Curb Convo with Dean Forbes: CEO

Meet Dean — Curb’s CEO, advocate for the power of creative design, discoverer of human truths, and talented storyteller.

Tell us about your role at Curb Crowser & how you got to where you are today. How did you know you wanted to be in advertising?

My role is CEO of Curb Crowser. My journey to this role has been an effort to bring a combination of new business growth and creative influence to our agency. Since our culture at Curb Crowser is team oriented and we like to leave our titles at the door, my hope is that I hold this position because I have led by example and inspired a few folks along the way.

I don’t recall that I ever really knew I wanted to be in advertising, it just has always been in me to connect art and commerce. Since I was in junior high school I have been creating and selling art — quick true story — as a junior high school kid, I would spend a few hours each weekend painting 5x8” watercolor postcards of beach scenes, lighthouses, etc. I would bring them into school and sell them to all my teachers for $5 each, racking up about $40–50 a week. A great gig until a few months later when my teachers got together and told me that I needed to find more clients, they simply can’t afford to buy anymore postcards.

I am infinitely fascinated at the power of creative to move people and to change human behavior. Great design stops people, it makes them feel and act, and that is something I just haven’t been able to walk away from.

What’s the coolest part of your job?

People. I love people. My favorite art genre is portraits. My favorite books are biographies. I find people fascinating, and in this business I get to meet and work with many amazing people — whether that is the tenacious entrepreneur, a savvy executive, or a youthful marketer teeming with enthusiasm and fresh insight, I am motivated by each to learn and grow myself so I can better serve them.

As CEO of a small agency, you get to wear many different hats. Which is your favorite hat to wear and why?

It would probably have to be my creative hat, because that is where my roots are. However, applying my creativity is not limited only to how I might influence design outputs, but to practicing design thinking across all business functions for the agency and our clients. I believe this is a key to unlocking anything from much needed consumer product innovations to untapped revenue streams.

What’s one thing most people don’t know about advertising agencies that you wish they did?

That you don’t just push the F9 key and amazing creative pops out. This was a bit of an inside joke we had with a client who would affectionately challenge us and comment, “Oh, come on, it can’t be that hard. You just push the F9 key and there it is!” Well, we wish it were that simple. The reality is great ideas, great creative comes from a process of stripping away until you get to that one insight, that one human truth when brought into the world with compelling creative will move people to feel and act. The best and most effective creative will often appear simple, but it’s just not nearly as effortless as most believe. It takes knowledge, editing, and the discipline to find and create it.

What do you see as the most essential part of great retail innovation?

I believe it’s as simple as human truth. What I mean by that is while many in our industry will chase the latest technologies and gadgetry trying to address the changing retail landscape, the winners will be those who get to the real human need today’s consumers want met through their retail experience. And, how they are able to deliver those brief yet elevated moments at retail to create extraordinary and lasting memories.

What’s something most people don’t know about you?

In high school I got 14 stitches in my nose from getting it caught in the net (a steel net!) while dunking a basketball. One of my proudest moments as I then had proof I could dunk. One of my most painful moments, because well, it hurt really bad.