In his own words: Advertising executive Greg Mason
Name/title: Greg Mason, president, GMAA Group
Number of years in this job: 26
Years in this profession: 40
Education: I graduated from University of Utah with a bachelor of fine arts degree with an emphasis in graphic design
Last book read: “Poseidon’s Arrow” by Clive Cussler
Favorite flick: “Blazing Saddles” and “Dr. Strangelove”
What’s on your iPod: Everything from Abba to Jimi Hendrix to techno to Marty Robbins.
Spouse, kids or pets: My wife of 43 years is Marsha. Our son Christopher, 41, is a firefighter in Carson City and our daughter Emily, 37, is a third-grade teacher out at Lemmon Valley. We have two grandkids, Jessie, 6, and Charlotte, 12. We also have a Pug name Lupita and two cats.
Northern Nevada Business Weekly: Tell us about GMAA Group and the duties of your position.
Greg Mason: We have had as many as 14 employees when we had large casino clients with large retainers, but that is just not out there anymore. We pared down the agency to four people. I do a number of things. I oversee everything and make sure we are meeting our clients’ needs. I am an account executive on several of our accounts. I manage all our pro-bono clients and also spend about six hours a day on the computer writing and producing our TV and radio commercials. I do the graphic design work as well.
NNBW: How did you get into this business?
Mason: I started out as a business major, but I took an advertising design class as an elective because I always liked to draw. It just fit me to a T so I switched majors and went into graphic design.
NNBW: You’ve worked in the local market for several decades — what ads or campaigns have you worked on that we would recognize?
Mason: We do all the radio and TV for the Reno Rodeo. In the past our group designed the St. Mary’s logo, which is no longer being used, as well as the Fleischmann Planetarium logo. Our craziest claim to fame was back when I worked for DRGM in the mid ‘80s. A group of us came up with a campaign for Winnemucca that was written up in People magazine. It was a series of billboards making fun of Winnemucca, such as “City of Paved Streets,” “4.5 Billion People Have Never Been Here,” and “Our Name Says It All.” It was goofy stuff, but it garnered national attention.
NNBW: How has the advent of social media and the shift to mobile impacted your business?
Mason: Years ago, 100 percent of our work was done on drawing boards and on computers, but none of it related to social media. Now, about half of our work is devoted to website design, mini QR Web sites for mobile phones, and we do social media for several clients. Half our business is devoted to that now. Where we place our advertising dollars also has changed — we spent a fair amount of our clients’ budgets on social media and WWeb site marketing. We are reaching out to people in ways we never have before. It is unique and exciting and it changes every year.
NNBW: As a member of the “old guard,” what things have you found to be the most challenging as business shifts to these new areas?
Mason: I try to stay up on what is going on, but if you want me to design an app, I can’t do it. One of my biggest challenges is trying to explain to my clients why they don’t necessarily need an app. In the old days, the challenge was keeping a sharp X-Acto knife handy because everything was done with an X-Acto knife, a ruling pen and T-squares. You had to be careful not to stab yourself or cut your finger off. That didn’t change for a long time. In 1992 we got a Mac SE 30, one of our first computers. We actually could type faster than it could process the words. But you no longer were sketching things out on paper. But I still try to get my people to incorporate some old-school methods in modern technology. You have to get your information out of your mind and on a piece of paper, sketch it and work with and then put it on the computer to finish the creative process. The amount of work that one person can do now probably would take five people back when I started this business, especially on the illustration side. You can airbrush or 3D a logo in a matter of minutes, and it would take you an entire day or maybe even two days, back when I first started. The speed at which our work has evolved is incredible.
NNBW: What other ways has technology impacted your work?
Mason: I have a home in Mexico, and I am able to go down there and work. The only difference is I don’t have face time. So much of our work is done with emails and file distribution that I can do it no matter where I am.
NNBW: Over the course of your long career, can you point to one thing that’s helped you be successful in the advertising industry?
Mason: I had a really good typography teacher in college. If your typography doesn’t look good I’ll know it. Make sure you spend time and effort on your typography to make it look good. That goes back to the old-school way of how we used to have to hand-render headlines.
NNBW: What was your first job?
Mason: I worked at an auto body shop sanding cars. I hated that job. I made $1 an hour.
NNBW: What is your dream job?
Mason: I love the work I am doing now. This is it for me. I really enjoy it and I have been doing it for so long it comes second nature to me. I relish getting on the computer, working on a design and seeing it come to fruition and seeing it in print.
NNBW: What’s the most fun you have had on the job?
Mason: It’s coming up with a different approach. Last year’s Reno Rodeo ads had no words in them — it was all visuals. This year we are taking a different approach to the radio campaign. This year we are going to have a poem. It is coming up with different ways to present our message, and that is the funnest part for me.
NNBW: How do you spend your time away from work?
Mason: We do a lot of camping. We like Pyramid Lake because of the water temperature. We like the vastness of the lake and do a lot of boat surfing. You have a specially designed surfboard designed for wakes and a short rope, and you free-form on the board. Once you get up, when you get the sweet spot of the wave, you are surfing on your own. I can go for a couple of minutes before I lose the wake but my son can go indefinitely.
NNBW: What did you dream of becoming when you were a kid?
Mason: I kind of thought I might follow in my dad’s footsteps. He worked for Standard Oil and worked over the world.
NNBW: If you had enough money to retire right now, would you?
Mason: I have been thinking about that a lot because I am approaching retirement age — I’ll be 64 next month. I probably won’t retire from this work until I am in my 70s. It is not taxing for me and I enjoy it so much.
NNBW: What’s the last concert or sporting event you attended?
Mason: Last concert was Chris Isaak, and the last sporting event was the 49ers at Wembley Stadium. That was an experience like no other.
NNBW: What’s your idea of the perfect vacation?
Mason: Five days in the Wine Country staying at bed-and-breakfasts and hotels.
NNBW: Why did you choose a career in northern Nevada? What do you like most about working/living here?
Mason: After living in Salt Lake City for 12 years we were tired of the weather and the politics. I had an opportunity to work here in Reno and took it. We have been here since 1984. I love the recreational aspects. We are close to skiing, the water, and we are close to San Francisco. I love the city, the 49ers and baseball. If we are not watching Reno Aces games we are down in San Francisco watching Giants games. The climate is comfortable, the people are friendly, and it is a great place to raise kids.
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