By Michael Chesnick
School of Art
From his first job designing sofa ads for a small firm to developing a national advertising campaign for Walgreens, John Meyer has always understood the importance of making the right “pitch.”
It’s a skill he learned as an undergraduate student at the University of Arizona School of Art.
“The School of Art created a more focused foundation that helped bring out my talents to make myself more marketable,” Meyer said. “The U of A in general … also encouraged creativity and independent thought – while exposing me to other cultures and backgrounds.”
Now an award-winning creative director, marketer, strategist and image maker, Meyer (BFA 1982, Studio Art) is being honored as the College of Fine Arts’ 2023 Alumnus of the Year — one of 15 alums being recognized by the university.
“I have developed campaigns from A to Z – Adobe to Zima. I would have to say that Walgreens, ‘At the Corner of Happy & Healthy,’ was my favorite because of the rebranding,” Meyer said. “I was responsible for the new creative campaign (in 2013), which affected over 100 million customers nationally.”
Meanwhile, Meyer and his former agency, Innerspin, squared off against another Los Angeles agency during the second season of the AMC television reality series “The Pitch.” The two firms battled to see who would help Bliss, a spa-inspired skincare company, launch its latest product, “Fuzz Off,” in the episode that aired in August 2013.
Innerspin won, led by Meyer, who devised an idea of a removable purple mustache sticker with the hashtag #fuzzyourself, which would be posted in various nighttime hotspots. “I love the stuff this guy does, I gotta tell you,” Meyer’s then-colleague, Elcid Choi, told Bliss executives during their pitch.
“It gave our whole agency an opportunity for exposure,” Meyer said. “We shot for 6 to 8 weeks in Los Angeles.”
Meyer had come a long way from his first job after graduation, working with a small design firm out of Huntington Beach, California. He rendered photos for Sunday newspaper print ads of sofas and chairs and worked on other local accounts, “which enabled me to create in several different categories – branding, retail and promotion.”
He secured his first big client, Burger King, during his next career move to JWT, a global advertising and branding agency.
“I didn’t give up,” Meyer said. “I kept improving my odds.”
Besides Walgreens, his other mega clients have included Apple, Taco Bell, Starbucks, Subway, Levi’s, McDonald’s, Chevron, Absolut Vodka, Pom Wonderful, TD Ameritrade and Virgin.
He’s now the chief creative officer of Absolutmeyer in Scottsdale, a firm he founded in 2015. “We’re finishing up a national rebranding effort for 3E Energy Drinks: ‘The Better for You Energy Drink,’” he said.
Meyer understands the importance of giving back, both to his alma mater and charities.
A few years ago, he taught an Illustration and Design capstone class at the School of Art that focused on portfolios, branding, promotion, ethics and financial issues.
“Teaching helped me understand the next wave of talent coming out of the university and gave me such a sense of pride,” said Meyer, who assisted students in getting internships with his firm and others across the country.
He also designed a series of Tucson-centric greeting cards, with a patriotic and western theme, while working with students in the Letterpress & Book Arts Lab run by Professor Karen Zimmermann, assistant director for the School of Art. “The cards are beautiful,” she said.
“It’s been the best part of my career to give back to the school,” Meyer said. “It’s been very rewarding to have the ability to help mentor such deserving and talented students.”
Meyer has volunteered creative support for several non-profit groups, including the L.A. Epilepsy Foundation and the Prostate Cancer Foundation. “We’re on this planet to serve others,” said Meyer, who is grateful to doctors who helped one of his three children with epilepsy treatments.
“Hopefully, my career path and highlights will inspire others to achieve more than they dreamed,” Meyer said.
His advice to students?
“Give more than you’re paid to do – money will follow,” he said. “Visualize your future and stay positive. Keep pounding and don’t lose the faith.”