What do you get when you combine a strategic media and PR mind with a passion for fanfare rivaled only by PT Barnum himself? John Montgomery is what you get. John began his career at the tender age of 18 as a music promoter, and after working for several different PR shops, he had his entrepreneurial hemorrhage to start Big just nine years later. John’s big-picture thinking, creativity, leadership and nose for news makes him the king of finding an angle and a story in everything and the guy that smart brands love on their team.
Somewhere between his wildly chaotic whiteboard wall, not enough sleep and the local Starbucks is where Ford’s next big idea lurks. Ford spent years building campaigns for brands like the Home Depot, Saks, Verizon, Captain D’s and Intuit to name a few. Through that experience, he developed an unyielding belief that excellence is the price of entry for any idea we let out the door. That passion makes him an idea factory of the highest order and a champion of great thinking, no matter where it comes from.
After starting his career as a copywriter and creative director, Mark turned his talents to brand strategy. A student of messaging, segmentation and research, Mark specializes in mining insights and crafting messages that transcend table stakes and out-think “brand haters.” Mark earned his chops on brands like Chick-fil-A, Ford Motor Company, Toys “R” Us and Verizon. Recently, Mark led the efforts to conduct national research to gauge perceptions of Gulf Seafood following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
One of the most decorated creatives in the state, Aaron brings a tremendous level of experience and talent to Big. He’s done everything from major national rebranding projects and logo redesigns to packaging, television, non-traditional and website design for brands like Captain D’s, Meijer and Toys “R” Us. But the best thing about Aaron is that it’s impossible to outwork him. When he’s done burning midnight oil here, he designs gig posters for major music acts in exchange for donations to the American Cancer Society.
Libby Sexton Romano
Libby is one of the truest hybrid talents at Big. She’s a strategic, long-term thinker that loves to plan ahead for the brands she serves, and actively manages goals well beyond the project at hand (see Go Build Alabama). But she’s also a digital thinker. Not only does she study up on the latest trends in programming language, digital metrics and user interface, she’s also a programmer’s best friend, whether it’s building sitemaps or pushing designers to think iPad/Smartphone first.
“There’s freedom in the process.” That’s the code that Nathan lives by here at Big, and if you’re one of our current or potential clients, there’s also reassurance in the process. As our Director of Account Services, Nathan’s wealth of experience allows him to manage the day-to-day progress, growth and expectations of our clients in order to ensure they get everything they expect (and more). It certainly doesn’t hurt that he’s got creative roots; as a saxophone enthusiast, the only thing Nathan lays down smoother than a jazz solo is workflow.
Whether you want to be on TV, Facebook, print, blogs or high school football tickets, if you’re looking to get the most out of a limited media buy, Lindsey’s your gal. She brings incredible insights in both digital media and local store marketing after stints at AL.com and planning and buying local media for over 220 Pizza Huts across the Southeast. Lindsey’s also been an avid horseback rider since childhood with a recent foray into the Hunter Jumper style. So if she can lead retired racehorses through obstacle courses, imagine what she can do with media reps.
As our business manager, Onna supervises finance and operations here at Big. She’s also the authority on our creative management and media buying software platforms, Workamajig and Strata. That may seem like a lot, but considering that Onna taught 14 different classes to middle/high school students before she landed on our doorstep, that’s a walk in the park for her. (It doesn’t hurt that she has a master’s degree in Diplomacy.) Plus, Onna is our resource for what’s good on TV. From The Walking Dead to Portlandia to Top Chef, she’s always got the scoop.
Kammie Avant Kasten
When you’re an Interactive Producer, you better know how to interact. Enter Kammie, our marketing expert who can connect with anyone. When it comes to social media and web campaigns, Kammie’s there from start to finish—planning, managing, communicating, overseeing, developing, executing, you name it. In other words, she’s kind of a big deal. People know her. And if you don’t know Kammie, well, you probably should; from football to cooking to movies, she’s got a vast array of interests to match her outgoing personality.
Matt Lane Harris
Malcolm Gladwell would call him a Maven. We prefer to call him an Evangelist, which is pretty fitting for this son of an Alabama preacher. Few people exude and display the passion and dedication that Matt has for his craft, and it shows up regularly in the work he’s done on iconic brands and bands ranging from Chrysler to Drive-By Truckers. Plus, Matt is a copywriter’s dream. His unmatched eye for typography can turn even an average headline into an epic one. Just don’t get Matt started on food, or you’ll end up eating lunch with him at 10:30 am.
