Blue Skies Ahead
Shoulder pads, an IBM Selective typewriter, and Bette Davis Eyes playing on the radio. In August of 1981 W.R. Drake & Co. hired a Media Buyer who would become a pillar of the agency for 40 years. Sara Chase has been our mentor, navigator, north star, and sunny side through every up and down of agency life during her dedicated and fulfilling career.
Sara has held several positions at Drake Cooper; she was our Media Director for ten years and our Account Director for over 25 years. She’s also been a Vice President of the agency. She’s been through four agency name changes, three downtown buildings, three ownership changes, and too many timesheets to count. In fact, she’s worked at Drake Cooper longer than our founder, Bill Drake. Sara has led some of our largest accounts throughout her career and those accounts have produced some of our most award-winning campaigns including the Idaho Lottery Commission, The Department of Health and Welfare, and The Idaho Travel Council. Her dedication and commitment to Drake Cooper has always helped us flourish and helped our clients shine.
So we say thank you, Sara, for being the person you are, and for being the person we needed to help us through all those years at Drake Cooper. We say it with a heavy but full heart and with the utmost respect and admiration. We can never thank you enough for all you’ve done for the agency — you built it, you brought it to life and you made it a better and brighter place every damn day. We raise a glass to you and wish you nothing but blue skies ahead.
Below is our Q. and A. with Sara about her 40-year career at Drake Cooper, a must-read.
Q. How did you get your start at W.R. Drake & Co.?
A. I was working at KPVT TV so I was well aware of W.R. Drake & Co. I was fortunate to have met Bill at an IAF Conference in Sun Valley. I was young and dreamed of working at this new agency and fortunately, Bill remembered me. My timing was perfect, I was moving to Boise and W.R. Drake & Company had just landed Idaho Bank & Trust, McDonald’s of Southwest Idaho, and The Idaho Travel Council so they needed help quickly.
Q. What were the early days like at W.R. Drake & Co.?
A. It was fun and I felt really fortunate to be part of a scrappy, hard working, smart and kind group of people (Bill, Diane Campbell, Tim Pace, Val Kirkpatrick, Dale Stickel, Gayla Boyce, and me!). Honestly, Val K. scared me a little but she taught me well. Respect the accounting team and you will earn their respect.
Q. Tell us about what advertising was like when you started?
A. Advertising was pretty cool. Mass media was truly massive and Point-of-sale was physically at the point where you purchase.
My first exposure to advertising was my job at JC Penney Co. in Rock Springs Wyoming. It’s really a bit of a stretch to call it advertising, but it was a start. I laid out the weekly newspaper ads that would run in the Rocket Miner. Point-of-Sale was part of my job, as in making shelf talkers and rack signs for special sales and promotions. This was a pretty typical media mix at the time. My work space was in the basement, behind the fabric department. My tools were a parent-company clipart booklet, literally a letter press with Times Roman font, an ink roller, and a bunch of card stock. I also had the added responsibility as Window Dresser. It was actually a fun high school job, Monday through Friday after school. Not bad for a reckless teenager.
I had the opportunity to get to know television when I got a job at KPVI TV in Pocatello, the ABC affiliate at the time. TV was a badass advertising tool. Almost everyone watched ABC primetime during those few years when Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley were extremely popular. Mork and Mindy made some kind of history. ABC was on a very high note as they televised the first ever network mini-series, Roots. This incredible innovation drew an estimated 130 million viewers. Crazy good.
When I started at W.R. Drake and Company, I was ecstatic about transitioning from a seller to a buyer. A media mix of TV, outdoor, radio and print meant massive reach (like 90+ %) and solid frequency was pretty easy to come by. This shit really worked (and still does).
Local media was a community, and we got to know one another by working together face to face. As clients, the advertising community enjoyed the occasional event put on by local media, like TV Premiere parties. The TV stations would host red carpet events (great parties) to show off snippets of their new programs. We’d discuss our choices for winners and losers, and place a few bets on our hunches. Good times!
Q. How has media changed since you started? And, how were you able to adapt so easily to new media?
A. This sounds really ancient, but when I started, business communication and negotiations were by phone or in-person. I love that communication has become so easy and instant, but I miss the working relationships and friendships within the media community. Friends I made back in the ’80s and ’90s are still dear friends today, and that may not have ever happened in the current media environment.
