“Being the leader of an idea company is where all of my foundation learning from CCAD has brought me back to being the creative person I feel I was meant to be — for my teams, my clients, and myself,” he said.
We talked to Browning (Class of 1985, Advertising, Illustration) recently about his work, his time at CCAD and how he finds ways to recharge. (Hint: It involves film festivals.)
What led you to art school and to CCAD specifically?
While on a college basketball scholarship in Nashville, I also wanted to pursue a career in the world of advertising. Although basketball was a passion, I realized what I needed was to be at a place that could give me the foundation to pursue this career, and that place was CCAD. I was led to CCAD because I felt it was the best [college] to elevate my skills and dreams to the world of advertising and a new way of thinking and connecting.
Digital and social media platforms didn’t exist when you graduated, but they’re enormous parts of your business now. How do you use your degree today?
What will never change is the power of a big idea. What I learned from CCAD was being able to think on your feet. Without the idea, we’re standing there just going through the motions. With the idea, we have the ability to connect an audience to a brand. The mediums will always change. What’s going to be next? It’s going to be incredible.
What were some of your professional goals when you graduated?
I wanted to work with a global company so I could immerse myself in large brands, talented people, and visionary leaders. My first goal was to land a job as a creative director, and I did so with Interbrand. There, I was fortunate to build ideas with brands such as Tide, Pampers, Lexus, Mattel, Disney, Duncan Hines, Kellogg’s, Coca Cola, McDonald’s, and more.
How did those goals change?
As I evolved, so did my aspirations and inspirations and vision. I wanted to create a brand that stood for my beliefs and aligned with the brands I represented. I had the trust of some incredible clients and moved into opening my own agency, known as Sunrise. There, I was surrounded by people who believed in a vision of “moving people” with ideas — moving them emotionally and physically to connect and buy products.
And how did you connect with Marsh?
Four years ago, one of my children was diagnosed with cancer. This changed our lives. I sold my company and took three years off. Since that time, our child, who is a hero to me now, who went through this ordeal, has beaten cancer. I was so inspired by this experience. To do more. To be more. To grow more. I wrote and produced several short films in LA. I realized it was time to do more, close to home. So I bought a company named Marsh. They have been around for over 75 years, known for photography and production. I saw an opportunity to help it grow and evolve into something different.
What message do you have for students at CCAD pursuing their personal versions of a career path like yours?
Life is an idea contest — never leave home without one. You always have to be thinking. You have to be really courageous, strategic, and always push for the best idea. No matter what medium you cross into, you’re nowhere without an idea.
And, as a creative, you’re never totally satisfied with where one piece of art is. Nothing is ever really finished, and that’s what inspires us to keep going.
Get to know James Browning Jr.
CEO and chief creative officer, Marsh Branding Partners
Graduated from CCAD in 1985 with a BFA in Advertising and Illustration
Married for more than 33 years to his grade-school sweetheart, Ginny
Has three children and three grandchildren
Lives and works in Cincinnati
Some of the clients he works with at Marsh Branding Partners: Carl’s Jr., Hardee’s, Long John Silver’s, Nathan’s Hot Dogs, Lysol Brands, Woolite, Kroger, French’s, Smithfield Foods, Curly’s BBQ, Cracker Barrel, and Eckrich
Fun fact: Browning gets a creative recharge by attending film festivals — Sundance and Tribeca are favorites — where he takes in conversations, events and, yes, movies.