Mick Sutter

Capitol Communicator is running a series featuring in-depth profiles of communicators in the mid-Atlantic.  In this “Up Close and Personal” profile, we feature Mick Sutter. Photography for Capitol Communicator’s profile series is by Cade Martin. Wardrobe styling by Pascale Lemaire for THE Artist Agency; and hair and makeup was by Patti D Nelson and Janice Kinigopoulos for THE Artist Agency.

Mick, please provide us a short bio.

I got my start inauspiciously, as a receptionist at a small business-to-government agency out by Dulles airport. For a while, I took a combination of airport and hotel shuttles to get to work each day because I couldn’t afford a car. And while I managed to get promoted to junior copywriter there, I got laid off soon after.  I hopped around to a couple of other small shops without much success for the next couple of years. I was about to give up on the DMV altogether and go to ad school when I landed a copywriter position at the DC office of the Boston-based ad agency Arnold Worldwide. What I thought was going to be a couple-year stint lasted over 10 as I rose to SVP/Creative Director. I left just before the office itself closed. A handful of Arnold expats were already over at the Pappas Group, and Anthony Pappas took me on board as well. For the next two years, I was sheep-dipped in digital. When Pappas sold to DMI, I left for Brooklyn-based digital agency Huge which had recently opened up shop here and now I’m Group Creative Director.

What are the things you are most proud of?

The things I’m most proud of are all personal. But professionally? Hm. Well, people give me a hard time because, instead of enjoying my successes, I’m usually haunted by what could have been done better. I joke that I look forward to meeting my own standards one day. But the work we do at Huge has been particularly gratifying and humbling. Getting to partner with clients like the Obama Administration, Department of Education, National College Access Network and Everytown for Gun Safety gives you extra motivation because you know your work will have impact on a societal scale, not just a monetary one. And, especially with social, you can see that impact immediately. For example, we manage a campaign for Pfizer called Get Old that combats ageism. On Valentine’s Day, we launched a video about an atypical love story. It’s at five million views, which is great, but more inspiring are the comments the video has gotten. It allows you to see with your own eyes that you’re making a difference. That your work matters.

Who are your personal role models?

Professionally speaking, I’d say I have three big ones: Bruce Campbell, Francis Sullivan and Woody Kay. Bruce, who is currently ECD over at ICF International, I met at that receptionist job I mentioned. He was my first art director partner. But, more importantly, he was something of a big brother to me over those first few bumpy years out of college. I had admired Francis’ work long before I had the honor to learn my craft from him at Arnold, and I still consider him hands-down the best writer in DC. That he was a great boss and manager was just gravy. And then being able to luck into working for a world-class CCO like Woody here in DC was a godsend. I was doing award-winning work before, but Woody took the DC office of Arnold to the next level.

Did your role models offer professional advice that helped you in your career?

Each taught me mostly by example. Bruce showed me what a trusting creative partnership could and should be—collaborative, respectful, fun, loose and, above all else, supportive. Teams should have each other’s backs no matter what. Both successes and failures should be shared equally. Francis taught me how to write. He taught me how to identify the best concept. He taught me how far you have to push to get past the cliché and expected – and it’s really fucking far, by the way. Above all else, Francis built an incredible creative team back in the day. If I can foster half the sense of pride, camaraderie and dedication among my teams as Francis did, I’ll be way ahead of the game. Woody was pretty uncompromising. No detail would be lost on him. Your creative exploration had to be thorough and attention to detail exact or he’d find the flaws in your work and pull it apart. At times it felt unnecessarily agonizing, but what he was really doing was making sure the work was not only great but bulletproof.  Both he and Francis were exceptional at criticizing the work without making you feel like complete shit too. While I often felt like I had failed, I never, personally, felt like a failure. There’s a big difference. It’s a combination of critique and support that’s tough to do.

What professional advice do you have for others?

For younger creatives, identify the work out there that most inspires you, then learn more about the people who did it and how they did it. If possible, work for them. You’ll never be happy if you’re working for someone you don’t respect. That said, be really careful about who you look down your nose at too. If anyone wants to work with you or hire you, hear them out. Even if the position isn’t the right fit, it’s an honor to be asked. Treat it as such. Looking back, I’m pretty sure I missed out on a handful of great opportunities simply because I wasn’t open to them. Lastly, find somewhere you can be passionate about your work. It’s that passion and investment in your craft that’s going to carry your career forward. It leaves an impression. Clients are buying your faith in the work as much as the work itself. Speaking of clients, if you find one who appreciates what you do, do everything you can for them. Follow them. Make them heroes. Good clients are hard to find. And we’re nothing without them.

What’s on your Spotify and Pandora playlists?

I’m more of a podcast / NPR One kind of guy.

What’s your favorite restaurant?

In DC, it’s Little Serow. But as far neighborhood spots go, my wife and I drag our kids to Taqueria el Poblano at least a couple times a month. We haven’t found a better margarita in the area.

Is there anything else you would like us to know about you?

Get one of those margaritas in me, and I’ll tell you more.

One Response

  1. JS Polsinelli

    What a great interview. Really like how you talked about Francis and Woody as mentors and how they helped evolve your craft.

    Reply

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