What do you call the designer that wins Illustrator of the Year, Designer of the Year and Interactive Designer of the Year at the Birmingham ADDYs in just three tries? Well, we just call her Shannon. As our senior art director, Shannon’s attention to detail, big-picture strategy, and infectious enthusiasm make her a dream for clients to work with (and younger designers to learn from). But her design chops don’t stop here—Shannon is actively involved in Birmingham’s arts community, playing a crucial part in local initiatives like Design Week Birmingham and the Second Avenue North branding.
What’s going on in the world of design? Just ask Ryan. In his spare moments (which is usually lunch at his desk), Ryan is always scouring the web for new trends, ideas and forms of inspiration. That hunger for excellence translates into his work – especially his typography. No one can out-kern, out-track or out-led this guy. Ford, a perfectionist’s perfectionist, has even been known to describe it as “flawless.” The account team also loves him – he never says “no” to a project, no matter how short the timeline.
Taylor’s got a passion for endurance-based sports: she was a swimmer in high school and rowed crew at Auburn University, and she’s got a half-marathon under her belt. If you think she’s perfect for the daily grind of the advertising world—well, that’s exactly what we thought. That’s why we offered her a job before she’d even finished her Bachelor’s Degree. And it’s a good thing, too, because this former AIGA student chapter president instantly became a crucial cog in Big’s creative department. No endurance training needed.
How do you identify the award-winning copywriter? Pick the person with the wood-finished, championship edition Scrabble set. Jordan’s a big-time thinker who studies culture and creativity like none other, which can be easily found in the work he’s done on brands like Verizon and EA. His rare talents marry a mastery of the English language with well-timed sarcasm and a rapier wit. That and he knows the ins and outs of retail, direct and digital marketing better than anybody.
Once upon a time, Jeremy shook up the national pop culture scene with The Tragedy of Camlet, a full-length Shakespearean parody play about Cam Newton. Nowadays, he applies a plethora of linguistic skill sets (including a master’s degree in English) toward finding the right approach to every campaign he comes across, no matter the medium. But Jeremy’s penchant for prose doesn’t taper off when he leaves the office—he’s a long-time Arts & Entertainment contributor with AL.com, an adjunct professor at BSC, and an award-winning screenwriter.
More than just our resident airport specialist (she serves three different airport clients in cities across the Southeast), Satina is both an RFP wonk and a civic-minded person. When she doesn’t have her head in the clouds, she’s probably either managing research projects or helping promote Cooper Green Mercy Hospital. Satina is also the current president of the American Advertising Federation Birmingham Chapter, using her position to advocate greater cooperation between agencies and to make the entire ad community better.
Julie is the consummate professional, which explains why she’s one of the rare individuals who can simultaneously handle a full load both of advertising and public relations clients. Known for both her perkiness and her persistence, Julie is not one to be trifled with over a deadline. Plus, she’s great working with creatives. When they go the extra mile on her clients, she’s the first to show up with cookies, cupcakes or other baked goodness. Some might call it bribery. We call it awesome.
Most people whose careers begin in politics and finance aren’t cut out for the anything-goes, no-two-days-are-alike world of advertising and public relations. Then again, most people are not John Perry. We grabbed him after he went back to grad school and threw him into the fire. But to JP, it was no sweat. Because once you’ve talked down an angry group of constituents intent on giving someone on Capitol Hill a piece of their mind, you can handle just about anything.
Meet Niki, your new best friend. She’s one of those people you immediately feel like you’ve known forever, and in public relations, that’s a really good thing. But she doesn’t just bring a great personality to the table; she’s got mad PR skills. This Mobile, Alabama, native brings a shelf full of PR accolades to Big along with national experience in everything from food and finance to healthcare and higher education. Plus, Niki always thinks how something works in digital first, right after she thinks how it helps our clients most.
If you were to compare Blake’s creative prowess to a mythical beast, the obvious choice would be the centaur. Why? Because Blake is half web developer, half graphic designer, and all awesome. While Blake is formally trained in print design, he was able to develop his mastery of the digital world through what he calls “sheer nerd will.” In his spare time, Blake stays sharp by composing electronic music and scouring the web for the Next Big Thing. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that he spends more money on video games than food in any given month.
Dan never stops working. His unyielding drive and unbridled creativity have transformed him into an award-winning web developer and graphic designer in just a few short years. But he doesn’t stop there—as one of the founders and driving forces behind both the famous PieLab in Greensboro, Ala. and The Burger Coalition in Birmingham and Atlanta, he’s proven that he knows how to take a good idea and run with it. It’s no surprise that Dan’s able to pull off so many feats, though; he’s been schooled in circus tricks by Coney Island’s legendary Bearded Lady herself.
