For tickets to the celebration to be held on June 26, hit this link: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/silver-medal-luncheon-2018-tickets-45816877514
Jeff Olsen chooses to think of himself as fortunate for all the people he has had the pleasure of knowing. On the following pages, the sentiment is certainly reciprocal as the many friendly comments portray. “Maybe that’s my only talent—to work with very talented people,” he laughs, “I’ve found myself surrounded by the most talented people in the business continually, it’s been incredible.”
In preparation for my brief summary of Jeff, our conversation hovered around choice, joy and inspiration.
All in a matter of years, he lost a friend and business partner, Travis Gurr who died in a small plane crash shortly after launching Blain Olsen White Gurr (B/O/W/G) with other partners David Blain and Eric White. A year later, he lost his wife Tamara and 14-month-old son Griffin in a car accident. And as a result of that he spent two months hovering on the brink of death and then went through a long, miserable recovery, in which he consequently lost his left leg. Later, he and his partners lost their agency, B/O/W/G, when the merger with a Canadian firm, Rare Method, ended poorly.
“You could look at that side of the coin and call me the hard luck kid of the industry I suppose. But I choose to see it differently. I may perhaps be the most blessed guy in business based on what I‘ve been allowed to do and experience, and who I have been so fortunate to work with,” says Jeff, “So that’s the choice I’ve made—to look at both the dark and the light as a complete unified gift. I wouldn’t know the joys if I didn’t know the hardships.”
His career tracks the path of some of the most creative and break-through agencies to exist in the Salt Lake market which include Cole & Weber, where he started as a Runner but quickly advanced to an Art Director, then to EvansGroup, DSW, Bonneville Communications, FJC&N and eventually starting his own firm; B/O/W/G, which had a strong run for over a decade, eventually merging with Canadian firm Rare Method, but came undone rather abruptly as a result of the financial crisis of 2008. That’s what led Jeff to reconnect with Dave Thomas and the ThomasARTS team.
“Dave gave me my first and last agency job,” says Jeff and marvels at Dave Thomas’ remarkable career trajectory taking note of the unique positioning and power that Dave’s agency, ta, wields in the market today. With mega clients such as Aetna, AARP, Cigna, USA Today Network, Marriott, Bristol-Myers Squibb and priceline.com, the positioning of the newly branded ta is, “art + science = emotional connection.”
Never imagining that he would leave the advertising world, two best sellers later, and with the release of his third book, “Knowing”, Jeff took his very personal story of loss, seeing the other side and triumphantly coming back through to be able to raise his teenaged son, Spencer, marry Tonya, and add two more sons, Aiden and Zach to the family.
Now, he’s communing with another set of superstars on his speaking tours, such as the likes of Dr. Eben Alexander, Anita Moorjani, Marianne Williamson, Gregg Braden and Neale Donald Walsch. “It’s amazing to rub shoulders with people like these, and yet in the end, they are simply people—as humankind, we are all far more alike than we will ever be different. I’ll admit it’s often intimidating for me because I wonder why I’m among superstars like these, but when I consider them as friends, all the intimidation goes away.”
Jeff’s spirituality didn’t arrive exclusively in connection with the great losses in his life and the recent association with thought leaders in the spiritual industry. He has tapped his intuition and the ethereal sources all along the way to reach into the realms that offer-up what people have characterized as his remarkable kindness and creative skills.
Jeff explains, “Part of the ability to be creative is letting go—stepping into that strange energetic mesh that connects humankind together, then communicating in a way that resonates. To me that is a very spiritual thing, connecting with people and saying what matters to them. In the end it’s intimate storytelling. Marketing is storytelling, life is story telling, all of it is storytelling. When we do it well, we connect and we ‘get’ each other. Then you’ve got a relationship. If you represent a product or a service in a way that’s authentic and personified, and the consumers want a relationship with it, that’s when marketing is powerful and works. It’s not so different from life, really, is it?”
As the next iteration of his professional life, Jeff was magically drawn to what was happening at a project called, Tracy. As Chief Creative Officer, he will bring a voice to a new and innovative offering that promises to change the world. “Tracy utilizes advanced technology to discover, design and build new super materials. Creating innovative opportunities and expanding new possibilities using the existing elements. We bring about a stronger economy, a cleaner planet and improve the lifestyles and well being of humanity in ways limited only by imagination."
