Dave Sharp

Dave Sharp • Written May 2009

Dave Sharp

Dave Sharp’s background includes work on the client-side with Caterpillar and Armstrong; as well as Senior Management positions in major advertising agencies (Kraft Smith, Sharp Hartwig, Cf2GS, Bozell Worldwide and FCB); and, executive marketing positions with media companies including Aptimus and BELO Northwest.

Sharp has a 30-year track record of helping corporations, government agencies and not-for-profit organizations that are involved in complex and sometimes high profile public policy issues and public engagement campaigns. He also has extensive experience in strategic marketing communications planning in both the public and private sectors. The Seattle Post Intelligencer recognized Dave as one of the top Cause Marketing matchmakers in the region for his ability to connect not-for-profits and government agencies to the corporate world. Additionally, Sharp has helped plan and implement some of the regions most successful fundraising and capital campaigns for the Seattle Art Museum, Woodland Park Zoo, Pacific Science Center and Seattle Children’s.

Dave is currently a marketing communications, strategic partnership, social media marketing consultant in Kirkland Washington.

On Oct 19, 1979, the day 149 hostages were taken in the U.S. Embassy in Iran, Dave Sharp (age 27) and Cynthia Hartwig (age 26) co-founded an advertising agency with their former Kraft Smith boss, Andy Vladimir 1. They modestly named the agency Sharp, Hartwig & Vladimir 2.

Within two years, as many in the industry predicted 3, the fledgling agency added its first client, the Seattle Opera 4; was sued by their former agency employer for stealing the second client, Simpson Timber Company 5; and replaced the “&” in the agency’s name with a “Vs” when a rift the size of the Grand Canyon developed with Vladimir 6. The day Andy Vladimir departed Seattle to head up the Bermuda Tourism Authority7, Sharp Hartwig Inc. was officially born.

Dave still refers to the start-up years as “bath by fire.” Cynthia called them the “earn as you learn” years. Accounts were won: Tanaka Outdoor Power Equipment 8, AquaQuip 9, Seattle Opera, PACCAR Leasing, Advertising Age/Crain Books, Campbell Soup Restaurants (Pietro’s Pizza), and The Farm (the first client who stiffed us) 10. Accounts were lost: Eagle Harbor (the second client who stiffed us)11 and TravAlaska Tours (the first client we fired 12).

Some of the Northwest’s most recognizable names joined the fold, including Pacific Science Center 13, Caterpillar, Fluke, US West Cellular (Verizon), Intermec, Fluke, Data I/O, Consolidated Restaurants, Port of Seattle, Washington Tourism, Citizen’s Bank, Western Star Trucks, Kenworth Trucks, Seattle Art Museum, Airborne Express (now DHL), Domino’s Pizza and the Woodland Park Zoo’s “Save Our Elephants” campaign.

Save Our Elephants
The 1984 Sharp Hartwig 'Save Our Elephants' Team for Woodland Park Zoo campaign.

In 1985, Sharp Hartwig was recognized by Inc. 500 as one of the fastest growing businesses in the US (the same year Microsoft made the list for the first time. The agency was also named Seattle Small Business of the Year. By 1988, we had grown from three to sixty-five employees. We were able to carve out a reputation for doing good creative and strong marketing, and we made a profit doing it.

Best of all, we hired some of the best people in advertising. Our family tree is a testament to just how good those people were – and are.

In 1988, a year in which 25% of our staff had babies 14, three of our best people got the itch to create their own shops, just like Sharp and Hartwig had. Bill Fritsch, who headed SH’s direct response group, and Ron Christiansen, Head of Advertising Account Service, split off to start Christiansen & Fritsch. Marilyn Hawkins, our beloved Public Relations Director, started her own PR shop. And desk top publishing fundamentally changed the way clients produced advertising 15.

We couldn’t find a DM wizard better than Bill Fritsch, so we dismantled our Direct Response Group and resigned Airborne Express. The economy turned south and we had our first lay-offs, the hardest thing we’ll never do again. We added the Washington Forest Protection Association and the Seattle King County Convention & Visitor’s Bureau to the roster and produced Egghead Software’s SuperPower Summit 16. Along the way, the Agency won Clios and Communication Arts and One Show and NY Art Directors and National Addy's for our work. We also became early adopters of desk top publishing.

In 1994, after riding the rollercoaster of ups, downs and loop-de-loops that is advertising, we decided to join forces with our old pals, Bill Fritsch and Ron Christiansen, at Cf2GS. True North , parent of FCB and Bozell & Jacobs, among other advertising agencies, acquired the whole shebang five months later, and for a time, Sharp Hartwig went underground while Dave and Cynthia worked on the accounts we brought to the new agency17 as well as the many new accounts we helped bring in to the newly invigorated shop18. Several familiar Seattle agencies disappeared or morphed in the 90’s including the Livingston, BPN and Ehrig shops. Cf2GS was merged with the Seattle Office of BPN to become Bozell Seattle (then FCB) with Pete Hatt at the helm of the firm.

