The brand steward: Beyond the Brief featuring Skip Tramontana, Innocean

Skip Tramontana, Innocean creative director

Innocean creative director Skip Tramontana treats every brief like a football is being handed off to him: secure the insight, dodge any obstacle, and always push the creative to a first down.

It helps that Tramontana spent some of the early stages of his career as a professional running back. But let’s talk about some of his touchdowns in the industry, shall we? Tramontana started his career as a writer for small shop Upshot before an MVP-like stint at DDB that included penning the iconic line “Dude, you’re getting a Dell!” as well as being part of the McDonald’s “I’m loving it” campaign.

Since then, he’s helped agencies like Commonground, Leo Burnett, and Rockskip, doing work for Allstate and Kellogg’s. Once arriving at Innocean’s Chicago office in 2014, he got his chance to play quarterback, turning the smaller, “sleepier” outpost of the LA-based agency into an agency to look out for in the Midwest. One of the major highlights so far? Turning around sales in the Midwest for main client Hyundai, as well as unifying its voice with the rest of the nation’s messaging.

When he’s not drawing up plays for his clients’ success, Tramontana splits time between SoCal and Chicago with his 6 year-old daughter and (very occasionally) thinks of ways to work with Adam West or ESPN. A playmaker who’s bringing a winning mentality to his agency and clients, Tramontana’s got a gift of living beyond the brief.

If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?

If I were offered the opportunity to go back in time and start all over again, I would comport myself with the full understanding that I am the steward of my own brand, and the captain of my own destiny.

The moment you knew you wanted to be in advertising.

It's the mid 90s, and I'm playing pool with a bunch of burly offensive linemen who kept saying "Ginger was a bimbo." in throaty whispers after every shot. They were quoting a line in a Budweiser commercial (directed by Michael Bay, as it turned out) that was running at the time. That's when I realized that advertising impacted culture.

What is the least pleasant aspect of your job, and why?

Watching an opportunity get squandered, and knowing that the magical intersection of brand, positioning, target, market needs and cultural point in time will never be crossed again.

How would you define “A life well-lived”?

Leaving your mark.

What’s your passion outside of advertising?

Telling stories... and listening.

What is the most spontaneous thing you’ve done lately—or ever?

After I was cut by a professional football team, I drove across the country and back, living in my truck for two months while I explored and contemplated the next phase of my life.

To celebrate its 100th Anniversary, the 4A’s has partnered with us at The Drum to pull back the curtain and look at an industry full of problem solvers, creative types and analytical minds. But what keeps them going once the briefs are written, the campaigns executed, and the pitches won (or lost)? We’re interviewing 100 people at 4A’s member agencies — across all disciplines, levels, regions, and agency types — to get a glimpse into what drives them at work and what fuels them in life.

See the industry pros we're featuring here.

To pitch someone from a 4A's member agency for Beyond the Brief, please complete this linked form.

Bennett Bennett

Bennett D. Bennett is a staff writer at The Drum covering agencies, the media landscape, creativity and innovation. An NYC native, MAIP alum and City College of New York grad, Bennett previously was an award-winning copywriter at BBDO New York and lends his unique perspective and voice to The Drum's editorial staff. Previously a member of the Adcolor Advisory Board, he currently sits on the AAF's Mosaic Next-Generation Leadership Council and the 4As Steering Committee.

All by Bennett