“I should have answered the phone, ‘Hello, this is James, President of Creature.’”
Around lunchtime on Monday, James Keblas held a press conference at City Hall to thank Mayor Ed Murray for firing him from his nine-year post as the Director of Seattle’s Office of Film + Music. Keblas, wearing a grin the length of his face, resurfaced as President of Creature, the world-acclaimed creative agency that lives in Capitol Hill.
Originally appointed by Gregory Nickels then again by Michael McGinn, among his successes in growing Seattle’s arts and entertainment industries, Keblas spearheaded the City of Music initiative and Commercialize Seattle.
By bringing copious events, artists, and fans together in an annual, month-long music festival, the City of Music effort boosted Seattle’s economy and reaffirmed its role as a global leader of music. Commercialize Seattle, on the other hand, drew adverting agencies and production companies to Seattle and Washington State with a playful website and video series that grew the city’s film industry. It was during that fruitful drive that Keblas crossed paths with Creature, the Seattle-based creative agency behind the campaign.
Known internationally for its progressive advertising and design, Creature is the brain of projects like the catchy Double Down Casino commercials and the two-prong campaign during the Venezuela elections that reduced that community’s fear of voting and rallied the anti-Chavez population.
In his new post, Keblas will share a corner office with Creature’s co-founders, Chief Executive Officer Matt Peterson and Chief Creative Officer Jim Haven. Haven said that he and Peterson had been searching the world over for the right candidate to fill Keblas’ role. The last two people interviewed for the position came from London.
“I was really impressed with James and wanted to continue to work with him in the future and see what else we could do. So when he was let go, I was obviously disappointed that we couldn’t continue that relationship. I hadn’t thought too much about where he was going to go, but I knew that it was going to be great for him,” Haven said. “It happened pretty quickly once we started talking about it. Matt, James, and I all shared a similar vision, and we already could see how the three of us worked like a power trio, like the 1970s, like Rush.”
Keblas said, “I am inspired in this place. I mean, it is full of creativity, full of great people, and Jim and Matt have built an agency that really knows how to get to the heart of problems in a really honest way, and then build it back up into solutions. I like them because, and I saw this first hand, they don’t go immediately into prescribing solutions. They take the time that an agency should take. I bought in. I believe them 100 percent and am excited about what we can do with others.”
While Peterson focuses on running Creature and maximizing growth opportunities, and Haven dedicates his time to serving the creative needs of Creature’s clients and developing the agency’s people and work, Keblas will be Creature’s public face, helping shape the agency’s business model and finding other problems that it can solve outside of design and advertising.
“It’s a direction that Matt and I have been keenly interested in since Day One,” Haven said. “We never saw ourselves as an advertising agency or a design agency, but a creative agency.”
Having earned his reputation and built relationships with elected officials, executives, and the arts and entertainment communities in Seattle, Keblas will champion making connections for Creature within the city, better connecting the commercial activity to the creative. He is also friends with Michael Swiwerath, the man leading the effort to create an Arts District in Capitol Hill; Keblas said that he’s interested in helping Swiwerath think that effort through.
To Mayor Murray, Keblas said, “All is well that ends well,” and that, alongside Creature, he looks forward to collaborating with the city.
“The takeaway for me is that I’ve been pretty effective in government and in not-for-profits, and now I have this incredible engine behind me that’s for the private sector, and the sky is the limit at this point, Keblas said. “I’m just excited about getting going.”
Creature is located 1517 12th Avenue. More information about Creature is available at www.welcometocreature.com.