Insights Archives - AAF Roanoke

5 Questions with… Amelia Liarakos

“5 Questions with… ” is AAF Roanoke’s new series featuring area experts, industry leaders and all around interesting characters in the advertising field.

In this post, we’re highlighting Amelia Liarakos, Associate Graphic Designer at Modea.

5 Questions with… Matt Brown

“5 Questions with… ” is AAF Roanoke’s new series featuring area experts, industry leaders and all around interesting characters in the advertising field.

In this post, we’re highlighting Matt Brown, Creative Director for The Roanoke Times ADOPS Department and Marketing Promotions.

1. How long have you worked in the advertising industry?matt-over

I’ve been working/involved in advertising for the past 15 years.

2. What is the first memory you have of working on a project and thinking to yourself “THIS is what I want to do for a living”

It was a class project in high school, we had to create, design and market a new music group. It was so cool that we got create this new group/product from the ground up.

3. What’s your favorite thing about advertising?

My favorite thing about advertising is solving problems and using my creativity, and the fact that the job is always changing, so it never gets boring.

4. How are you involved with AAF?

I’m currently Vice President and Public Service Chair.

5. What’s one talent most people don’t know you have?

I used to work at a local magic shop and perform for children’s birthday parties and special events, and I can juggle.

5 Questions with… Jamal Millner

“5 Questions with… ” is AAF Roanoke’s new series featuring area experts, industry leaders and all around interesting characters in the advertising field.

In this post, we’re highlighting Jamal Millner, owner and Creative Director of M3:GRAFIX.

1. How long have you worked in the advertising industry?jamal

Unofficially I have work in advertising since I was 17 designing party flyers, designing logos, CD and Tape (yep that’s right) covers. Officially I started my company in 1997 and have been doing it every since.

2. What is the first memory you have of working on a project and thinking to yourself “THIS is what I want to do for a living”

Seeing my first News openers air on TV and seeing everyone’s reaction to something I created

3. Mac or PC?

PC because you get 4 times the power at half the price and the software is available on both. So I choose to save a few dollars

4. How are you involved with AAF?

I am the Diversity Chair in charge of promoting diversity in advertising by getting young people involved at an early age.

5. What’s one talent most people don’t know you have?

I can make English crumpets from scratch.

5 Questions with… John Cornthwait

“5 Questions with… ” is AAF Roanoke’s new series featuring area experts, industry leaders and all around interesting characters in the advertising field.

In this post, we’re highlighting John Cornthwait, who oversees design and programming services at Firefli Media, and is also AAF Roanoke’s official web geek.

John CornthwaitHow long have you worked in the advertising industry?

I started freelancing during my senior year at Roanoke College in 2003, so I’ve officially been around for a decade!

What is the first memory you have of working on a project and thinking to yourself “THIS is what I want to do for a living”

When I worked for The Orvis Company, one of my jobs was to be the liaison between the Roanoke operation center and the buyers, who were based out of the corporate office in Manchester, Vermont.

Part of the job included going to Manchester to meet with buyers and review upcoming product releases, catalog editions, etc. During one of my trips, the new Orvis brand was being presented to the executive team. I didn’t know what that meant, but I was invited join them.

As I sat there listening to the agency present Orvis’ new position, describe the ideal customer, and talk so elegantly about how the company’s logo from the 1890’s had inspired the new brand… I was hooked. I knew immediately that was the field where I had to work.

Mac or PC?

Both! As someone who works in web development, I’m eternally chained to Internet Explorer for website testing.

How are you involved with AAF?

I first got involved at the Ad 2 level during my senior year at Roanoke College when I signed up for a shadow day at The O’Connor Group. I was an Ad 2 member for years, then eventually graduated to AAF, where I’ve been a part of the local board in a variety of capacities for several years.

What’s one talent most people don’t know you have?

