AD 2 Dallas & AAF Dallas Social Spotlight: Crystal Anderson

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Crystal Anderson, Partner and Strategy Director at 3Headed Monster, grew up in Houston and first moved to Dallas in 1997 to pursue her undergrad degree and MBA from Southern Methodist University. After graduation she moved around, living in NYC, Chicago and Atlanta before moving back to Dallas 4 years ago.

What was your first job after graduating and what from that role did you learn that influences your job now?
My first role after graduation was technically a brand planning intern at DDB NY. That’s right, I moved to NYC without a real paying job. (My parents loved that!) But it worked out. Within 6 weeks I was offered a full-time Jr. Brand Planner position. It was an incredible experience working in a fast-paced agency with the level of talent you’d expect from Madison Ave. Even though I was junior, I was allowed to own projects and make real contributions to my accounts. It taught me to throw out seniority and recognize good ideas can come and should come from anywhere.

As partner and strategy director, how would you describe your typical day? 
I’m sure you get this a lot, but what typical day!? Advertising is never the same day twice, and then add to that being a partner in a “start-up.” I don’t always know what I’m coming into, but I always know it’s going to be fun. Some days, I’m with the client developing strategies to help them launch a new product or grow their business. Other days I’m buying paper towels for the office! Overall, anything strategy I oversee: brand, digital, media, business and then the gravy on top is making sure 3Headed Monster is living up to our mission every day and all the Monsters love coming to work.

What traits do you believe make up an effective leader? 
It’s not enough to be good at business. An effective leader is able to inspire, rally and get the best out of their team. They have to have a vision, communicate effectively and live up to that vision every day. Being an effective leader is also hiring people that are smarter than you. It is knowing when to get out of your own way and let the whole shine above the individual.

As a woman navigating the advertising world, have you ever faced sexism in the workplace, and what advice do you have for women aspiring for executive level positions in the ad industry? 

Advertising leadership has historically been very male. I was fortunate enough to have a few women leaders throughout my career, but I often saw how they had to adapt themselves to the male world to fit in. A confident woman will no doubt be called a “bitch” or “aggressive” at least once in her career, I know I have several times. In my mind those are just code words for conviction and strength, qualities of any good leadership. I think things are changing, but it’s still out there. Even in my position, I’ve dealt with it. My best advice is to be confident in who you are. Do not adjust who you are to fit in or settle for anything less than you deserve.

What is your perception of mentorship and how has mentorship helped you in your career? 

Mentorship is the best way to learn the intangibles of the business. There just some things about service, strategic thinking and problem solving that can only be learned by those who excel at it. I’ve had mentors in and out of my industry. The most important thing is to find someone who excels in an area of growth for yourself. Someone who is willing to give their time and advice and invest in you as a person. The goal should be personal growth, not just professional development.

 In your opinion, what things are needed to create an award-winning, impactful marketing campaign? 

A really amazing insight communicated through a story that connects the brand to the consumer. The big x-factor now is using innovative technology to deliver the story and allow the consumer to be part of that story.

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How did 3Headed Monster come to be? 

Shon Rathbone, our Creative Chair and Founder is really the brainchild behind 3Headed Monster. We had worked together in the mid-2000’s at Publicis. We always had a mutual respect for each other, and stayed in touch over the years, but we were on two different paths. He continued to lead the Publicis office here in Dallas, while I bounced around to BBDO Chicago and 22Squared and SapientNitro in Atlanta. In 2014, we ran into each other at a party in Austin during SXSW. It was a pleasant surprise and put us back on each other’s radars. He had, at that point, already started 3Headed Monster, and even had a few projects going. We continued to talk over the next few months about me joining as a partner. It was a scary proposition for me. I had only worked at big agencies. I loved the job I had at the time. I wasn’t sure I was ready to start an agency from scratch! But Shon had an awesome vision to create a different kind of agency focused on the three essentials of modern marketing: Story, Design and Technology. It was a vision I fell in love with. By the end of 2014, I quit my job and moved to Dallas to be a Monster! In the beginning it was just the 3 partners in a basement under the Chipotle in the West-End. We’re now up to 20 Monsters and growing! It’s been the best leap of faith I could have taken.

Can you explain the culture at 3Headed Monster, and how your approach to culture affects the work you do? 

Our culture is best described in the base word of our colorful name, 3Headed Monster. We are Monsters. Our agency is a tribe of Monsters. The values we hold, the mutant DNA we share, all can be found in that amazingly illustrative word. Sure, we hire top talent, but talent isn’t as rare as a Monster. From lizard owners, karaoke queens, graffiti artists, to Dungeon And Dragons slayers, Christmas carolers and pun aficionados, no Monster is the same. This conscious celebration of the differences between us makes for a very unique culture. But it also has tremendous business benefits for a full-service agency that needs to flex from one discipline to the next, effortlessly. By embracing the differences in each other, multi-discipline collaboration becomes warm and natural.

Collaboration can be key at an ad agency, does 3Headed Monster do anything unique that encourages team collaboration? 

We are a small agency, so we have the benefit of being pretty close, literary. We all sit in one big open space, including the partners. We have a group Monster Family text were all the “important” issues get worked out ;). We’re all creatives in our way, so we do a lot of brief storming and loose processes that would make a big agency pretty much cry.

 3Headed Monster was honored at Ad Age’s Small Agency of the Year awards, receiving silver for the SW Region. What do you attribute to your success?

Beyond having a smart body of creative work, we had a different vision for our industry. The idea that we were building an agency from the ground up centered around creating and accelerating Tomorrow Brands is what got the judges attention.

3Headed Monster is a rather young agency, but you have achieved a lot in a little amount of time. What do you hope is next on your list of agency accomplishments? 

We are so proud to say we grew 100% in the last year and were able to bring on some big clients like Nothing Bundt Cakes and Wingstop. We’re looking forward to continuing to build those relationships and bringing on more Tomorrow Brands. We’re going to be expanding our office space in 2019 and building out a kick-ass in-house studio that ramps up our in-house production capabilities. And of course, we’d love to win Agency of the Year again in 2019!

What is the best piece of career advice you have ever received? 

Be adaptable. Advertising is a fickle business. Clients change, leaderships change. It will happen. You just have to roll with the punches knowing your next big adventure is around the corner.