eisner creative foundation

Please share your Turning Point.
us your story and photo, and we'll post it here as inspiration for the next generation.

Gary Mueller
EVP-Creative Director, BVK
Founder, Volunteer Creative Director, Serve Marketing

They say, everything happens for a reason. That everyday we're given signs of what we were put on this earth to do.

My turning point happened in church in July of 2002. For two years, I had been in discussions for a partnership in the company I worked at, BVK. During that time, all of my energy was focused on the amount of money I thought I deserved to make. Afterall, I was the one constant in an agency that had grown from just 30 people and was $25 million in billings when I started, to over 180 people and $200 million in billings, And every day, myfrustration with my job and the money I thought I was owed for the agency's success grew.

Until a summer day in July, 2002, when I had an epiphany at church.

The sermon was about how every person on earth has a mission. That each person has a God-given talent, a skill that they are meant to share with other people. A talent we are meant to use in the service of others-not for our own benefit. For some, it is the ability to affect millions of people with a particular craft or skill. For others it is simply the ability to listen or to care and help one person at a time. At this point, I stopped listening to the Pastor and a different voice spoke to me. This voice laid out the path I was intended to take with the rest of my life. My mission was to start a non-profit called Serve. A non-profit that would donate advertising services to non-profits to help them accomplish their missions. But not just any non-profits. Our focus would be on underserved causes. The causes that weren't popular, that didn't have a lot of money and that had no understanding of how to market themselves. We would use volunteers from BVK and around the community and we would become an example for the ad industry on giving back. And the way it was going to be funded, was for me to agree to give up any partnership in BVK, and any raises for 10 years in exchange for two full-time staff and full access to the resources of the company.

When I got out of church and got in the car I just sat there, giddy with excitement. The first thing out of my mouth to my wife was, "I know what I'm going to do with the rest of my life." With the kids in the back, and for the next 15 minutes, I laid out everything that God had told me in church. What I was supposed to start. What we had to give up in return to start it. And how it would work. My wife supported it fully without even the slightest hesitation.

The next day, Monday, I gave my boss (Mike Voss) a three-page document outlining what I wanted to do (start Serve) and what I was willing to trade in return to do it. He accepted it on the spot. And a month later Serve opened its doors in downtown Milwaukee, with a staff of two, a couple of underserved causes with no money as clients (Shaken Baby Association, Brain Injury Association) and a big mission.

And the rest is history.

Bio: As Founder of Serve, the country's first full service, non-profit ad agency, as well as Executive-VP Creative Director of BVK, Wisconsin's second largest ad agency, Gary Mueller has dedicated his career to the marketing of underserved charitable organizations and causes. Since 1991, Gary and his all-volunteer staff has produced over 100 pro bono marketing campaigns benefiting not-for-profit groups ranging from the Brain Injury Association of America and Shaken Baby Association to Pathfinders Teen Homeless Shelter and Lions International. His provocative and sometimes controversial campaigns have helped reduce shaken baby syndrome and teen pregnancy in Milwaukee, as well as increase the number of foster care parents in Wisconsin. And his latest effort to reduce the alarming infant mortality rate in Milwaukee has been lauded by every national news outlet in the country, from ABC News, CNN and The Today Show to Time Magazine, CNBC and the New York Times. Gary is the father of four kids and when he isn't try to rid the world of it's social problems, he puts on free educational seminars to teach non-profits how to better market themselves, and is a 5th/6th grade girls basketball coach.


Al Krueger
Partner - Hanson Dodge Creative

A major turning point in my life that lead me to work in the creative industry happened when I was in college between my freshman and sophomore years when I worked in the factory at Trek Bicycle. Whenever I could, visit the office and talk to people who in various roles about what their career, how they ended up at Trek, where did they go to school, what interested them most, what they might do differently if they had the chance.

One day, I knocked on the door of the head of marketing and asked if he could tell me about his role and how he impacted the company. He said, "Everything you have ever seen, read or heard about Trek Bicycle has come across my desk." Being a young kid who really wanted to find a meaningful job, that really impressed me. From then on, I knew I wanted to be involved in branding and marketing and I mapped out my coursework, internships and everything that I could, to set me on the road toward branding.

Bio: Al Krueger is a partner at Hanson Dodge Creative and PR of the agency's PR and Social Media practice. He is responsible for the oversight of strategic social media and public relations programs that deliver deep brand experiences.

