March 16, 2022
Bradley Eshbach Joins Creative Energy Executive Leadership Team
Creative Energy has recently hired Bradley Eshbach as their new VP and Managing Director at the agency. Bradley brings a wealth of experience and knowledge in the market and advertising strategy that he’s cultivated over his successful career at large agencies in Chicago, IL. His roots, however, are right here in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, and he’s very excited to leverage his skills to bring global brands the kind of insights and strategies that can best be developed in a heartland community like Johnson City, TN.
We had an opportunity to sit down with Bradley and learn more about his vision for the agency and his passion for helping brands find their “unfair advantage” in the marketplace.
Creative Energy: Tell me a little about your experience growing up in the Johnson City area, and how you think that impacted your perspective as a professional?
Bradley: I often tell people that I didn’t fully identify as a southerner until I left the South. I definitely didn’t understand what it meant to be from Appalachia until I spent a considerable amount of time not surrounded by these mountains. One fun thing I learned is that the stereotypes often associated with our region can actually be used to your advantage. I am 100% fine with someone underestimating me due to my drawl. It means they will for sure remember me once I blow their mind with a smart strategic idea or way to solve their problem.
Creative Energy: What were some of the early roles and experiences you had at large agencies in concentrated industry cities like Chicago? What were your expectations and goals in working within these highly regarded firms?
Bradley: Agencies always fascinated me. A place where technology, creativity, culture, and interesting people come together? No agency, team, client, or project is the same. Sometimes the focus is to sell a product, sometimes to start a movement, sometimes just to have fun. Especially at the beginning of my career, I pushed myself to work across as many categories, audiences, and types of clients as I possibly could. Over time, I have learned that most clients are navigating strikingly similar problems no matter their industry. But agencies (even ones doing the same work for the same client across the street from each other) all have drastically different processes and cultures; Completely different rules of the road, expectations, and reasons to believe.
Creative Energy: How did the experiences working on large brand accounts grow you as a professional, and what were some of the biggest takeaways from those experiences?
Bradley: Big accounts come with big budgets and clients that are often trying to make a name for themselves. It’s also the best opportunity to do something that your friends and/or your aunt Leslie might recognize and even understand. And of course, there is an incredible mix of fun and fear that comes with being handed the reins of an iconic brand or beloved product and charged with charting a path forward. Getting to work on brands I’ve loved my whole life (like Gushers, SlimJim, or Coca-Cola) always feels special.
Creative Energy: Were there any challenges to the big agency ecosystem that you had to overcome or adjust to?
Bradley: The amount of time big agencies spend trying to find a universal way of working that can apply to ALL clients in ALL countries is just insanity. It’s a race to the lowest common denominator. Our industry loves to focus on “universal human truths” that resonate with everyone—or strategic/creative/production frameworks intended to work as flawlessly in Chicago as it does in London, Paris, AND Jakarta. Another way of putting it: I’m tired of seeing great brands being delivered lackluster work because their agency team is relying on (often by force) a strategic approach or creative process that only exists to fuel a pitch, acquisition, or new venture somewhere else in the parent company.
Creative Energy: What were the biggest factors that led you to decide to move back to Johnson City during the height of the pandemic?
Bradley: Our lives essentially shut down in March 2020. I went from traveling nearly weekly for work to being home every day. At the exact same time, my wife, Lora, had to shutter her thriving event space in Chicago. When our lease came up for renewal that summer and we debated what neighborhood we’d move to next, I thought a porch swing in the Smoky Mountains was a hard option to beat. My family is here in Johnson City. We got married in Jonesborough. I truly feel thankful every day that I had such a special place and evolving community to come back to.
Creative Energy: When you first moved back you were still working remotely for a large agency, right? What did you learn through that new format that helped you to develop new skills to effectively engage with your team and clients?
Bradley: I could go on about this for hours. When it comes to the shift to remote work, I feel like there is a dividing line: on one side you have people white-knuckling their way through trying to force-fit the ways we worked in person into a tiny box on zoom. “How am I supposed to give feedback if the deck isn’t printed out and hung on the wall?!”
And on the other side are people looking at this as an opportunity to rethink how we deliver incredible work. Do you know how much more productive a meeting is when all 4 people are hands-on-keyboards, jamming together vs. sitting in a room, multitasking?
Creative Energy: What are the biggest things that attracted you to consider a move to a relatively small agency like Creative Energy? What do you see as our greatest assets?
Bradley: I can’t really overstate how big of an opportunity I believe the next 2 to 5 years are for Creative Energy, or any regional agency doing incredible work for clients who love them. The average client relationship at Creative Energy is over a decade—unheard of! Our revenue is 3x that of similar sized and well-publicized shops in places like Chicago. The geographic constraints that for decades limited our talent pool have evaporated, unlocking access to huge cohorts of young, diverse, and dispersed folks across our region/nation. We live in the communities we serve: When I worked in Chicago and wanted to research a new brand, I’d often have to take a train an hour past the suburbs to go to a grocery store that felt representative of how most Americans shop. Now I just go down the street.
Creative Energy: Being back in a smaller city, what have been the things you’ve enjoyed most as a creative professional, and what are the things you miss most about a larger city?
Bradley: Obviously there’s a change in the pace of life. It’s not that it’s slower (I never slow down) but it is for sure less frantic. The long way home from my office was filled with skyscraper mountain ranges protecting hollers of glass and steel. In TN, I love that there are hiking trails ten minutes from my office. I now live and work in one of the most beautiful places in the world. Better yet, I love working with people who come from a different place in their backgrounds and spirit that great work, awesome strategies, and exceptional results come from a small city instead of hollers of glass and steel.
Creative Energy: What do you think are the most important things that Creative Energy should invest in and cultivate as a growing agency in order to gain the attention—and business—of larger clients?
Bradley: As the largest foodservice advertiser in America, Creative Energy and its clients are sitting on a treasure trove of data. We understand more about how the industry considers, decides, and buys than anyone else, full stop. Our brand executives have forgotten more about food service communication than other entire agencies have learned. Turning that unmatched knowledge and expertise into leverageable first-party data, Agency IP, and new approaches to solving our client’s problems are probably the thing I’m most excited about.
Our firm is likewise very good within the CPG food marketing, tourism, healthcare, and financial segments.
I think we’ve got a chance to do something wholly unique and new.
Creative Energy: As a member of the leadership team at Creative Energy, what are the goals you want to personally implement to see the agency expand and diversify its portfolio of clients in the next year or so?
Bradley: We’re going to really blow out our social storytelling and community engagement practice. Our creative team is packed with craft and prowess, and I’d love to find more ways to empower them with data and analytics to ensure we make the smartest decisions we can with our clients’ budgets and our team’s valuable time.
Bradley is available to discuss your brand goals and vision, and help you find the path to bigger audiences. If you’d like to set up some time for a conversation, reach out to us through this link and we’ll be happy to schedule some time!