Rick Stanton

Rick Stanton • Written September 2017

Rick Stanton graduated from the University of Washington with a major in secondary art education and a minor in graphic design. His first real job was art director for the Kelso School District establishing art curricula for K through 12, while also teaching at the high school level and coaching varsity baseball.

Making some money became a driving factor that led him back to Seattle where a friend, Brice Butler, convinced him to go out on his own as a freelance designer-art director. With $1,400 in his checking account, rent and a car payment due and a what-the-hell-let’s-see-if-this-can-work attitude, Rick began the next phase of his career path.

One project led to another, which ultimately led to the Desperado Jeans account and the art-director-to-ad-man evolution. The Desperado work got recognized in a hurry and soon Rick was working on other fashion accounts, including Normandee Rose, Brittania Sportswear, San Francisco Riding Gear and Members Only, to name a few.

During that time, Stanton met and partnered with designer Dennis Burns and, after a successful run, the two teamed up with Bob Walsh and Walsh, Burns & Stanton was born. To help with account service and new business, David Bondo soon came on board.

Rick, along with Dennis and David, left to form Stanton Burns & Bondo. In the mid-’80s, the agency won accounts for the Washington Fryer Commission, Barrier Motors, the King County Boys & Girls Club, Restaurants Unlimited, Ballard Hospital—and the biggie—Ernst Home & Nursery.

Soon after the Ernst victory, Burns left the shop and Stanton Bondo & Company was formed. SB&C added Fox’s Gem Shops, Golden West Broadcasting, Overlake Hospital Medical Center and Drug Emporium to its client roster, with the big new-business coups being Safeway NW and Pay ’N Pak. During that time,  the agency grew to 30 employees and annual billings of $25 million.

Rick hated it.

He loved actually doing the work, getting people excited about ideas and being directly involved with key clients on a daily basis, but the size of the agency and the requirements of managing it were stifling to him.

He also saw the marketplace changing in favor of smaller, more nimble shops with more-senior leadership. So, he parted ways with Bondo in 1990 and, as he likes to tell it, Bourbon and a thesaurus were the geneses for the next iteration of his career.

Stanton & Everybody would be his calling card for the next 25 years. Rick always was proud of the work spanning his 40-year career, saying it stood up to the quality of any other agency in the Northwest and proved that the size of an agency has nothing to do with creative excellence.

If you ask him, he’ll tell you he’s the most proud of the radio commercials he wrote and produced, saying it’s the one place a writer can’t hide behind an art director. Either you’re a good storyteller, or you’re not.

The S&E days brought in a long list of notable accounts that included Peoples Bank, Ballard Computer, Sports Art Fitness Equipment, Seattle Goodwill, Taco Del Mar, the Washington Potato Commission, the Dairy Farmers of Washington, Darigold, Brown & Haley, Almond Roca, Seattle Chocolates, Pima Medical Institute and national work for Sterling Health Plans.

Rick also points with pride to the longevity of his relationships with clients, and the staffers he mentored who went on to successful careers in the ad business. The Washington Fryer Commission, Barrier Motors, Seattle Goodwill and Peoples Bank all were clients for the better part of 20 years. And alums of his agencies, who have gone on to successful careers here and elsewhere, number in the dozens.

The secrets to his success?: “Stay true to who you are, never work for people or accounts you don’t respect and have a no-bullshit business approach,” Stanton said.


For this IMMORTALS Commentary, I started writing the history of me but soon realized there’s a high probability nobody would give a rat’s ass. So here’s what I think will be of benefit to the readers and yet still matter to me.

I was raised by a thoughtful mom and a strict father and the values I learned from them served me very well in sports, life and in my four decades in the advertising and design business.

I learned it was a strength to admit to what I didn’t know or what I didn’t do well and to ask people for help. I learned it was important to work harder than the other people who wanted what I wanted.

I was and still am willing to admit when I’m wrong. And I’ve always been honest. You can refer back to the strict father statement and probably figure out what the penalty was for being dishonest. So as a businessman when someone asked me ‘What do you think?’, I told them.

When a certain president at ERNST Home & Nursery asked me if they should stop selling hunting and fishing licenses I told him that was a really lousy idea, especially since they sold sporting goods at the time. Those two items gave a lot of people two more excuses each year to come in to over 50 stores and it provided an added value service. So they got rid of them.