With over 13 years' experience in building brands through rich storytelling and strategy, Al has been nationally recognized as a leader in leveraging social media for business. Al focuses his efforts on providing strategic insights that bring brands to life online in new and exciting ways that result in legions of Brand Champions. His personal competitive endeavors in endurance sports add a lot of value in the agency's focus on the active lifestyle marketplace. Al is a frequent speaker on the tops of branding, PR and social media. He acts as co-chair of PRSA Milwaukee Chapter's Social Media Committee and as a board member of the Eisner Creative Foundation. Al has been honored as part of the Milwaukee Business Journal's Forty under 40 class of 2010 and was profiled as one the Milwaukee Business Journal's Most Influential People in the publications PowerBook.


DeChazier Stokes-Johnson
Director of Social Media - Nonbox

I owe my current and future success to my turning point. When I was 16, I had the opportunity to shadow Theresa Graff, who has been one of BVK McDonald's Creative Directors for over 17 years. I had always taken every art class I could fit into my schedule in high school, but I'd never known how to translate what I learned in those courses into a career. Shadowing Theresa gave me that frame of reference.

During my visit, I saw all the inner-workings of an advertising agency, sitting in on video production sessions, and attending meetings. I picked Theresa's brain over lunch, and heard all about what the industry was really like, and what it took to be successful in an agency environment. By the time I got home, I knew what I wanted to become, and what I had to do to get there.

I feel so lucky that I discovered what I wanted to do at a fairly young age, and that I had the opportunity to see first-hand what my job could be like. It gave me a goal to strive for.

Bio: A Proud family man, director of social media, observer of creative culture and entrepreneur DeChazier tries hard everyday to attain a healthy balance between them all even though he knows true balance is unattainable. Besides keeping his head in a plethora of design and technology mags "D" has fun working as an editor for Yes Yes Yall. By day he works directing social media at Nonbox and by night he rolls up his sleeves for his freelance gig Black-Marmalade, all in the name of perfecting his craft.


Ken Hanson
CEO - Hanson Dodge Creative

I grew up 12 miles north of here in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin. I never met a professional creative person growing up.

No musicians, photographers, designers, architects, not one.

I went to Eau Claire to study business.

It was my first night in Bridgeman Hall at the UW-Eau Claire. I was getting to know the guys on my floor. The guy next door's name was Dave Richardson. I remember he had a bright yellow Kodak box on his dresser. I expressed an interest. He opened the box and shared one gorgeous black and white picture after the next.

It was a hundred sheet box, and I'd never seen anyone do a hundred of anything. I still remember some of the pictures. A high-contrast photograph of a girl behind a bamboo curtain. Oblique shadows across an alley.

I was blown away.

That week I bought a used Mamiya Sekor 500 DTL for a $119.00.

I began to read every photography book in the University Library.

Three years later I was paid $35.00 for my first commercial photography assignment with a tiny agency. They hired me as an administrative assistant the following week.

Five years later, I was their creative director and left to start my own studio.


Rebecca Voss, MSC
Integrated Communication Planner


Sometimes it's the journey AND the destination.
My biggest turning point has been evolving slowly, and is an interpretation of the word "reinvention" which we hear so often. And it all resulted for a single long-distance run.

… On your marks
It began over two years ago when, as a corporate communicator enjoying my consulting career, I was unexpectedly laid off. My third career layoff, I was frustrated and proceed to dive into all kinds of recruiting and networking activities: Applications, interviews, blogging, skill-building, volunteerism. Each activity was, in itself, a good use of time, but suddenly I looked up to realize that how much time had passed and that I was aimlessly going through the motions at that point. I was off my course.

… Get set …
I woke up feeling particularly depressed one morning, and decided to go running … something I love but had given up attempting for months due to a recurring ankle injury. Why not try again. I had nothing to lose, right? Well, it was JUST the change of pace, literally and figuratively, I need to get back on the track. Out of the house and a mile into the run, my brain started clearing. I suddenly realized that everything I'd been doing so far to reach my personal finish line (a communication role) had merit and value but it was time to really do the work to re-define my core purpose, and then bring more balance/structure to my approach: Professional, personal, spiritual. I drafted a simple plan when I got home which included a commitment to "service": Reaching out to help others selflessly.

