Today, we’d like to introduce you to Shon Rathbone, Founder and Creative Chairman of Dallas ad agency 3Headed Monster.
Hi Shon, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
I’m from a blue-collar neighborhood in Detroit. I loved writing and directing plays in high school theater but, as the first kid in my family to go to college, I felt a responsibility to find a practical outlet for my creativity. Once I found advertising, I was all-in and there was no looking back. I subscribed to Ad Age at 17, was in the mailroom of a major agency by 18, produced my first TV spot by 19 and by 29, I was the chief creative of FCB/LA while running a creative group at FCB/Chicago, commuting back and forth. This business has been great to me because it’s given me a platform to develop my odd bundle of gifts as a writer, a leader, and an entrepreneur.
I figured out pretty early that I wanted to have my own creative shop one day where I could develop work the way I thought it should be done and in 2014, I founded 3Headed Monster. The crazy name actually describes our unique model, which combines the three essentials of modern marketing – Storytelling, Design and Technology – into one highly integrated team. I have great partners and our agency is focused on something we call Tomorrow Brands(tm). Tomorrow Brands are brands that are forever innovating, relentlessly working to make tomorrow better for the people they serve. It’s all about disruption and challenging the status quo. Our two biggest clients, Wingstop and Tropical Smoothie Cafe are two of the fastest growing restaurants in the country. Our Texas Wines client is challenging California Wines and giving them a run. These are the clients that get our blood up. We bring all our creativity and craft to the effort.
Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Anyone who is a creative professional knows heartache. We give birth to these beautiful ideas every day and they often die before they see the sunlight. Getting something good produced is like running a gauntlet full of obstacles and traps.
The same is true of building a creative business, only on a more epic scale. Entrepreneurs are a special breed; it requires a lot of heart to build a business from the dirt with all the ups and downs. In 2017, we lost our biggest client and it almost took us down. It was a rough time. I was dipping into my personal retirement funds to pay my bills so the business could focus on covering payroll for our employees. My partners sacrificed, too. It took a lot of grit to hold it together. But we rallied. We won new clients and won Ad Age’s Small Agency of the Year that year. Talk about a roller coaster.
Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
I am a writer. I’ve always been a writer. As a kid, I’d spend countless hours in my room dreaming up characters and stories. I love the discipline of writing and have spent a lifetime cultivating my craft. Advertising is this amazing haiku of storytelling efficiency that requires a yin-yang balance of strict structure and unexpected ideas. But I love all writing and, over the years, have made sure to write things that are not ads, things like screenplays and short stories. Writer’s write.
How do you think about luck?
As an impetuous young man, I used to declare loudly that I make my own luck. Talent and hard work were all I needed. And, yes, that’s sort of true. But through the process of building 3Headed Monster, I have discovered a bit of humility as I experienced the ebb and flow of forces that do seem almost cosmic. Turns out all that stuff you hear about putting good energy into the universe and trusting that it will come back to you is absolutely true. The universe always comes through, although sometimes at the last possible moment. You have to believe.