This seems a fitting next step for Jeff Olsen, who in the end, is most inspired by the simplicity and magnificence of each day’s sunset. “Each one is a once in my lifetime experience that I get to witness in the very moment that it’s happening, right now. Tomorrow it will be a completely different sunset, an entirely different experience. So I choose to embrace each moment for the sacred thing that it is,” he concludes.
Friends and colleagues sing praise for Jeff Olsen
“Congratulations, Jeff, on receiving the Utah Advertising Federation’s Silver Medal Award. It is richly deserved.
We all know Jeff is creative. But what I admire is he’s creative in a mature, intelligent, thoughtful, moral and responsible manner. What I mean by that, in part, is Jeff utilizes the creative concepts he develops to intelligently and effectively address the business challenges of his clients. It isn’t about doing something off the wall to get himself noticed. Rather, it’s about doing something original in a persuasive manner to benefit those who are paying the bills.
I remember Jeff as a good communicator who not only produced good work himself, but taught and inspired others to create an outstanding product as well. He gives other creative people wings to fly but appropriately keeps them grounded as to their purpose and role.
Jeff is both a true professional and a good, gracious and genuine human being. I’m pleased he is receiving this high recognition.
Again, I extend my hearty congratulations to Jeff Olsen.”
Director of Business Development,
“Jeff absolutely deserves this award. As everybody knows, he is such a warm, friendly and open person. That’s what made him so good with clients and as a partner, he was fair and easy to work with. And he’s such a good friend. I know I could call him with anything and he would be there.
I respect his artistic, creative talent. I could always count on Jeff to come up with ideas that clients would pay for.
One thing I remember about working with Jeff is that his electronic devices were always crashing. I was the fix-it guy for our agency, B/O/W/G, and he must have a negative charge in his body because his technology never worked.
I think about how he had to remake his whole life, not only the physical part from losing his leg and continuing to feel pain but rebuilding his family. His resilience is remarkable to see him take what life gives him and move forward with grace. He has a connection to the universe that he can step in cow dung and still smell like roses in the way he makes good out of things that would destroy most of us.
We had a unique thing going. It was such a magical time at B/O/W/G in the ‘90s. It was one of the highlights of my professional career, and I am grateful that I was able to be his partner for 10 years.”
Eric Weight, VP Customer Success,
“ I am honored beyond belief to be included in the comments of praise for Jeff Olsen. As a young writer in the ad industry, Jeff was the first real art director I had the chance to work with. I thought, ‘Wow, I’m working with a big time art director! He’s going to do great things in this business!’ I was totally blown away by his ability to concept and think big ideas. He worked really hard, and we were tasked at times with things that weren’t really exciting, but Jeff made everything fun.
He is so talented, capable and affable.
He was great to work with and always wanted to give you the credit. He is humble, funny and a phenomenal talent.
For the immensity of his talents, he has none of the associated ego—he breaks the mold.
When I was in the business, Lee Clow at Chiat Day was my idol. I always wondered what it would be like to work with Lee and looking back, I would truly say that having a chance to work with Jeff was my ideal Lee Clow experience because of Jeff’s talent level. What’s so amazing about Jeff and why he’s such a good creative director is that he really understands what great ideas are. He understands beauty and art as well as words and context.
Michael Dunn, Managing Director,
“Jeff is extraordinary and the single word that I think fits Jeff best is “meek”.
Most people have a different context for the word than was originally intended. True meekness is the intersection of great talent, intelligence and capability with exceptional humility, kindness and grace. That intersection is what Jeff is all about.
His talent is legendary. I have watched it up close and personally for over 30 years. He is conceptual, strategic and artistic. More than once he has made me look better than I am, for which I am grateful. His humility and grace are equally impressive. He has gone through things that no one would ever want to think about experiencing. It has made him more conscious of those things that truly matter and they center around the people that he is with at any given moment.
“Meek” describes Jeff perfectly. He should indeed inherit the earth.”
Dave Thomas, CEO,
“What I appreciate from working with Jeff was how positive he was in any and every situation. It wasn’t just that he looked for the good in everything, which he did. But he actually took circumstances and worked with them and people to make things positive. He doesn’t believe there have to be negative outcomes and is persistent to make the best of everything.
Jeff is also a person who will keep a spiritual perspective in mind. He is one of the rare people who integrates the spiritual aspects of life into all parts of his life. Jeff is truly a one of a kind individual you will ever meet, and a real joy to have in a working environment..
I’m happy to call him my friend.”