Most developers approach their craft as a utility, but Robert first saw the web as an artistic endeavor. Now, after more than a decade of experience in graphic design as well as front-end and back-end development, he’s one of the best in the business. He’s a tremendous asset to Big’s thriving interactive department, but he also brings a trained eye to assist with all of our digital design needs. In his free time, Robert stays occupied by working with cars and maintaining Vodka Buzz, one of the world’s preeminent vodka forums.
How do you become a first-rate public relations strategist? Try spending more than two decades documenting life on the other side of the table. Jerry quickly rose to prominence at The Birmingham News, first as a business reporter and ultimately as the business editor. Thanks to that wealth of knowledge and experience, Jerry brings a reporter’s eye to every story we pitch, which makes writing for and promoting our clients second nature. And when it comes to live music, you’re bound to run into Jerry at a show or two.
If Big had to choose someone to represent us on “Jeopardy!,” it would be Rebecca. Her expertise in journalism, marketing and public relations has led her to promote and write about everything you could think of—from heavy equipment to academic library software, healthcare and law, with a broad array of consumer magazine work to boot. When it comes to her PR work for our clients, Rebecca works tirelessly to find the heart of the story and connect it in a meaningful way with everyone that needs to hear it. (No studio audience necessary.)
In our office, it doesn’t matter where Brittany’s desk is because she’s never there. Her work with our public relations team often pulls her out of the office at the blink of an eye to handle something for our clients, whether that’s driving performers to interviews to hanging up posters downtown to distributing hardhats to 10,000 8th graders. Brittany came to us fresh out of Alabama with a passion to learn and a “bring it on” attitude that’s made her a darling of both our PR team and our clients.
Marty is a natural born storyteller. He doesn’t deal with fluff pieces or campfire tales; he sheds light on the gritty, hard-hitting current events that affect each and every one of us. And after spending a couple of years with The Birmingham News—not to mention career ventures in New York City, Belgium, and South Korea—he joined Big as a digital content writer to anchor our brand journalism initiative and help tell our clients’ stories. He may have been born and raised in Minnesota, but this man about town can adapt instantly to any environment.
When it comes to marketing and PR, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a track record more impressive than Ashley’s. From the healthcare industry to athletic marketing to the three agencies where she served lengthy stints as PR Director, Ashley’s proven time and again that she can move from idea generation to fully executed plans with professional ease, no matter the client. In other words, she’s the kind of PR talent that likes to get dirt under her nails, whether she’s here in the office or honing her gardening skills at home.
Brian came to Big as a student designer who could also do a little video editing. Fast-forward a few years, and Brian has rapidly become an all-talented workhorse in our creative department. He’s part award-winning art director, part outstanding motion graphics artist, part killer video editor and all big, contagious smiles. Brian is also a YouTube sensation. His videos Beyond Black Mesa andConcrete Hustle, which he wrote, directed, edited and starred in, have been viewed by millions of adoring Half Life and Star Wars fans.
Ali is a visual junkie. Whether she’s filming or photographing, this motion designer has the uncanny ability to take everyday imagery and spin it into gold. Ali’s freelance career has led her all over, from Southern Progress to music videos to a three-week sailboat race along the East Coast. After she put together an impressive video recap of the Bo Bikes Bama campaign, we knew we had to lock her down permanently. But the camera doesn’t stop rolling for Ali when she leaves the office—she’s got a passion for documentaries and stop action animation.
As our traffic manager, Janie gets results. Period. And at a thriving ad agency, that might seem like a tough task, but considering that she was managing an independent business when she was just a college sophomore, it comes as second nature to her. She’s got skills across the board, though, with nearly five years of marketing experience under her belt. But Janie gets results even when she’s not whipping creatives and AEs into shape; she’s a hunting season regular, tracking down everything from deer and turkey to dove and quail.
If you want to know how to get ahead in life, talk to Ryan. Right after graduating college, he moved to Washington D.C. to build his political career from the ground up. No, literally—he went from a dog-walking intern to an Ohio Congressman’s Chief of Staff in five short years. Now, as Big’s lead outreach executive, Ryan is in charge of scouting out and researching new industries and areas of growth to help expand the agency roster. When he’s ready to unwind, though, this Jersey boy is a surfing enthusiast and a guitar aficionado.
