The best type of strategies are ones that are rooted in some sort of tension. Tension naturally forces you to solve something, forces you to have a point of view and at times, could make you uncomfortable. The enemy in this business is comfort. Doing things the same way will yield the same results. Zigging when others are zagging gets you noticed. So finding a tension that can expose a point of difference is paramount.
As part of my series about “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started Leading a Cannabis Business” I had the pleasure of interviewing Devin Reiter, Executive Director, Partner Development at Fortnight Collective.
Devin comes to Fortnight Collective having worked at some of the most recognizable ad agencies in the world: Managing Director/CP+B, Executive Account Director/ McCann, Global Account Director Consultant/ Leo Burnett and Account Lead/Hill Holliday. Devin’s experience is expansive, and he comes with a proven track record. Most notably he oversaw business efforts for a host of Microsoft brands, Verizon, Domino’s, Wendy’s, American Express, Kraft, Samsung and Infiniti. He has helped drive meaningful results through culture shifting award winning campaigns. Devin resides in Boulder, CO with his wife and daughter. He enjoys working out, teaching spin classes, riding motorcycles, all NY sports teams and anything 80/90’s metal music.
Can you share with us the story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I’ve always enjoyed the craft of advertising and the idea that creativity is truly magical. There is no black box, special sauce or work-arounds to what we do. Rather it is leaning into culture, finding the cracks and exposing them in a creative, motivating way. Early on before advertising, I owned a restaurant, straight out of college. I knew very little about running a restaurant, staffing, back of house, accounting and just about everything that goes along with running a restaurant. However, when we had to “sell” ourselves to become an approved vendor — that is when I quickly learned how to skillfully present an argument and lean into the art of persuasion. Something clicked.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I would lean more into a new way of working to address this. We are in the “AND” culture, where every ask comes with more to it — people need things quickly and efficiently. Maybe our model elicits this type of expectation. Maybe it is just the culture we live in — but speed is the new strategy. It is both an advantage and a learning curve. Specifically, there are ultimately concessions — the depth of thinking and the elegant craft. At Fortnight, we love all things fast and don’t like to get bogged down in the overthink and lost in the telephone tag. At the same time, we want speed to be a benefit and never a hinderance. For me specifically, learning how to create the balance is a case by case basis and really understanding your client’s needs is paramount.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When you start out in any career, you don’t know what you don’t know. And “fake it until you make it” eventually stops working. And I learned that very quickly. I was on my first shoot and did not exactly know the on-set etiquette. To date myself, cell phones were just becoming accessible, and I had an old Ericsson cell phone. I don’t even believe there was a silent mode. It was either on or off. Mid-shoot during dialogue, mine was on and it started ringing. At first, no big deal right. Today, this always happens. Well on a shoot, with film (not digital), time is money. Needless to say my boss at that time, along with the production crew, was not happy. Lesson learned. And that lesson is know your audience, read the room, and respect the craft.
Are you working on any exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?
At Fortnight Collective, we thrive on being busy. Our model is set up that way. We get to immerse ourselves in a multitude of brands and verticals and feel like we are not only helping brands tell their story, but we are also expanding our knowledge base. Clients come to us because we are diversified and have tapped into a lot of industries– we work with startups, Fortune 500’s, CPG, dog food, health bars, pro bono and everything in between.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Without having mentors and people that take a keen interest in your career path, I believe you are missing out. Knowledge and wisdom is both learned and earned. I also believe that learning comes in two forms: what to do and what not to do. And fortunately, I’ve had a few people that took me under their wing sort of speak. The first and most impactful is a legendary account man, Gary Steele. Gary, who is still in the business, has more energy, charisma, attitude and confidence than just about anyone I have ever worked with. He is a straight shooter, and tells it like it is. Gary has worked on many famous brands in his career, but most notably in my opinion is Wendy’s, specifically the Dave Thomas campaign which I believe was one of the longest running campaigns. Gary hired me many moons ago to work on Wendy’s. He ran a tight ship, did not put up with nonsense, was a tough boss, but always rooted for you. And that is what separates him from many. Tough love I call it. But he showed me the ropes, provided the tools, gave me a ton of autonomy, constructively made me better and always had my back.
The Cannabis industry is young, dynamic and creative. Do you use any clever and innovative marketing strategies that you think large legacy companies should consider adopting?
Clever and innovative is all relative. The best type of strategies are ones that are rooted in some sort of tension. Tension naturally forces you to solve something, forces you to have a point of view and at times, could make you uncomfortable. The enemy in this business is comfort. Doing things the same way will yield the same results. Zigging when others are zagging gets you noticed. So finding a tension that can expose a point of difference is paramount.
Can you share 3 things that most excite you about the Cannabis industry? Can you share 3 things that most concern you?
I get excited about the potential of the product(s) and how this industry can change the world. Living in the hub of cannabis, Boulder, CO, I am predisposed to all the goodness coming out of this industry. Specifically, the 3 things that I look forward to are: the continuing medical benefits, the innovation, and the opportunity to watch an entirely new vertical grow. My single concern is regulation. Sure, I understand the safety benefits, but when regulators enforce unnecessary rules on a product that naturally comes from the ground for financial purposes, the consumer loses.
Can you share your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started Leading a Cannabis Business”? Please share a story or example for each.
Well, we are a bit skewed here in Colorado as we are the epicenter of all things cannabinoids. However, given the ever-evolving nature of the category, there are always things to be learned:
- Social — there are rules and regulations to what you can and cannot do on social. So ideas that are socially driven take a back seat.
- The promise — it is like the vitamin category where the claims cannot be substantiated by the FDA. Marketing ideas that are suggestive vs. factual prove to come with challenges.
- Process is critical — there are a lot of “knock-offs” especially in CBD. And it couldn’t be more true that not all CBD is created equal.
- Hemp oil and CBD are very different — it’s almost like saying all cars are the same.
- The industry is very volatile — new players are entering the space, tried and true leaders are moving out of the space and venture capitalists are looking for ways to diversify their money.
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
Trust, support, and autonomy are critical. When employees feel supported, the mindset shifts. It goes from a job to a culture. People are the lifeblood to what we do. We need to nurture them, empower them, reward them, and at all costs be honest with them.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
When I worked at Crispin Porter + Bogusky as the Managing Director, I made it a point to know every person at least by name. I wanted to eliminate any sort of perceived hierarchal component to my job or at least to what my title was. It takes 10 seconds to stop someone, say hello, and ask what they do. By doing so, you have spread a good vibe and shown a vested interest. So perhaps make it a point to give about 10 seconds of your day to meet someone new.
What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!