Sharon Rask, Principal, COO,
“Jeff is incredible. He has a vision for creativity unlike any other, steeped in authenticity. He can inspire his team, or any room he walks into. His work always exceeds the expectations of both his team and our clients. His positive attitude is infectious and you can’t help but want to do great work when he’s involved.”
Tasha Komery, Director of Communications,
Arts Commons, Calgary, Canada
(Formerly at Rare Method)
“To think of Jeff as simply an advertising icon is to undermine the immense impact he’s had on so many people. People...not employees, or clients, or vendors. Jeff treats everyone with grace, respect, and a genuine esteem. And in return, he’s deservedly gained the respect and reverence of all of us in the industry.
This award is significant. But it doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of his contribution to this city’s advertising industry.
Capturing his influence is like attempting to photograph the Grand Canyon. You’ll never fully capture the magnificence of it all. While he was many things throughout the years...creative leader, mentor, business thinker, partner, optimist, survivor...the beauty of his enduring friendship and power of his keen insight has given way to a different way of working. A way that understands how special and unpredictable creativity can be.
It is this devotion to our lifeblood which creates a tribal-like following of incredibly talented creatives, account leaders and strategists. It is his humble and transparent style of working that has kept them close as family. And it is his never-ending smile that brightens even the toughest days.
While you have never been one to allow the spotlight to linger on you for more than a moment, I hope you’ll embrace the admiration and genuine gratitude of your peers. You’ve inspired us all to stay true to our ambitions and become something bigger than ourselves.”
Lori Feld Oakley, VP Professional Services,
“Some creative leaders only care about the work. Jeff cares deeply about the work, but he cares far more about the people creating the work. This is actually pretty sneaky of Jeff, since it turns out, caring more about people is the best way to make the work better. Jeff is relentlessly hardworking, fiercely dedicated, endlessly supportive, generous with both praise and criticism, icily strategic yet magically intuitive, a great listener AND a great talker, and never less than a ridiculous pleasure to be around. When people work with Jeff, their work gets better. And so do they.”
Dave Thomas, Director at Community Films
(Former Copywriter and Creative Director at B/O/W/G)
“Jeff and I met working at DSW back in the mid ‘90s. He was a clean cut creative genius back in those days, actually much like today only younger. As a young account guy, I admired his quiet confidence and creative skill. Shortly after we met, he left and joined what was then Fotheringham Advertising. It wasn’t long after he left that Eric White and Travis Gurr approached me about joining them in a new Agency. We decided to invite Jeff to join us as the artist in our partnership. Mostly because none of us had the money to pay one, but also because we knew Jeff was so good we wouldn’t need to hire anyone else and we could create the best work in town.
We were right! Because he grew up a poor farm boy in Charleston, UT, he knew how to work and he was prolific in exercising his creative mind. I remember we got a trivia game on the computer at the office and I was sure I could beat Jeff. I was wrong. Jeff has a mind full of information, much of it useless unless you’re employed in advertising or killing it at trivia games.
Our new little agency grew rapidly and we quickly were competing with the established shops in town for the king of the Addy award mountain. Jeff and Eric White as a creative team were hard to beat. Jeff was the dreamer and Eric was the whiz kid strategic writer and together they made me look better than I should have. I consider myself fortunate to have worked so long with Jeff and to now call him a dear friend and brother.
I remember when I received the Silver Medal and I felt so unworthy because of all the great talent around me that I’ve had the good fortune to work with. On the contrary, I hope Jeff feels extremely deserving of this award. For his creative ability, for his integrity and hard work, but mostly for his compassion and the kind of human being he is.
David Blain, President
Saxton Horne Communications
“Having shared an office with, and worked closely with Jeff for several years, I’ve had the privilege watching Jeff work down in the trenches. He truly does encompass the theme that we chose for his luncheon ‘Courage, Creativity, Compassion.’ Even the seemingly mundane tasks throughout the day are approached with the ‘3 C’s’. Everyone he meets doesn’t have a choice, but to become ‘a dear friend’ to Jeff.
Because of some of his pivotal life experiences, he views life from a different lens than most. It is often from a humorous and creative standpoint. He is such a strong person, both literally and figuratively.
He has the rare ability to take seemingly mundane sounding clients and projects, and add life strategically and creatively. When it comes to fostering creative talent, Jeff has the midas touch. Jeff makes everyone around him better at their jobs, and at life.
