How do you stay current?
FREE RICHARDSON I think it always goes back to staying authentic and storytelling. Everybody has a story, and you can tell it through A.I., pictures, music, all the creative elements. Look at the NFT [nonfungible token] world. It came, and though it’s not gone, the whole time, I was like, I’m still going to go with touchable, feel-able art. Authenticity within. Look at a tree. The leaves will die before the root of the tree dies. A lot of things are happening through technology, and a lot of things are going to happen, but I don’t know anything that is bigger than the Mona Lisa. No matter what happens in technology, the root of creativity will always be around.
PHIL CHO The root of what we are is: It’s always been about relationships. When I walk into the Compound, and I see all this artwork, like Jonni Cheatwood, and you see how long it took for them to come up with these ideas and wasn’t A.I.-generated, I feel like that’s what drives more value.
RICHARDSON Yeah, I think it’s a lot of relationships. That’s with everything. The two things in life are communication and relationships. If we don’t communicate, you can’t make the relationship. Creativity is a revolving door. I still work with people that I worked with 20 years ago. It’s the reason we still hear Fleetwood Mac and Marvin Gaye songs in the same rotation that you hear Drake. And so when things are authentic and true, the creativity never goes away.
How are you navigating challenges and opportunities facing the advertising industry?
RICHARDSON I think the ratio of African Americans and Asians is very small. I don’t blame everything on race, but I think it’s a tougher role for me and Phil being a minority, because there’s not a lot of dominance of minorities in the advertising agency world, especially with Fortune 500 companies, C-suite level and businesses, especially small ones. [According to a 2022 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics survey, of workers in “advertising, public relations, and related services,” 7.8 percent were African American and 6.6 percent were Asian American.] We’re kind of small, SWAT-style — boutique-small.