Cynthia left Cf2GS as Executive Creative Director 19 in 1997, in order to freelance on creative projects and write. She resurrected Sharp Hartwig Inc. as a consultancy. And lo-and-behold, what goes around comes around. Dave Sharp, following a trajectory of his own which included stints as Director of Client Service at Cf2GS, Bozell, and FCB, a short education in dot.comdom at Freeshop.com/ Aptimus and later, Executive Marketing Director at Belo Northwest, began consulting with Cynthia under the familiar Sharp Hartwig umbrella.

Now, as it was in 1979, Sharp Hartwig is really Sharp and Hartwig. It can be Sharp or Hartwig, depending on the services you need.

We are 56 and 55 years old now. If we knew in 1979, what we know now, we’d have a lot fewer laugh lines.

Dave Sharp and Cynthia Hartwig
Dave Sharp and Cynthia Hartwig today.

Sharp Hartwig Family Tree

Over the years we worked with some of the smartest, most creative people in the business. Many have gone on to run their own shops, take leadership positions at major agencies and/or reinvent themselves.

Bill Fritsch and Rick Peterson were two of the agency’s earliest hires. Bill was recruited from Disney and Rick was a copywriter for a lone creative consultant. Bill Fritsch, Rick Peterson and Tom Scherer (Senior Art Director) launched Hydrogen Advertising in 2001. Fritsch left Hydrogen earlier this year to launch his third agency, Alt.

Jim Riswold, SH copywriter on exciting accounts like Simpson Doors, went on to become Worldwide Creative Director at Wieden & Kennedy 20. Jim survived cancer and reinvented himself as a fine art photographer in 2005. He just had a very successful show a G. Gibson Gallery in Seattle.

After leaving Sharp Hartwig for a plum copywriter position at Wieden & Kennedy on the Nike business, Bob Moore has since assumed the Chief Creative Officer position for Publicis, USA. Bob is married with two children. Bob married Susan Syferd who was an account manager for Sharp Hartwig 21.

Paul Mattheus, Sharp Hartwig Art Director, is the founder and Chief Creative Officer at Digital Kitchen with offices in Seattle, Chicago and New York. The agency’s digital magic has been featured on opening sequences of Six Feet Under, NipTuck, Rescue Me and House.

Fred Hammerquist, award-winning former SH art director, is out on his own (after CD stints at FCB and DDB) with his sports-focused agency: Hammerquist Nebeker. Gretchen Lauber, SH copywriter, is the creative director/ chief copywriter for the Radisch Co (a new Seattle Agency) and Kurt Reifschneider, SH Art Director, is Associate Creative Director at Copacino + Fujikado. Eric Junes, Digital Wizard at SH, owns a very successful freelance business in Seattle called DangerBoy. John Engerman, Art Director and Composer, left SH to work at Floathe & Associates; he currently runs his own creative services shop, Bicameral Design 22.

Hillary Miller, SH Account Manager, just signed up to be Executive Vice President/ Global Strategist at Wunderman after 16 years at DDB. Erick Soderstrom has gone on to be Senior Director of Global Marketing at Converse. Cindy Thomas, SH VP Direct Response Group is currently Chief Marketing Officer at Ditech in Los Angeles. Bill Mayovski is a VP at Westwood One. Dave Weaver, former SH Account Executive, is currently the Chief Strategic Officer at TM Advertising. Ann Demitruk, former PACCAR, Western Star trucks and Data I/O Account Supervisor moved to Ohio where she is Director of Marketing for Sterling Trucks. Ron Christiansen has launched Christiansen Direct, his second agency since leaving Sharp Hartwig. And Jaime Krummel is Vice President & Account Director, at Draft FCB in Seattle.

Mary Morris (Morris Media) continues to provide media support for Sharp Hartwig’s long-running efforts with Department of Ecology (the Litter and It Will Hurt campaign. Mary currently splits her time between offices in Washington and Arizona. Jill Sato, Account Manager and Media Planner, is now Director of Client Services at Phinney Bischoff in Seattle.

Marilyn Hawkins was one of the agency’s first client evangelists as Communications Director for King County Library System. After joining SH as our first PR Director, Marilyn held a number of key positions at Hawkins + Vander Howen and later, Rockey, Hill & Knowlton. She launched Hawkins PR in 1994 and moved the company to Ashland, Oregon, in 2005.

Doug Hurley, former Sharp Hartwig PR Director, is currently Vice President at CH2M Hill (Doug and his wife just embarked on a year long trip across the US). Gretchen Bakimis, led SH PR from 1989 – 1992, and served stints at MWW/ Savitt, DDB, Bcommunications and UW Medical Center.

