At 46 years old, Creative Priority CEO Dana Farbo (left) reckons he’s traveled many paths in his professional life, a journey in itself that’s taken him from his rural, Midwestern stomping grounds to Madison Avenue. “I’ve gone through different stages in my life, you have no idea,” the chief exec explains via phone from his interactive agency’s Big Apple headquarters. “I grew up on a large farm in central North Dakota, and got an economics degree from there, then started doing different things, from farming to being a salesperson in Montana and Wyoming, to moving to Minnesota to become a stockbroker.”
It was this whirlwind sales experience that likely provided an easier transition into the advertising world for this former farmhand. By the time Farbo decided to make his last career change, it was an auspicious time for non-traditional media — specifically the advent of the interactive space. “Back in ’95, I was working for American Cyanamid Company, and leading the charge—or I was handed the charge in the relatively unknown area of interactive,” he explains. Farbo spent the next six years helping shape the unknown into a viable marketing medium, first cutting his teeth in communications efforts with American Cyanamid, then taking on VP of Client Services duties for Nethod LLC, a Euro RSCG Company.
But like any other enterprising executive that’s a success story in the space nowadays, Farbo decided to pack up his amassed marketing know-how and strike out on his own. In 2001, Farbo co-founded Creative Priority with creative director/Parsons grad DJ Haddad, but history would dictate it wasn’t the best of times to undertake an entrepreneurial endeavor. “It was an interesting time to start an interactive business, because the bubble was bursting, the balloon was off as they say,” Farbo recalls. “People were scared as hell, and money was starting to dry up.”
Still, Farbo and Haddad took the half-full perspective and dove in anyways. “Our expectations were basically set at that time for how to approach a market from what appeared to be no business and then build a business around that so that we are structurally sound and in a growth position,” Farbo says. “We knew the space real well, and we had great client relationships, so we felt that the future was around interactive.”
It seems to be a recurring theme among the dotcom bust survivors that those with determination and solid strategy won out over those with gold rush fever. That can perhaps explain why within just a year, the online medium was resurrected and Creative Priority was picking up high honors including ad:tech 2002’s Interactive Best Direct Response and Best of Show awards. Since signing its first client Wyeth, CP’s integrated package of communications strategy, identity development, incentive and sales promotion marketing, advertising creative, media buying/planning and graphic design has lured in several top-notch clients—a peculiar amount of which are also pharmaceutical outfits (Merck, Pfizer, Novartis).
Still, Farbo insists that Creative Priority has made it a priority to extend its olive branch to different industries, most recently the financial and consumer arenas. “We’re primarily in pharmaceuticals—we’ve got a lot of background in pharmaceuticals coming out of Nethod and extending it to Creative Priority,” he explains. “But we’ve moved from being primarily an interactive agency to being an overall integrated agency where we do print, television—whatever it takes for the client. That said, in the financial arena along with ING Direct, we’re the agency of record for NYMEX, which is New York Mercantile Exchange. We’ve had a lot of project work with Citigroup these days. We’ve worked with investment banks. Financial is a big area for us.”