I’m a pretty good crocheter! Last year I noticed that my hands and fingers were stiff (presumably from the death grip I hold my mouse with), so I tried to find a hobby that would help me loosen my hands and clear my head. Crochet does both, and I’ll never have to buy another dishcloth!

5 Question with… Tom Field

AAF Roanoke’s new series featuring area experts, industry leaders and all around interesting characters in the advertising field.

In this post, we’re highlighting Tom Field, who is the President, Creative Director and Publisher of Valley Business Journal and Berryfield, Inc., as well as AAF Roanoke’s current President.

tomWhat are you most excited about for AAF Roanoke in the coming year?

We’re putting our smarty pants on. I really do see our club evolving in the professional development arena. We’re not just the creative party types (though there’s nothing wrong with that and intend to carry on that tradition), but we’re digging into deeper matters that impact our industry. I think if you ask people who have been involved in the ad club over a number of years, they would say we are raising the bar. We’re gathering quite the little army of experts in all aspects of the business.

What made you join AAF in the first place?

I absolutely love advertising. I think it’s our greatest industry and equips our economy for optimum performance. I attended an ADDY awards banquet in 1978 and have been hooked ever since.

How did you get into the field of advertising?

My very first public job was in graphics and silk screen printing for commercial work. I was hired by one of our area’s worst mass murderers (true story) but I can’t talk about it here. That was in 1977; and I have been directly involved in the advertising business continuously since then (despite the sordid beginning). I went from production to design to copywriting to marketing management to creative directing and agency ownership.

Any advice for someone just starting out?


(Oh, you want me to share that now? …Okay)

If you don’t have experience, make it up. Fake it. Pretend. Create totally bogus materials or project examples as if they were the real deal. With all that in a book (from a brown paper shopping bag to a state-of-the-art digital portfolio) carry it to people who are doing what you want to do. Ask for advice and referrals. And for the love of mike, join AAF Roanoke.

What’s one talent that very few people know you have?

I know all the words to both The Beverly Hillbillies and Winnie-the-Pooh theme songs and can play them on any musical keyboard.

The D3 Conference and Cheese Slaw

We had a great time this past weekend with the other clubs at the AAF District 3 Leadership Conference. Even though our friends have left, we wanted to share a little more of the star city with them.

Lib Wilhelm, arguably one of Roanoke’s most well-known caterers, was famous for a recipe that not many people outside of our region know about: cheese slaw.

When I meet someone new to town, one of my first questions is always “Have you had cheese slaw?” After they say no, I show up a few days later with a full container and a recipe card.

Here’s my modified version of Lib’s recipe.


  • 1 lb. shredded swiss cheese
  • 1 bundle of chopped green onions (don’t forget the tops!)
  • ½ cup chopped fresh banana peppers
  • ½ cup finely chopped fresh jalapeno peppers
  • mayonnaise (use a neutrally flavored one)


  1. Shred and chop all of the ingredients.
  2. Dump everything into a large bowl and gradually add mayonnaise, mixing thoroughly each time (you want the mixture to be wet enough to hold together so it can be spread on a cracker).

I don’t know how long cheese slaw stays good in the refrigerator (mine never lasts that long!), but if it’s in there for a few days, you may need to mix in a touch more mayonnaise to bring it back to life.


Portfolio Review: Looking Back

I was honored to be a reviewer at Ad 2 Roanoke’s annual Portfolio Review, held on April 22nd.

We had a great group of students, with some truly impressive work. I would be remiss if I didn’t admit that several of us were glad we were not competing for jobs against a few of these go-getters. Throughout the day, a few overarching themes did emerge, so for our upcoming generation of advertising professionals, I offer the following perspective and tidbits of advice:

Diverse Skills

If you have writing experience, play it up. Whether it’s some advanced English courses, advertising copywriting or journalism; writing skills are applicable across a variety of jobs and may get your foot in the door. Not all design or advertising curriculums require a writing component. Emphasizing those skills will set you apart from the crowd.


