Super tall. Super friendly. Super talented. That’s our new account director, Adam Ziles, who has spent the past 15+ years in a variety of creative and business roles, including working partner of a Southern California retail brand and owner of his own creative agency. He knows firsthand the challenges of stretching a marketing budget, connecting with customers, and growing a business. Needless to say, we couldn’t be more excited to have him join the team. Stop by and say hello sometime! Until then, get to know him below.
So, Adam, what got you started in marketing?
Rumor has it my first word was “pencil.” Since we didn’t have Facebook back then to record every important moment, this can’t be confirmed. But nevertheless, having a father in advertising and growing up in that world, I think I was destined to be in advertising/marketing. I could have carved a different path, but I was truly thrilled by everything my father was doing as far back as I can remember, and that thrill was well cultivated as I grew older, went to college, and now continues as an adult.
What’s your background?
I’ve been a student of design since I was a child. I studied graphic design in college and have been a designer for most of my professional career. Being a product of today’s marketing landscape, my role as a designer has evolved from an emphasis in print (for the most part) to branding and web. The kinds of companies I’ve been a part of (big agency, startup, freelance, and my own creative virtual agency) and the many hats I’ve worn (business development, direction, management, branding, design, web development) have been different over the years, but a constant throughout has been my design eye and my creative mind.
Having been involved with a total of 10 different startups also gives me a lot of client-side experience—both with marketing and being a business owner—that most don’t have.
What brought you to JLSA?
I’ve known Josh and James since 2001. We were in the design program at Mizzou together. After moving to KC in 2011, I started to catch up with them during First Fridays and the occasional lunch or drinks. I’d been admiring for a while what they, along with David, had built and the great work the entire team was producing. When JLSA’s interest in bringing me on board was first presented, I was honored and excited! As the conversations continued, we talked about strategies, philosophies, approach, and goals; about bringing my Ziles Creative clients along and providing them an even greater level of service and work; and about the role I could play in not only what they were doing now but what they could be in the future. JLSA is doing things differently than most. And in the end, the final decision to join the team was an absolute no-brainer.
What did you do before joining JLSA? Before that? Before that?
Before JLSA, I ran my own virtual agency called Ziles Creative from 2011 to 2017. It was essentially what you would expect of a full-service marketing agency—just without employees. The business model was built around working with trusted (mostly local) freelancers with myself often in the role of account director, project manager, and creative director. Primarily we did branding and web work, but our core purpose was helping businesses better connect with their customers, make more strategic marketing decisions, and build their business.
What are some of the clients you’ve worked with?
Cesar Millan is a fun one to name-drop. I did the website for his “Training Cesar’s Way Workshop.” Luna Beach Swimwear is another big one. It’s a brand name you may not have heard of yet, but one of the founders is fairly well known in some European fashion circles and, the last time I checked, has 742.3k followers on Instagram. There are a few local restaurants (like Franks and Tortilla Ranch Mexican Grill) a lot of successful startups (like Intelica CRE, Premier Custom Care, RippnFinish, and Emaline Ballroom), and a number of older companies that have been around over 50 years (like Visiting Nurse Association, Regal Awards, and Capital City Oil).
How long have you been in Kansas City? Where else have you lived?
My partner, Holly, and I moved to KC in 2011. I was born in the Quad Cities, grew up in the suburbs of St Louis, was a Mizzou Tiger, then lived in the South Bay in Los Angeles and beautiful Northern San Diego, and then headed back to the Midwest to Lake Country, Wisconsin.
You yourself have been a retail brand small business owner. Tell us about it! How has that experience shaped your work as a marketer?
One of those startups I’d been involved with was as a partner of a retail brand called Surf Dog. We were in the pet industry. There were two boutiques—one in L.A., the other in Laguna Beach—and we also later sold products online nationwide.
We were in the holistic, all-natural, organic, made-in-the-USA products category when it was new or, at least in the case of made-in-the-USA, becoming popular again. We were heavily involved in rescue, adoptions, education, and being a part of and resource for the community.
Being responsible for leading the marketing and developing the creative, while also being one of the owners that paid the bills, was an interesting challenge that taught me a lot of financial and marketing lessons.
Looking back on that time—which involved being part of a new niche and often having to educate to convert a customer, being a social company before the modern social marketing tools (these were the days of MySpace being popular and Facebook being in year one), the process of assuming we knew what the customer wanted and then learning what they really wanted, and on and on—it all played an extremely pivotal role in shaping my philosophy and approach to marketing.
Are you active in any KC communities?
Yes! Startups/entrepreneurial, pet/rescue, and marketing. I find a lot of joy being around startup/small business people. I’m very passionate about animals and their welfare. And I love branding and marketing.
What’s the most number of pets you’ve had at a time?
Oh geez! Back when we had the pet stores, I think we had up to 11 dogs at one time, as well as two birds we bought from a shopping cart on the street in downtown L.A. Only three of the dogs were our pets. The other eight we pulled out of a high-kill shelter in L.A. to adopt out.
After that, for a while we had five dogs that were our own. Right now we have two dogs, one cat, three birds, a bunch of fish (8+), and some random frog that has made a home by the little pond in our backyard. We call him Fredrick. So that’s 10-15. The number is ever-changing. Next week we could have three more!
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Spare time? Hmmm. If I have it, I most enjoy just being outside, whether that’s in the backyard with Holly and our dogs, around a campfire, on the water, or just sitting back and relaxing.
Any underrated KC spots we should know about?
I’m a big fan of the burgers at Walsh’s Corner Cocktail in Waldo—how they’re grilled, the meat, and definitely the cheddar cheese spread. It’s old-school burger perfection.
Have any methods to get your creative/strategic juices flowing?
Music helps me clear my mind and get the juices flowing. Collaborating with like-minded people almost always results in a good energy that lights the fire and results in an explosion of good. Learning/reading/seeing/hearing gives me inspiration. Immersing myself in gaining knowledge on a subject will create a snowball effect of ideas.