I’m happy to call him my friend.”
Executive Creative Director,
“I think my very first impression of Jeff when I joined the agency where we both worked for nearly 4 years together was, “who’s this silver fox with the crick in his step, he’s probably got a huge ego”. How so very wrong I was. Though Jeff has plenty to boast about with a rich history of accomplishments and experiences, Jeff is one of the most humble and gentle human beings I know. His kindness, compassion, quick wit, and ageless good looks make Jeff’s presence in any room impossible to overlook. He brings his optimism, light and infectious smile to everything he does. Jeff’s multitude of skills and contributions have amounted to numerous accomplishments in his professional career, it’s not often you find folks with such an extreme talent for creativity matched only by his sharp strategic and business sense. For those who have had the pleasure to know Jeff over the years, you understand what a special human being he is, and how much light he brings to all the lives of those who have the pleasure of knowing him.”
Ashley Bloxham, Group Account Director,
“I met Jeff when he started as an art director at DSW. On his first day, I walked into his office and asked if he wanted to be my new best friend. He must have been a bit naîve, because he said “yes.” We’ve been close ever since. He’s everybody’s best friend.
Jeff has a way with people. A magnetism—and not just because he looks like Robert DeNiro. People are drawn to Jeff because he is warm, sincere, and a really good listener. He makes people feel better.
Jeff is one of the hardest workers I’ve ever known. We spent a lot of really late nights together. He used to say that sometimes, you have to get lucky to have a great idea, but the luck often arrives at 3 a.m.
Jeff will eat anything—must be his farmboy upbringing. I once watched him chug a container of cold, leftover KFC gravy from the fridge in the middle of the night when he was hungry.
Jeff’s creativity knows no bounds. He’s the force behind a truly staggering amount of great work.”
Director of Marketing & Business
“I had the opportunity to work closely with Jeff years ago when we served in the leadership of AAF Utah. I was president and Jeff served as vice president along with Bryn Ramjoué. I enjoyed working with Jeff and Bryn and we saw much success together in the Ad Club that year. He has endured many challenges in his life–emotional, physical, professional and personal. He has faced them all with courage, dignity and a positivity that is unmatched. His remarkable passion for life is an example to us all. I can’t say enough good about Jeff, as he is most deserving of the AAF Silver Medal award for lifetime achievement. He is a genuine, nice guy that you love to be around. Most important, I’m proud to call Jeff my friend. He inspires me.”
Brian R. Rasmussen, Director of Marketing,
University Marketing & Communications,
The University of Utah
“What do I think of Jeff? Well, I hired him three different times—that’s how much I appreciated his talent, and enjoyed him as a person. I added him to the creative department at Cole & Weber in the mid-80’s, then brought him over to Bonneville Communications, and after that, hired him as a Senior Art Director at FJCandN (the predecessor to Richter7). In every case, he did marvelous work, mixing first-class design with top-notch concepts.
It was at FJCandN that we had our infamous “drive off the cliff” incident. While on our way to visit our Jackson Hole client in the middle of February, we rounded a bend in the Hoback River gorge, hit an icy spot and started sliding. Jeff was at the wheel of his truck and I was in the passenger seat. While sliding, we picked up enough speed that the truck ski-jumped off an embankment of snow on the side of the road and went nose-first 15 feet down into the Hoback. Thankfully, the truck tipped back onto its wheels after landing. Yes, we are living examples of the value of seat belts. There’s not a much more exciting way to bond with a co-worker than that. We then hitchhiked into town in order to meet Bob Fotheringham on time and get to the meeting as expected. We had to tow Jeff’s truck home after hauling it out of the river.
While “cliff-diving” and ad-making with Jeff are certainly highlights of my career, even more memorable is the opportunity I’ve had to enjoy his kind, gentle and thoughtful persona. He is truly a quality person, through and through, and I’m grateful for the chances I had to work
with him. He’s certainly been a positive addition to Utah’s advertising community.”
Dave Newbold, Co-Founder,
Executive Creative Director, Richter7
“Jeff taught me that life is not a test, but a gift. Jeff taught me to look at the world around me, people, and myself differently. He taught me to find joy in every day. He taught me that we are all interconnected and that we are all in this together. He taught me that when we invest of our time with each other, that incredible things are possible. I will always be grateful for my association with Jeff and am so proud to call him a friend.”
Steve Bartholomew, Executive Director, Client Services, TA (ThomasARTS)