by: Scott Goodson

Matt Ingwalson, is the founder of the Colorado 50, a new creative awards show that highlights the coolest, best, most interesting and innovative communications work out of the region. The adworld is fragmenting, new sprouts of brilliance are popping up in the huge evergreen underbrush of the advertising forest.

Tell me about your life? 

I was raised in Denver. I moved away to go to the Creative Circus. When I got out in March of 2000, they warned me that if I decided to go back home, I might not be able to find the opportunities that I'd get in New York or San Francisco. But I love Denver, so I decided to make the best of it.

Tell me about your career?

For the first few years, I hated the Internet. In 2004 I started blogging about politics, sports and marketing. Just diving in and doing it taught me a sick amount about social media. Karsh\Hagan is a TBWA\ agency, and the Media Arts mindset frees me to do a lot of blogging, mobile marketing and storytelling that I couldn't before, in addition to creating print, broadcast and online content.

Stuff no one knows about?

Last year, I helped develop a new award show named The Denver 50. Instead of doing the ADDYs, the New Denver Ad Club decided to invent an award show designed for the modern advertising landscape. Our biggest innovations were erasing categories and broadening the definition of "advertising idea." I'm very proud of the fact we got Kevin Roddy, Rob Rasmussen, Mike Byrne and Mike Lescarbeau to judge. So far for 2008, we've got Ty Montague, Gareth Kay and you, Scott. There's never been a local show with that strong a panel.

Great people and work?

One of the best campaigns no one knows about is Cactus' anti-smoking campaign, OwnYourC. When I first saw the work Crispin did in Florida before Truth went national, I thought they'd killed the category. But Cactus found a third way into the story. They've talked to teens in joyful terms about the magic of creating your life. They also developed a sweet mobile quitting tool. It's cool stuff.

Where's it all heading?

In the past, the media decided what music was worth producing, what shows were worth seeing, what art was important. Those filters failed. But they were trying to perform an important service, because there's way too much content created every day for any normal person to sort through. There's a rush to find trusted bloggers, social networks, or anyone else who can create or identify relevant, cool content. Brands have an opportunity to provide that service.

What defines you professionally?

I remember reading an essay about how the rich write themselves out of history so the poor won't have anyone to rebel against. And I thought, "Oh my god, whether they're right or wrong, that's a huge idea and I'm so happy I found it." I hear maybe one idea that big in a year. Finding stuff like that is a blast.

Who are your heroes in life?

Blind skiers. The courage there is astounding. And it's sort of a nice analogy to what advertising is like right now. Planners can be our guides and culture can be our gravity, but creatives are the ones who have to get out there and take risks.

Five years from now, who will survive and thrive and who will die?

Even though everybody is worried about the changing landscape, the fact is there's still an enormous amount of crap being done. I think anybody with taste, talent and brains will find a way to survive. To thrive, you have to have all that, plus the courage to pursue ideas that may get you in a huge amount of trouble.

The people who are going to die are going to be the ones whose attitudes are based on cynicism and fear. For instance, if you're a broadcast art director and you say, "Oh crap, TV is dying, let's go fret," you're screwed. But I really believe that if you're a broadcast art director and you say to yourself, "I produce great video content and there'll always be a place for that," you'll be fine.

Greatest lessons?

When you talk to creative directors who move to Denver from larger markets, their gripe is usually not the talent pool, but the work ethic. I don't know if it's the greatest lesson ever, but if you want to have a career here, you can go far just by putting the pedal down and keeping it there.

What are the greatest challenges for the ad/marcomms industry?

Defining for new clients how we will approach their business problems. I’m always reading in AdWeek about clients who demand new ways to connect with consumers. But I haven't seen much of that here. Far more often, I see creatives intuitively going after business opportunities and being shut down by clients who want to know where their damn ad is. Maybe that's just a function of working in a mid-market city. I know we have problems preparing our clients for the idea that we might not come back with an ad. Different agencies are finding new ways into this - Analog Folk and Zeus Jones are two that spring to mind.

I also think it's important to redefine award shows, even at the local level. The shows have value. They raise the bar and keep creative current. But if they don't find a way to award storytelling, planning and integration, they're going to have trouble surviving. And that'll be bad for everyone.

What are you up to now?

Just working like crazy, trying to get myself as many at-bats as possible.

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