What does it take to be an Account Executive in this fast-paced day and age? Ask Rylee. After starting as a college intern and proving she was too valuable to ignore, Rylee has worked her tail off night and day to meet her clients’ needs and rise in the ranks. Nowadays, she leads the charge on student-focused clients like the University of Montevallo, Jacksonville State University, and the CollegeCounts 529 Plan, all while training and teaching the next generation of Big interns. And that music festival you’re thinking of going to this summer? Rylee can give you the crash course.
Sally Russell Baio
Since 2000, Sally has worked on developing and placing media plans nationally. Literally. Now, as our Account Supervisor of Nationwide Media, she’s in charge of client management, production traffic and co-op media buying for Nationwide Insurance. But Sally’s talents stretch far and wide—she provides outstanding added value negotiation (and even better results) for clients like Chattanooga Airport, Go Build Alabama and many more. Beyond her media chops, she’s got pipes, too; Sally can be seen and heard as the lead singer of rock ‘n roll outfit The Hearts.
She may have studied abroad in France, but when it comes to her role here at Big, Katherine is anything but laissez faire. She started out as a media intern while she was finishing up a master’s degree, and just two short months later, she jumped right into the fire and began working with clients to make sure they got everything they wanted (and more) from their media plans. It makes sense that Katherine was appointed to help administrate and communicate Big’s media buys—with her bright smile and spunky personality, it’s impossible to tell her “no.”
Merry Michael Smith
Merry Michael is a Renaissance woman of the advertising world. Raised on a farm in Okolona, MS, she helped take care of 24,000 chickens and learned to drive when she was 12 years old. So it makes sense, if you think about it, that this wonder woman can do just about anything. She’s a media coordinator here at Big, but she has over a decade of experience as an event planner, account executive, and production manager. In other words, if you need to make something happen (or you have any chicken-related questions), contact Merry Michael.
According to Sally, Shaydah is a life saver. She keeps the wheels of our media department turning, whether it’s doing research, pulling rates, negotiating with vendors or making presentations for clients. She’s also an expert in our media-buying software, Strata. The only thing Shaydah knows better than media is restaurants. She grew up serving food in her parents’ different cafés and bistros. When she’s not working at Big, she helps out at her family’s newest place, Vino, in Mountain Brook.
Ann’s been everywhere, man. She grew up all along the East Coast, from Georgia to Delaware, and her love of travel has led her as far as Miami and San Francisco. Throw in the fact that advertising runs in her family and it’s no surprise that, as our office manager, Ann is the motor that keeps the Big wheels turning. Frankly, without her organizational and communicational skills, the entire office would probably implode. But she knows how to unwind, too—Ann’s always planning out her next music festival or road trip.
Amanda is fearless. In fact, one of her first assignments as a full-fledged member of our Account Services team was a job fair presentation at a federal prison. Sponsorships, budgets, event planning and the like— she’s got it all locked up. She’s also what we like to call “homegrown talent,” meaning Amanda started out as an undergraduate intern, and after months of sponge-like absorption of all things Big, we decided to keep her. Now she’s part of that all-too-important agency glue that helps us and our clients stick close together.
If you’ve ever stepped foot in our Second Avenue office, you remember Faye. Nicknamed Big’s “Director of First Impressions” by one of our clients, she’s the friendly face that sits up front and makes sure everything goes smoothly. Faye has been our Business Assistant ever since we moved into our bigger space, and if she wasn’t here to regulate supplies, schedule events, implement day-to-day processes, maintain a steady supply of heavily caffeinated beverages and perform a laundry list of other tasks, well, we’d all probably devolve into a hopeless state of anarchy.
Karri is classically trained—both in opera and marketing. How does the latter work, you might ask? Well, Karri spent eight years sharpening her skills as a marketing specialist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. And after working in-house for one of Birmingham’s biggest businesses, she transitioned into her role as an Account Executive at Big with grace and ease. Now she gets superb results for her clients, even when work is flowing faster than the spin class she teaches. And if you need a killer “Ave Maria” for your wedding, you know who to call.
You can’t teach experience. But if you could, Billy would be our head professor. After spending a decade plus garnering advertising wisdom from all over the South—including agencies in Atlanta, Nashville, and Greenville, as well as his own two-man operation—Billy brings a wealth of knowledge to his role as brand strategist here at Big. And after working for some of the biggest brands on the Southern market, like Home Depot, RealTree, Fifth Third Bank, and Chick-fil-A (including the WinShape Foundation), well, he knows his stuff.