In my view, paid media is more complicated with the advent of paid digital and streaming media opportunities. Reach, frequency, leads, and conversions are still important measurements, but the sophistication of digital performance and analytics is astounding to me. I also never imagined that Facebook would be a pretty good reach tool. The new players better not rest because there’s always something new on the horizon. That’s what keeps us all engaged, doesn’t it? I have to admit, though, that my love for the mass media we used back in the day still holds a bigger spot in my heart than social media and influencers ever will.
Q. What are your greatest successes or accomplishments during your career? What are you most proud of?
A. I like to think I had some part in the acquisition and tenure of our clients over the years. The work to win the business was stressful, exhausting and then really exhilarating when we were successful. Our long-term relationships meant we delivered client satisfaction year over year. For decades, we successfully retained existing clients even when contracts required competitive reviews every four to six years.
While in Media I got a pretty good sense of the kind of media plan and budget it took to make the desired impact. And second, I learned a lot about Idaho including counties, little nooks and cranny towns, and the media in each area.
Q. What campaigns stick in your head the most?
A. Teen Pregnancy Prevention — The concept of teen pregnancy steals your youth (your music becomes baby music, and a skateboard won’t be your transportation anymore).
Idaho Lottery — Feeling a Little Lucky? A Scratch Games umbrella. Idaho Tobacco Prevention: Project Filter which went through arduous audience and stakeholder testing before it became a brand.
Q. What was your biggest challenge during your career, and how did you overcome it?
A. Our initial work in social marketing was a multi-year campaign to get teens to avoid alcohol. This seemed an impossible challenge until I learned two things. You have to be in for the long haul to achieve this kind of behavior change and it’s necessary to start with attainable goals such as starting the conversation, and so on. This made our work for this client, and numerous others, meaningful and measurable.
Q. How did you keep your cool all these years?
A. I prefer and therefore choose to be positive and happy. I admittedly avoid conflict when possible so I try to figure out how to resolve issues without flaming a fire. I suppose that my personality suits cool rather than hot and cold. I understand that I can say I choose to, but I’m not sure that’s an option for everyone. Am I right?
Q. Do you have a “Best Day Ever?”
A. I visited some great cities as I was able to travel to quite a few National and Provincial Lottery conventions. The trip to Halifax, Nova Scotia made a lasting impression. A post-convention day trip drive with the Idaho Lottery team was perfect. It was a sunny day, cruising with relaxed company, sharing a fresh lobster meal by the ocean, passing through quaint fishing communities outside the city, and listening to our new tape of regional mashup cajun-irish music to keep us all humming. I’ll definitely go back someday.
Q. Do you have a few favorite or one favorite moment from your career at DC to share with us?
A. If something sticks for more than 30 years, I’d say that should count as a favorite. The Idaho Lottery launched in July, 1989 and the agency search began earlier in the spring. We were selected to participate in the oral presentation phase and there was something just right for our team on presentation day. We were absolutely flawless, even through Q&A. The Drake vibe was working its magic and the whole presentation was just really fun. And that was the beginning of a rewarding relationship that lasted a good many years.
Q. You seem to always be in such a good mood and a positive person? How do you do that, and can you give me some of your vitamins?
1. I have a lot to be thankful for. I try never to forget that, so I tell myself often.
2. When a campaign gets, shall we say, hung up, I don’t take things personally and work on solutions
3. I trust that collectively we’re great at what we do
4. A tasty cocktail, after hours. Is this a vitamin?
Q. What is the best thing about this business?
A. The product! Setting up solutions and messaging is hard work. Seeing our finished campaigns in the world is a hoot, and the best part is what we deliver: results.
Q. What advice would you give people just starting in this business?
A. Our days are very full, and we move fast, but take the time to just think. You will be happiest if you are open to change. Even if the change is something that was tried before, it will still be different than the first time.
Q. What will you miss about Drake Cooper?
A. This calls for a bullet list:
- I’ll miss the vibe. Most of the time it’s been good vibrations and I feel like that’s pretty special.
- All the smart people I’ve worked with over the last 40 years. I’ve learned so much from you.
- The pride I’ve always had for the place I work.