Kevin Kearns, Creative Director
Company Name: Duke Medicine; Duke University Medical Center
I was a graphic design major in college (Miami University in Oxford, Ohio) and had a chance to be involved with a program called Laws, Hall & Associates, a student run ad agency that serviced real, paying clients. I loved it so much, I took the class three times, and ended up becoming President my senior year. After graduation, I packed my portfolio and drove to Chicago to interview at DDB Needham for an internship in the direct mail department (back then the basement of advertising). I landed the internship and took every opportunity that came my way, and three months later, I was hired full-time as a junior art director.
An important opportunity was when Nancy Rice (legendary creative director who, in 2006, was inducted into the Hall of Fame by the New York Art Director’s Club) asked me to join her group which was producing national print and TV for Discover Card and Tyson Foods. I learned from a lot from Nancy, but the most important was realizing the dedication and passion needed to be successful in advertising and learn how to draw inspiration from everything and everyone around me. I worked at DDB for over twelve years, the last seven being spent on Anheuser-Busch (Budweiser and Bud Light), McDonalds and Cars.com creating commercials, some of which ran on the Super bowl.
I moved to Raleigh, North Carolina, in 2005 to become the Creative Director of a small marketing agency (23 people) with the goal of growing the client base and competing on a national scale. I really wanted to be a part of the next Chiat Day, or CPB. But, after 18 months I got frustrated with the owners not wanting to move fast enough to capitalize on opportunities, and left to freelance in the local market. I found Duke Medicine as a client and helped develop an internal campaign for them. After the project ended, they asked me to join the group as Creative Director, and I’ve been there since.
I am currently also an Adjunct Professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) where I teach advertising art direction and integrated campaign development.
What is the best thing about working in house?
I have the ability to continuously refine and develop one brand. You don’t develop a brand campaign with the thought that it will stay that way forever. A brand evolves and changes, and I get the chance to position our brand with what’s going on around it culturally, politically, and creatively.
What types of projects does you department do?
We work on pretty much everything. In the last year, we’ve added environmental design, interior design, and experience design to our mix of print, television, web and publications work. We just finished (it’s never really finished) our Brand Standards, and are looking at all the online and social media opportunities to push our brand.
What keeps you motivated and inspired in your job?
I am inspired by new challenges and opportunities. And when you work for a large healthcare company like Duke Medicine, a day doesn’t go by without a new creative challenge. I also enjoy bringing creative people together. We have participated and sponsored several events in our area that attract in-house and agency creatives, where the discussions focus on various topics, such as creative process, staying inspired, management strategies, and others.
What do you consider the biggest success of your in-house career?
That I am still effective (and needed!) in helping to create strong ideas that connect with our audiences. I would have thought that the corporate creative world would have become boring, make me a rank-and-file creative. But it hasn’t. It has done the opposite. I come into work (most days) filled with new ideas and am excited to share them and the group.
What are you currently reading, watching and listening to?
Just finished Outliers by Malcom Gladwell
Celebration, U.S.A. by Douglas Somebody and Catherine Somebody
wwtdd.com (guilty pleasure)
So You Think You Can Dance
Whatever my wife got from Netflix
The Daily Show with John Stewart
The new Black Eye Peas