In competitive swimming, it’s an eternity. Just one tenth of a precious second is long enough to separate a broken record from a broken heart. Life is forever altered in the space between a swimmer’s outstretched fingertips and the touchpad sensor.
In advertising, it’s all the time you get before the audience changes the channel, clicks away or tunes you out—and they will tune you out.
Cam Green is comfortable in both worlds. Once considered one of the top butterfly swimmers in Canada, he’s logged some serious hours in the pool.
Now, as CEO of GreenRubino, a Seattle-based advertising agency voted as one of the “Best Places to Work in Marketing and Media” by Advertising Age in 2010, Cam logs serious hours with his creative team creating ad campaigns for the likes of Microsoft, Sound Transit, Washington Wine Commission and Columbia Bank.
Those uplifting Sound Transit TV ads where people float out of their cars? Yep, that was them. The candid, funny Columbia Bank couch ads? Again, GreenRubino.
While “Mad Men”-style images of power suits and mid-day martinis may come to mind, Cam assures that the reality is much more PG.
“It’s an easygoing place. We work really hard, but we’re not a sweatshop,” he says.
Born and raised in Vancouver, British Columbia, Cam started swimming at a young age, eventually swimming for Arizona State University and the Canadian National Team. He often refers back to his early swim training as an asset in wading through the creative process.
“It helped give me thick skin, which is helpful when you’re putting yourself out there creatively,” he says.
Although he studied marketing and communications in college, Cam didn’t immediately dive into the ad industry. Instead, he helped his brother and sister run a boutique cookie business in downtown Vancouver on Robson Street. Ironically, it was this decision that kick-started his advertising career.
While working at the fledgling cookie company, he wrote a local radio ad that attracted the attention of the CLIO awards committee—the advertising industry’s top honor.
“A couple months later they knocked on my door with a CLIO award,” he says. The equivalent of winning an Oscar on the first try, Cam caught a glimpse of a possible future in advertising.
Around that time he began making occasional trips down to Bellevue to see a former college teammate, which resulted in meeting his wife Elizabeth.
“One of my college teammates was engaged to a girl in the area, and I would come down sometimes and go on blind double dates with them,” he says. “I’m waiting for my date and Elizabeth walked by, and I said, ‘Can you introduce me to her?’”
Their relationship trajectory found Cam, now 26, looking for work in the United States. While working odd jobs around Bellevue, he was offered a copywriter position at an ad agency in Arizona.
“The owner of an agency in Arizona saw my CLIO award and swimming experience and it made him interested, especially since his kid was a competitive swimmer,” Cam says.
Writing radio ads, Cam had the opportunity to work with some of the most influential radio voices of the day—people like Bob Newhart, Tom Poston and Suzanne Pleshette—the same voices that inspired him as a child.
“Listening to the radio growing up, I was always fascinated by voices. To date myself, I could recognize Mr. Cunningham from ‘Happy Days’ by his voice,” he says.
Cam eventually turned down a creative director position in Arizona so he could move back to the Northwest. Growing up in a family of entrepreneurs—his dad was a pioneer in plastics manufacturing—Cam has never been afraid to take a risk.
“I just came back here with no job,” he says.
Freelancing as a copywriter, he eventually joined with seasoned account guy Dick Hadley to form Hadley Green Creates, which then became GreenRubino after Hadley retired.
From radio to website redesigns, Cam has seen the industry evolve over his 25 years in advertising.
“There have been dramatic changes. The digital side has flourished,” he says. While some agencies have been slow to adapt, Cam and his partner, John Rubino, have insisted on hiring key talent.
“Our model has been to go find somebody that builds that sector of the marketing industry,” he says.
It’s not just the technology that has changed. Consumers have gotten smarter, too.
“Think about how many messages you see per day, you only have two or three seconds to make someone think,” he says.
No matter the medium, Cam brings a simple ethos to the creative process:
“It isn’t about any one medium, it’s about ideas that connect.”
And he still swims really fast.