The Business Courier released its annual list of top marketing and advertising firms with Curiosity ranking tenth in the Cincinnati region! Accompanying the list was an interview with Curiosity president Matt Fischer, which sheds some light on his background in the advertising industry as well as his approach to hiring at the agency. See below for details on the interview!
Matt Fischer, president and creative director of fast-growing Curiosity Advertising, says he’ll schedule an interview with anybody who has the gumption to ask about working at the downtown Cincinnati agency. That’s a reflection of his own experience in what can be a bruising business.
In 2001, the same year he won acclaim for crafting a Super Bowl commercial for Tropicana, the large New York firm where he worked was acquired by another company. He was let go.
“That was a Friday afternoon,” Fischer said. “On Tuesday, 9/11 happened. It was just a complete game-changer.”
He couldn’t find another full-time job for a year and a half. In 2003, he landed in Cincinnati as creative director of WonderGroup, an agency where his longtime friend Greg Livingston was a partner.
He and Livingston went on to form Curiosity Advertising in 2010. Ranked at No. 10 on the Courier’s list of largest ad agencies, the firm now has 52 employees and five positions to fill.
Fischer talked about the firm’s effort to create a culture that promotes creativity and teamwork, which he said is key to its success.
Are you only as good as your hires?
Absolutely. We have a policy where we will interview any person who contacts us. We will give them at least a half hour. You never know what the tide is going to bring in. And secondly, these people, it takes courage to reach out and say, “Will you take a look at me?” I think that’s the kind of culture we’re trying to build. If they’re not ready or right for us, we need to tell them what they need to do.
What kind of people do you hire?
People who are passionate for learning new things all the time. And mentors.
Do you use the office pingpong or foosball tables?
Not really. There are times when the leaders need to let the staff do their thing. I think you have to give them their space. They’ll let you know when they want you to participate. I have a pingpong table at home and play a lot there.
Any other office toys?
We have a keg. There’s usually some kind of craft beer in there. People are responsible. We’ve not had any problems. We put a lock on it (after hours) because one night I came back to the office after dinner and found the cleaning crew having a darn good time.
Why did you put your staff through a Thriving with Stress program?
To teach them not to try to eliminate stress but to manage it more effectively and communicate better when they are under stress because we are a deadline-driven company. Everybody thinks they handle stress really well, but the truth is nobody does. You have to take a step back. … I think it transformed us as a company and made us much better.
How much did your first job pay?
About $7,800 a year. The advertising industry has a history of starting people very low and seeing who can cut it. Luckily, I was living at home. I think just taking the bus in and out of New York City spent the majority of that money.
How do you recharge during the business day?
I’m a big people person. I will get up and go talk to somebody about what’s going on in their lives. That helps me deflect against whatever I’m thinking my problems are.
I do spin classes three days a week and then treadmill or NordicTrack. And I play a lot of golf.
A very lousy 19. I belong to a group called the Mediocre Golf Association. It’s for guys with handicaps between 15 and 30. Business leaders, lawyers, truck drivers. We have a tournament once a month. We play at public courses all around Cincinnati. Our motto is: We Kinda Suck. I find that refreshing to be around people who don’t take it all seriously.
Arcadia Bluffs Golf Club in Arcadia, Mich. It’s on a bluff above Lake Michigan. Incredibly challenging because of the wind but spectacularly beautiful.
If you could master a language overnight, what would it be?
French. I took it in high school, and I was lousy. When we go to France, I try to fake my way through. My kids laugh at me. Quite liberally. All the time. We like to laugh a lot in our family.
Title: President and chief creative officer, Curiosity Advertising
Family: Anne, wife of 33 years; son Matt Jr.; daughters Mary Jane and Libby
Born: Aurora, Ill
Grew up: Montclair, N.J.
Education: Bachelor’s in fine arts/painting from DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind., 1982
Background: Founded Curiosity Advertising with Greg Livingston, chief development officer, in January 2010; president of WonderGroup in Cincinnati; group creative director at FCB New York; senior creative director at BBDO; senior creative director at Hill Holiday; senior art director at Y&R Brands; senior art director at DDB; started in 1982 as studio artist at Needham, Harper & Steers Advertising.