Pasatiempo - - STRIKE UP THE BRAND - — Michael Abatemarco

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.”


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