… Go! …
Looking back, I realized that this layoff was the single best thing that's ever happened to me. It forced me to reinvent my thinking and actions by affording me the time to step back and re-shape my life, my mission, my goals. So far, all kinds of great things have resulted:

  • I created a brand/identity platform that far better showcases my philosophy and value as a communicator.
  • I re-committed myself to my work, and how much I truly enjoy practicing communication.
  • I re-discovered my love for running as well as music, both which serve as critical creative developmental outlets that support my planning and writing processes.
  • I created an "80/20 life formula": 80 percent of my time is dedicated to serving my own needs/interests; 20 percent, to helping others.
  • I've rekindled relations with a past colleague … someone who inspires me, and who genuinely appreciates and supports my mission.

So, with this journey, this "race" – punctuated by a single run one day – came my turning point from which I can pay forward various lessons to other creative professionals:

  • Have the right gear. Define and celebrate your collective identify – values, goals, interests – and be fearless in refining moving towards it. First, it's a walk. Then a jog. Then a race!
  • Enjoy the journey. This is your life. If you don't have passion for something, explore what does and start carving a pathway towards it.
  • Be open to course detours. Think broadly and be open to all possibilities and all people. You just never know to where that path may lead.
  • Find a running buddy. Find and reach out to someone who inspires you, and will help you achieve your best, most productive self.

Rebecca Voss is an integrated communication planner serving both Milwaukee and Chicago. Please feel free to reach out to her at rvoss5@wi.rr.com

Elaine Eisner
Chairman - The Eisner Creative Foundation
Chairman - The Eisner Museum of Advertising & Design

Two decades ago I experienced a monumental turning point. I lost my life partner and had a dream of doing something in his memory. With God's help, and the help of so many friends and family, the William F. Eisner Museum of Advertising & Design (later named "The Eisner") opened its doors to the public in October of 2000. I believed in the Mission of the Museum and much was accomplished in the 10 years of life it had.

But fortunately, The Eisner has had a turning point of it's own. In 2010, the doors of the Museum closed, due to the impending sale of the building that it was housed in. But, I never stopped believing in the Mission of The Eisner and what more could be accomplished. A big part of my original dream was to provide an opportunity for young people, who have an interest in getting into the advertising and design profession, to be mentored and be awarded grants and scholarships that would help make their dreams become a reality.
So, now with the formation of the Eisner Creative Foundation, I see this as not only one of my dreams, but something that will help grow and sustain the creative economy in Southeastern Wisconsin.

That is why I am proud to continue to be involved on this Board, and am excited about all that can be accomplished with this new direction and mission.


Dave Olson
Art Director - National Creative
Lamar Outdoor Advertising

My turning point was on June 6th, 2006.

I had been out of college for two years with a degree in Computer Graphics. While working part time at a "big box" electronics store, I was also trying to get my book on the desk of every creative director in the Madison and Milwaukee area. With each rejection letter I added to the growing stack on my coffee table, my hopes for getting into the creative industry shrank.

(Incidentally, my book was filled with lame Photoshop tricks that I picked up while in college. At the time, I thought everybody I sent my book to was completely nuts for not hiring me.)

I took my girlfriend out for dinner to celebrate our one year dating anniversary. We went to a little restaurant in downtown Madison. On the walk back to my car, a giant poster caught my eye in a street level window. That poster was my turning point. It said "BE THE NEXT PERSON TO 'JUST DO IT.'" It was for The Extra Bold Portfolio School. I called immediately and set up an appointment to check out the school.

Not even 10 seconds into the review of my book, the owner of the school told me "We can definitely help you." He was trying his best to not sound harsh, but I knew what he was really thinking... THIS STUFF STINKS!

Through the rest of the review he told me that I had the technical side of making ads covered, but I hadn't even come close to making anything truly creative or marketable. There weren't any big ideas. It was all style, no substance.

After swallowing my pride, I took a couple of intro classes at the school then decided to enroll in the full program. It ended up being the second best decision of my life, with the first being marrying my girlfriend.

If there's a lesson to be learned from my story, I'd say it's: Admit when you don't know something and find help from someone who does.

Bio: Dave Olson has been the Art Director of Lamar Outdoor Advertising's Milwaukee office since 2008. In 2012, he was asked to join Lamar's National Creative Team called "XL by Design." His most notable work within the Milwaukee area has been for the Milwaukee Public Library's digital billboard campaign that can be seen here. This campaign won a Gold 2012 OBIE Award for Public Service from the Outdoor Advertising Association of America. Feel free to contact Dave at @Dave_MKE on Twitter.

