AD MAN FRED CISNEROS
ATthe offices of Cisneros Design in Rodeo Park, it’s easy to see what sets this particular advertising company apart from its larger competitors. A Big Boy statue greets anyone who walks through the door. Baseball collectibles, toys, and arcade games are everywhere, fostering an outside-the-box approach to ad design. “The games are largely our recharge and our distraction. We get pretty competitive with darts and foosball, mostly,” said the company’s owner, Fred Cisneros. “We work with some pretty stressful situations, so we try to have some things to kind of regroup.”
With a staff of 11, the company isn’t large. Cisneros began with just one employee: himself. “I started my company in my house. I had leased a space, but it wasn’t finished being built yet. I really intended to be a one-man shop and didn’t intend to have employees. That lasted about a month, and then I had to hire some help.” Before starting his own firm in 1994, he worked for another company for about 10 years. “I decided I needed to do my own thing because I wanted to work for different accounts. In those days, that firm did a lot of tourism, which is fine but I kind of burned out on it. You can only do so many hotel and gallery ads. I went out on my own and started to do more corporatetype branding. A lot of the clients I worked with before followed me, so I had an instant company. It was a little overwhelming at first. The Santa Fe School of Cooking is probably my longest-term client.”
As a kid, Cisneros had an aptitude for drawing. Watching TV’s Bewitched, he admired the lifestyle of Darrin Stephens (Dick York and Dick Sargent), an ad executive married to the witch Samantha (Elizabeth Montgomery). “I used to think it was kind of cool because this guy would go to work and he’d come up with all these concepts — advertising ideas and slogans, and all this kind of stuff — then he’d go home to this beautiful wife and have a drink and he had the crazy mother-in-law and all that, and I thought, that’s not a bad life. I could deal with a good-looking wife and a creative job all day. I couldn’t believe there would be an opportunity for me to actually do what I do and get paid to do it.”
Cisneros’ company does ad work and graphic design, creating corporate logos and branding and extending the brands into various markets. “We tend to work more with service industries. That’s our preference. We just got a new account in Albuquerque that we’re excited about. It’s a New Mexico mutual. Those are the kind of clients I really enjoy, because they have a big vision and it’s a pretty large client base, potentially. Being able to help them create a voice and image is pretty fun.”
Sometimes Cisneros’ team is called upon to refine a brand. “We did some work with the St. Louis Cardinals a while back. They had a big diversity push that was citywide in St. Louis. We did this retro-style baseball card and it was really successful.” For Cisneros, an avowed baseball fan, it was a rare opportunity to unite two passions.
Having a smaller firm allows his company to be more responsive to a client’s needs. “By the time it goes through all the channels, we’ve delivered a job before other firms have even responded to the question,” he said. “Part of it is just the way we work. Although we do full-service agency work, we don’t really act like an advertising agency. We work more like a design firm.”
Cisneros also gets opportunities to contribute locally, particularly when working with nonprofits. “You learn about the humanity of our city,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed being able to design a piece that’s going to transform an organization, whether it be raising money or raising awareness. We do it because, largely, there’s nobody else in my business doing it. Having some clients outside of Santa Fe that are larger has allowed us to be generous to our community.” Solace Crisis Treatment Center, formerly known as the Santa Fe Rape Crisis and Trauma Treatment Center, is an example of a successful rebranding effort. “I was approached by a friend who had been working there for a long time and said, ‘We really need to do something to try to help create more awareness for us,’ and I said, ‘Change your name.’
“Their board was really reluctant, and it took a lot of persuading, but we named them, rebranded them, and totally transformed their identity. What they were dealing with at the time was not just rape as a dominant issue but post-traumatic stress. They had lots of soldiers coming back from Desert Storm, and even though their issues were not sexual in nature, that was one of the places they could go for help, but they didn’t want to walk into the Rape Crisis and Trauma Treatment Center because of a stigma.
“That was one of those jobs that really touched me because you hear these stories from the caregivers and providers. Children and the elderly are other groups we’ve worked with. We don’t do everything that we get asked, but we do a lot if we can find a way to fit it in and do it justice.”
“I’VE ENJOYED BEING ABLE TO DESIGN A PIECE THAT’S GOING TO TRANSFORM AN ORGANIZATION, WHETHER IT BE RAISING MONEY OR RAISING AWARENESS.”