For over 40 years, John Auge has counseled thousands of senior executives, top government officials as well as both large and small business owners throughout the country. An innovative designer and skillful artist, John specializes in corporate communications, branding, and identity. John has worked with high-profile clients such as The White House, The Washington Post, Texaco, WV Chamber of Commerce, Appalachian Power, various associations, banks, and hospitals.
He also developed materials for three West Virginia gubernatorial inaugurations and created the West Virginia’s 150th Birthday event graphics. John is the recipient of industry awards for his work as well as the prestigious West Virginia 2016 Governor’s Award for the Arts and the AAFWV (American Advertising Federation West Virginia) Chapter’s Lifetime Achievement Award. He has received countless accolades from numerous clients for his ability to creatively enhance their brands and helping to deliver unparalleled results.
Michael Lynch: What is the work environment like in your agency?
John Auge: I would describe it as an intense collaboration on a daily basis and bouncing ideas off and doing some deep dives, some real immersion into what the client may need, versus what they say they need. It's a lot of analysis and it's a lot of strategic planning that goes into fulfilling a deliverable for a client. For our office, too, it's completely open work space so we're constantly interacting with each other or maybe yelling down the hall to others but it's a model I think that serves us well and works... really, we call ourselves a collective works, and it's really because do we have a collective of people that may specialize in video or photography or writing or web, and we bring them in and they become part of the team, as we need those resources. We are working together to deliver a product or marketing plan if you will, and making sure that that's hitting everything that's needed. We're also often involved in measuring results clients are really looking for that.
ML: Have you ever had a client demand you go in a direction you felt uncomfortable with, and exactly what did you do in that situation?
JA: Having been in the field for a while, sometimes we know right away that where a client may want to go may not be the best fit. Sometimes you just have to find a way to bring them back to center. I'm not a proponent of bulldozing, like saying this is it, and take it or we're out of here. It's really about creating a solid rationale so that they see where they may be better served with the end product, that helps educate them. We all like to be educated, whether we're buying something we like to know where it came from, we like to know any kind of details about who made it. I think that same thing is at play with a creative product, creative services, is let them learn about the process, and often times that helps. Then, there are those times that you just have to say, you know what, that's not right, let’s part ways. That's happened very few times in my career, but you realize the chemistry and shared goals and shared engagement is just not going to be there.
ML: If you were giving advice to a student today, what would you suggest? What path might you think they should best take to fit into the marketing world?
JA: I would have to say that we're really doing some heavy lifting, hard work. This is a business that requires a lot of stamina, whatever role they're playing in terms of marketing, whether on the creative or account side, they've got to realize that this is a pretty intense field, and a lot of people come into thinking, you know, it has sort of an allure to it. I think you want to compliment your educational experiences, compliment writing skills with business, and so you gain a full understanding. And, of course, understanding the whole digital environment has eclipsed a lot of traditional media.
ML: Is marketing an art or science?
JA: I would have to say that it is a wonderful balance of art and science in that the methodology and the availability of data today has strengthened that union between creativity and science, and they're joined at the hip. It's a wonderful thing because, as I said, it could validate or quantify or qualify the approach, and it's essential. If you're not embracing that side of the agency deliverable, you ought to be, because I think it's imperative to blend it.
ML: For some of the projects you've taken on, which have you felt were most substantial or most interesting?
JA: I would say the first is the White House Holiday Club Brochure. I created the actual print piece that was used as people came to the White House for the holiday tour, and that was during the Clinton administration. And it was a great experience to pull all that together and work with the social director for Mrs. Clinton. I remember the day that that opportunity came up, and my knees were knocking. I was there probably an hour before the meeting sitting out front of the White House. I came in with some rough ideas, and they really liked them.
Not that long ago we had the opportunity to rebrand Dulles and Reagan National Airport. That was an expensive process, a lot of testing, a lot of meetings, but it's great to fly into those airports and see the branding at work. That's the cool thing about this business, you get to do some deep dives into different industries' organizations. We had a chance to work on the West Virginia 150 celebration, and that was providing all the graphics on that.
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