John Tanner - Composer

I'll be honest. I don't believe in "Turning Points." It's shallow and oversimplified advertising jargon that mistakenly claims to explain, in a pithy phrase, endlessly complex and interconnected events.

All phenomenon is causational. Nothing stands alone. That one seemingly meaningless breath you took on when you were 3 years, 127 days, 5 hours, 16 minutes and 27 seconds old led you here. If you hadn't taken that breath you would be dead. You also had to take all the breaths before that and the millions of breaths after that. Otherwise you would not be here. In this moment you are the living sum of all those breaths.

You are also the sum of every thought, deed, feeling and event in your life. Mind boggling, isn't it? Claiming a solitary event changes one's life is to ignore the causality of everything we experience and are. Ridiculous.

A "Turning Point" doesn't exist. We assign such a name to one moment in a series of moments. Each as important as the other.

Now, that is not to say some moments don't stand out and seem to have more impact than others. We humans want to assign extra significance or meaning to some moments over others. We want to codify and organize our lives into easily comprehensible segments, experiences and events, "This thing happened and everything changed for me" or "Someone said that one phrase to me and my life was different." The meaning, of course, is that a chain of related events included that moment. A moment that we had been heading toward from our birth. A moment that connected to the next and the next and the next and to right now.

Having said that, we all have events that have more significance to us. Moments where someone or something had an impact on what we perceive to be the course of our life.

One such moment, that I hold dear, was in 1983. I had recently started working in the recording studio at William Eisner and Associates. Shortly before that I had finished mixing the first Violent Femmes album. The producer of the album, Mark Van Hecke was also the Resident Composer and the Milwaukee Repertory Theater. A grand new production of "A Christmas Carol" was being assembled and Mark was the composer of the new score. He asked if I would conduct the pit orchestra and play keyboards. I readily agreed.

One night Bill Eisner, Jr, and I were working on a commercial in the studio when suddenly Bill Eisner, Sr. entered. I had heard about him but never met him before. He was impressive: about 6' 4", muscular build and resonate voice. There was an air of confidence and solidity about him.

I though he had come to talk to Bill, Jr., however, he turned to me and asked if we could speak privately. We went to the hallway outside the studio door. He said he had just read in the newspaper about my participation in the upcoming "A Christmas Carol."

"Uh, oh" I thought. "He's going to fire me for moonlighting." My mind raced. I was very poor. How could he do this to me? I'm just trying to get any work I can to get by, to be a better musician and make ends meet. Look at him: successful, a leader in his profession and the community. He never even met me before and now he's coming to throw me out. I'm the lowest rung on the ladder and he's the very highest. This is so unfair! Woe is me!

What happened next is something I will never forget. He stuck out his hand, warmly shook mine and smiled the kindest smile I have ever seen. He looked me in the eye and said, "I'm proud of you." He went on to explain how important the work I was doing at the agency AND for the Milwaukee Rep was. He said doing one's job at work was important, but it was equally important to get out in the community and participate, to make a difference and have a presence.

Mr. Eisner said what I was doing was important for the community and brought the agency stature and recognition. He thanked me for what I was doing. He THANKED me!

I often think of that great kindness. I was nobody. Not even a blip on his radar. Yet, he took the time to find me, make me feel special, appreciated and important. An amazing man.

We all are an ongoing work. We are all living one moment at a time. My advice is to take advantage of every one of them. Each leads to the next. What you do in this very instant will change your life. Mr. Eisner taught me to pay attention and value everything and everyone. Nothing could be more important. Thanks Mr. E.

Bio: John Tanner is one of the principals of Tanner-Monagle, with years of experience in scoring, arranging and music composition for television, radio, industrial video and theatre. His commercial music has won numerous awards, including Golden Reel Awards; Telly Awards; national, regional and local American Advertising Federation "Addys", Silver Microphone awards and RAC awards for retail advertising. John has also garnered both Gold and Platinum sales certification for his album engineering work. His national television projects include scoring the PBS documentary and soundtrack CD, "The Gold Rush." He has written original scores and designed sound for theatrical productions at the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, Yale Repertory Theatre, American Player's Theatre, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, First Stage Milwaukee and many others.