While we’re on the subject of writing, let me bring up a wretched four-letter word: TYPO. Don’t have any – plain and simple. Check, double-check, triple-check and have someone else check your materials. This is not the time to be rushed or careless. During the job search, you might get lucky and have a typo overlooked in your resume or portfolio. Then again, you may have someone like me who spots them a mile away. With all the gorgeous work you’ve created, do you want a typo to be what they remember about you and your work?


Personalizing your portfolio and resume to each job application is a nice touch; however, don’t make it so specific that it looks a bit stalker-ish. It’s great if your dream job is to design CD artwork for Lady Gaga. But don’t make every component of your presentation about little monsters and outrageous fashion. I’m pretty sure Lady Gaga and her record label have lots of designers at their disposal – will your world end if they don’t pick you? Keep that in mind and expand both your mind and your work to other possibilities.

Practice Makes Perfect

Practice your poker face. Seasoned advertising professionals have had years to develop thick skin when it comes to criticism of our art. Those of you just starting out haven’t experienced that joy yet. If an interviewer questions your reasoning around a particular design or copy point – practice an objective answer, not a passionate defense. You probably won’t bring them around anyway and may end up looking defensive. Nod and smile. Repeat.

Be Memorable

Consider having a leave-behind of some sort. Whether it’s a business card, a copy of your work on a disc or booklet or some other piece of memorabilia, leave a small reminder for the interviewer of what you have to offer.

It goes without saying to always dress your best, have a firm handshake and look people in the eye. Actually that goes for everyday, not just during job interviews. Good luck!

I really enjoyed the portfolio review. I thought the student’s brought their A-game and even found in inspirational. I felt like I was able to give great feedback due to the quality of work.

What other advice do you have upcoming advertising professionals? Tell me below.

Thoughts From The Account Guy

The account guy is a more complex creature than what originally thought.  Sometimes pegged as the “yes-man”, or the douchebag, or the worthless middle man that knows a shit-ton of cliche phrases (see:, or even worse seen as the bottom feeder of the advertising world.  Some view us as talking heads that only echo client complaints, while the clients themselves think we’re some sort of manipulative worm that’s simply trying to bill more out of them.

But we’re more than that.  We, too, have feelings.  However, it is part of our job to bury those feelings into a deep, dark hole in the hopes of making everyone satisfied, much less happy or even thrilled. We manage the crap to keep client’s companies busy with customers and to keep the people at agencies/ marketing departments employed.  Sure, there’s the occasional after-work or mid-afternoon “strategy session” at the local watering hole, or an expensive dinner to “keep up client relations”, but it’s not always sunshine and rainbows.

With that in mind, it should be known that we in accounts put up with a lot of bitching and degrading from all sides.  We aim to please and when we don’t, we hear about it.  No one gets to hold our hand or sugar coat the blunt reaction from a client to a despised ad.  Most AE’s know how to explain how a creative concept originated and we understand how the emotional attachment is what drives brand loyalty.  However, not all people get it, and that’s when we step in to see if the concept is as horrible as the client’s reaction portrayed.

Some people don’t like the color green and others are under the suggestion that the public won’t understand a product unless you include ALL the features in a given promotional ad.  We, account people, get that a cluttered ad is typically not the best route and we know about complimentary colors; some shit just makes sense.  However, not everyone sees the vision despite holding it right in front of their face. Two plus two will never equal four to these folks.

When that’s the case we have to go back to work.  In an effort to minimize the number of expletives and derogatory comments we hear in a given day, we may look to simply shoot the changes along with the understanding “it is what it is.”  This doesn’t mean that we, account people, can’t push back, only that some battles are not worth our effort and time.

At the end of the day, however, we want to put out the best work possible for our entity.  We want push back from clients and more importantly from the creative team when they feel strongly about their work or idea.  But please note that we may have already fought that fight and we can’t save the world on that given project.  We’re on your side, so stop bitching and make the damn logo bigger.