasts in Cleveland. They're a podcast production house and distribution network, which yes, they're technically competition for my business, Podcamp Media. We have slightly different business models and aesthetic approaches, but we do court similar clients.


Dusty Weis:

But no, I'm not really threatened by that. I see David and the folks at Evergreen more as kindred spirits, creative folks doing great work in a corporate world and always open to collaboration if it advances the telling of a great story. David, who's been at this longer than I have, says that's something that's still unique about the fledgling world of professional podcasting.


David Allen Moss:

I'm super impressed with our community. I think it's one of the more genuine and open communities in media. There's a lot of envy from established media. That's why you see so many of the established media getting into the game, because they know if you get it right, it's a pretty sweet spot.


Dusty Weis:

It's been great catching up, man. Thanks for making the time.


David Allen Moss:

Yeah, man. Super good, really grateful to be on your show. I'm happy for you. I love the Lead Balloon. I could it got me thinking about things. Honestly, those fire drills and those all-nighters, those are actually the good memories. You're going through them and your skin's on fire, but they're actually the things that really make you more humble and more resilient to keep reinventing, because that's what we have to do in media. We have to keep reinventing all the time.


Dusty Weis:

I tell folks that if it weren't for those experiences where I really truly thought that I was not going to make it through, physically-


David Allen Moss:

Physically.


Dusty Weis:

... or spiritually, if not for those experiences, I wouldn't be half the professional that I am today, because it's not until you're tested that you really know where your limits are.


Dusty Weis:

Thanks for joining us on another episode of Lead Balloon, which is produced by Podcamp Media, where we provide branded podcast production solutions for businesses. Check out our website, podcampmedia.com. We're on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn for the extra stuff. We bring you new tales from the world of PR and marketing disasters each month on Lead Balloon, so please subscribe to our show on your favorite app. I'll end on this.


Dusty Weis:

It's been a weird summer, both long and short in its own ways, but I'm grateful for the opportunities that I've had to get out and enjoy some social distancing friendly activities. I can say this. I did a little bit of kayaking this past weekend. I took my two-year-old out and he was sitting in my lap. We got out onto the water and I was paddling along. I cracked open my beer and then I realized I don't have a cup holder in this kayak.


David Allen Moss:

Oh no. What?


Dusty Weis:

What am I going to do with the beer?


David Allen Moss:

What kind of kayak are you using here? They call it a dryak!


Dusty Weis:

I looked at the little blonde towhead sitting in my lap and I said, "Henry, you want to hold daddy's beer for him?" He went, "Yeah, give me, give me, give me."


David Allen Moss:

We have a-


Dusty Weis:

Problem solved.


David Allen Moss:

But it's also sort of a passing of the torch kind of a moment for you.


Dusty Weis:

I hope you and yours continue into the fall with your health and some semblance of your sanity intact. Here's to a warm fall and a short winter quarantine. Until the next time, folks. Thanks for listening. I'm Dusty Weis.




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