Dan McFadden, Account Supervisor, left Sharp Hartwig PR to launch a very successful high tech agency: Rolling Thunder. Today Dan is Director of Investor Relations and Public Relations for Oculus Innovative Sciences. Paul Owen, SH Pr Account Exec, has his own tech-oriented PR shop: Owens Communications in Seattle. Jim Fulton founded Fulton PR and continues to provide B2B Public Relations support for his clients from his office in Olympia. Anne Revelle-Petcher (SH PR Director) is running a thriving public relations agency in Atlanta. Scott Janzen just re-hung his shingle recently as Janzen PR. Greg Lane, SH PR intern, is now the President/CEO at TVW 23.

Greg Erickson, our first art director, had a successful career at Microsoft Press and recently retired to bask in stock options. Shari Burk, SH Art Director, went on to become a respected brand strategist at Pivot Lab.

A number of people from Sharp Hartwig have also reinvented themselves. Jill Baum, Account Director and strategic wizard, is now Managing Director of Artist’s Repertory Theater in Portland. Alex George, copywriter, had a very successful advertising freelance career in LA and then went on to get his Masters in Landscaping from the University of Illinois. He’s working with the stars in Los Angeles these days. Rick Hutter, Executive Assistant, traded in his whip for a paint brush and screen printing frame; he shows his highly lauded work at the Lisa Harris Gallery and has pieces in some of the finest art collections in the nation. Dick Pattison, SH Chief Operating Officer, owns Invisible Fence NW with his wife, Patsy, and recently became a commercial pilot for Kenmore Air. Diane Murphy, the best (and toughest) book keeper in Seattle, is currently working at Cocker Fennessy, one of several agencies we helped launch; she also worked for Parker LePla, another shop that used SH as a spring board into the business.

Dave Sharp is now Managing Partner of Sharp Consulting Group LLC, a marketing communications and strategic partnership consultancy. He is also CEO of Sports Widow Entertainment. You can contact him at: dave@sharpconsults.com.

Cynthia Hartwig is a published fiction writer and continues to do project assignments through Sharp Hartwig, Inc. You can reach Cynthia at chartwig@sharphartwig.com .


    1. The necessary gray hair and practiced agency starter.
    2. We set up shop above Ye Olde Spaghetti Factory where new business presentations were perfumed by the smell of garlic and the yells of high school football teams shouting, “Kill! Kill!”
    3. The New York Times, noting the start of the fifth or six agencies with Andy’s name on the door, asked, “Is Micronesia next?
    4. Glynn Ross, Founding Director of the Seattle Opera hired us to promote the Opera’s Wagner “Ring” Cycle. We were delirious.
    5. Dave offered to "buy" the account from Kraft Smith and Don Kraft declined graciously. Four other Kraft Smith executives (Hank Barber, Ron Jaco, Jim Abbey, and Bill Mullen) left shortly after Dave and Cynthia to form Wells, Rich & Greene NW.
    6. The relationship with Andy Vladimir, who was twenty years our senior, would take an entire book length novel to tell. Let's just say he had a wife, children and a mortgage to pay and Dave and Cynthia had nothing to lose, because we had no reputations to protect. For Andy's point of view, check out his book "Stronger than Dirt: Memoirs of an Advertising Man" available on Amazon.
    7. Shortly after his arrival in Bermuda, Andy's home was firebombed in the night and the Bahamian government bought him out of that contract, too.
    8. A Japanese weed-whacker company run by an enormous Scots man who wore Hawaiian shirts that wouldn't stay tucked in his waistband. (Tanaka was acquired by Hitachi years later).
    9. Sample headline reversed out of brown: "Does your pool water look like this? Call AquaQuip."

  1. For $3,500.00
  2. See, you never forget the people who owe you money.
  3. After Dean Weidner, the TravAlaska client asked Cynthia why Oliktok the Bear wasn't in his ads, as he had specifically requested, she said, "We don't need your goddamned money."
  4. The Science Center was the agency's most loyal client. We worked on the account for more than 18 years.
  5. We told people to drink the water at the agency at their own risk.
  6. We remember Thomas & Kennedy, our favorite type house, going from around 100 employees down to six people in the space of one year.
  7. Gorbachev, Queen Elizabeth and Fidel Castro look-alikes all made appearances at the Summit.
  8. Washington Forest Protection Association, Washington Tourism, Pacific Science Center, DSHS, Northwest Trek, among others.
  9. Including AAA of Washington, Eddie Bauer and US Bank's advertising business.
  10. Not totally of her own volition, but that's another novel involving Bill Fritsch, whom she loves and is indebted to forever for freeing her to write her novel.
  11. Dan Wieden hired Jim the night of the Seattle Advertising awards as their first copywriter.
  12. This was after a relationship with an account coordinator named Carrie whose story shall forever remain untold until Cynthia's memoir is published. Bob's dating and marriage was in defiance of an explicit rule on page 22 of the SH policy manual: thou shalt not fish off the company dock. The statute of limitations has not run out.
  13. Where'd that ol' piano go?
  14. We wonder if Greg remembers borrowing Bill Fritsch's Volvo?