Another time he asked me what I thought about their decision to get rid of the “Fellow in Yellow”. For those not old enough to remember or even know about them, they were the guys who roamed the stores and knew everything there was to know about everything. They were part of the reason people drove past closer home centers to shop at ERNST. I told him it was a really lousy idea.

And when asked what to do with the impending doom of the arrival of the big box stores I suggested bringing back the hunting and fishing licenses and the Fellow in Yellow to add value. Instead, they cut prices and services and ERNST was gone within a year after those conversations.

All of my responses to his questions were based on consumer research, which their brain trust chose to ignore with stunning regularity, yet another really lousy idea.

When we pitched and won the Safeway NW account against what some saw as overwhelming odds, I again resorted to honesty. The chain had just come out of a nasty 6-month retail clerk strike and lost 30% of their market share in the process.

Our agency did in-the-street consumer surveys and invested in other forms of proprietary research like “secret shopping” the hell out of every major grocer in the region.

During the review, I asked the selection committee why they thought they’d lost 30% of their market share and of course, they blamed the strike. I then revealed what we had discovered through our research. It was because their stores were dirty, their employees were unpleasant and because their blue-collar base didn’t cross picket lines, which led them to discover that Safeway was no bargain when it came to price. Then we showed them the list of 15 items we had secret shopped and  Safeway was more expensive on 11 of them.

When Del Denker, VP Marketing called to tell me we got the account he said they liked our energy, the fact we brought in more than one campaign (on spec which I’ve always resented) and that they were all spot on. Del also said the SVP. Tom Keller told him to hire us because “that Stanton guy wasn’t full of crap like most the others they talked to and he knew he could trust us.” Score one for honesty.

After we won the Overlake Hospital account I presented our first campaign to support their fund raising efforts. There were no scary machines, no docs with scopes around their necks, none of usual stuff you see in medical ads. There were pies, mason jars and shoes with holes in the soles to remind people how and why the hospital got built in the 1950’s in the first place: with grass roots community efforts like bake sales, bottle drives and dance marathons.

When the board (which included a lot of doctors) began bombarding me with negative responses, President Sandy Jaeghers came to my defense, telling them that this was great thinking and they should appreciate and respect that I had the guts to come in with work that made them a little nervous and adding “that we aren’t changing a word.” I thanked Sandy for having a spine. I’d run through fire for clients like that.

More recently, Stanton & Everybody was asked to review the advertising Pima Medical Centers was doing in the Seattle market. With campuses in seven western states, Seattle was their worst performing market.

It didn’t take us very long to determine the problems: their media was completely wrong and their creative was awful. We got the assignment and in less than a year, Seattle was their top performing market. Soon there after, we were awarded the whole account.

The brain trusts of a lot of clients, big, small and in-between saw me as someone more than an ad guy. They asked me to take part in things ad people don’t typically take part in and I know why. I never ever told anyone what they wanted to hear. I told them what I believed they needed to hear, based on research and knowledge of their business. I’m pretty sure a scout probably told Gen. Custer not to go down there because reconnaissance showed there were a lot of pissed off Indians. Once again, ignoring the research was a lousy idea.

Full disclosure: I wasn’t always right but I was always honest and true to my principles. I tried to follow the advice of advertising icon Bill Bernbach who said, “The real risk is standing for nothing.”

Our small to smallish shops got some really big wins over some really big agencies over the years. Our work was always smart and well executed. I’d put our portfolios up against anyone else in this market. We did more with less than most, in no small part because I had the good sense to bring in people who were better than me and let them have their heads. That’s how you empower people. And no one ever worked for me they worked with me. In many cases we won business because we worked harder than our competitors who wanted what we wanted.

Everyone says this, and most of the time it’s bullshit, but I really never came to work to win awards. When you were raised in a mill town like Longview, Washington your award was getting and keeping a job, and if you were successful you bought a Corvette.

I came to work because my job was to help my clients win market share while building and sustaining authentic brands and earning their trust.

At my “retirement party” I received the most meaningful award ever. The husband of one my all time favorite team members pulled me aside and told me something I will never forget. He and his brothers run a very successful company and he said that they have always tried to build and maintain a culture where people mattered the most. And he said, “Based on the stories, the happiness and the friendships I’m witnessing tonight I can tell you that you didn’t build a business. You built a family.”

That mattered more to me than anything else I may have accomplished in my 40-year career.