Fender Music Instruments Corporation (FMIC) sought an online makeover in 2008 for launch in early 2009. These were the days before CMS / Wordpress driven sites took over the market—and if I recall, one of the last sites I developed using basic HTML with Flash (AS2) technology. I recall this project landing in my lap. It ignited an incredible sense of joy to be able to work on a globally well-known brand that I loved. In due time, I became overwhelmingly disappointed and bored by the entire experience—and not because of the company itself, but by the in-between representation. You can tell by my initial concepts where I started (the first 5 pitched ideas), and where it wandered based on multiple points of feedback. The account came to me from one of Fender’s long-time contracted photographers, Steve Pitkin, whose official studio is centered here in my hometown (Rockford, IL). Pitkin Studio has been shooting Fender products and roster artists for the better part of 30 years. Steve called me up and asked if I was interested in expanding his studio from being solely photography based to more of a full marketing firm services option for his blue chip accounts. Enter FMIC (Fender).

This led to a domino effect of work for Fender and Pitkin Studio, as well as other accounts Steve contracted to me. I was quite shocked by the direction Steve and FMIC chose to go with, but the customer gets what the customer wants. Steve’s conservative influence and communication with the client played a large part in their direction, too—and ultimately, Steve got what Steve wanted, too. Playing it safe with a corporate conservative online approach took precedent. I recall feeling extremely letdown by everyone involved on this account. Their decisions to bypass full screen product centric online marketing in favor of a boxed grid already felt dated in 2008 and 2009. They weren’t able to see the bigger picture, though I fought for it until realizing it was a pointless battle against too many chefs in the kitchen.

Everything felt trapped and contained, and I expressed the direction they were choosing to go with would be outdated within a year to two years less. Despite their inabilities to listen to the one person who determined their online branding and functionality was aged out of the box, I reluctantly did what I knew was wrong. I had abandoned Flash/HTML web development by the end of 2009 to focus entirely on Wordpress technology and clients who were willing to trust my direction. CMS website development that utilizes HTML/PHP/MySQL and 3rd party app plugins rules much of what every living organism sees online, on any device, anywhere on earth in 2019.

Pitkin Studio attempted to bring me on full time and in-house in early 2010 to grow their business into a full servicing firm—but a handful of lowball offers and smoke and mirror discussions forced me to sever a business relationship. A final effort by Steve offering me a base 48k (after trying to initially offer me a lowball 24k) to come inside with annual bonuses hitting 100k was tossed my way. I didn’t trust him on his word or offers to pay up on compensations—and that applies to most business owners in the Rockford region. They say one thing and do another, more often than not, treating working class talent like garbage. In advertising and marketing, a contract Creative Director like me with skills covering dozens of roles, triple/quadruple whatever salary you’re thinking. I’m worth much more than whatever number you believe is fair. Advertising and marketing is business, not charity—and I have my fine arts outlets to work for nothing when I need to exercise my anti-capitalist demons.

Steve’s creative direction is perfect for corporate, safe, marketing initiatives like what FMIC chose—and at the end of the day, like I said before, the customer gets what the customer wants. If it’s safe and creatively shitty, then it’s what the customer deserves. : )

ClientFender Music instruments CorporationServicesCreative Direction, Web Development, Online Marketing for Pitkin StudioYear2008-2009Linkfender.com

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