The Dialogue with Alex Oliver
This feature is a question-and-answer session with a new Blount County Chamber member. So here we go with our 46th installment visiting with Alex Oliver, president/CEO of the Draft Agency
which is here to imagine great things, chase curiosity, and - most importantly - bring those ideas to life.
What exactly does Draft do? Draft is a creative advertising agency who strives to create work that we are proud to call our own, not just “approved”. We believe that art has no formal boundaries and should co-exist within every concept we create. We will never stop thinking, writing, scribbling, shooting, and dreaming. We believe great ideas exist within everyone. Think up...it’s what we do.
How did you get started? I founded Draft (formerly JAO Productions aka "JAOPRO") in 2007 with a passion for telling stories and helping great brands through video. Growing up I was told to figure out what I love to do in life, then find a way to make that my living. I took this advice to heart and still find every day at Draft more exciting, challenging, and rewarding than the last. Since our founding nearly a decade ago, we have been blessed to grow and develop into a full service creative advertising agency headquartered in the heart of downtown Knoxville. Our passion to bring ideas to life has earned us the opportunity to create everything from an independent full-length feature film called "Voyage" to regional and national award winning creative for brands such as Clayton Homes, Malibu Boats, Scripps Networks, Greater Knoxville Honda Dealers, ORNL Federal Credit Union, East Tennessee Children's Hospital, and more.
What is your background?Since I can remember I've been around the media industry. As a child, I'd go to work with my father at the local ABC affiliate WATE-TV 6 and saw all kinds of cameras and studio sets. This helped me realize early on in life that there is magic in visual storytelling. So once I got behind my first video camera, I was absolutely hooked. As I grew up, I found internships around the film and media industry and learned most of the trade by trial, error, and the internet. As I progressed as a videographer and editor, I studied at the University of Tennessee in the business program mostly to force myself to learn the nuances of operating my own business. I still joke that the only thing I learned in Accounting 101 is that I need an accountant... Needless to say, I felt much more passionate and driven when it came to actually creating content and telling stories. I accepted almost any job that came along, grateful for the opportunity to get paid to be behind the lens. Through plenty of failures and successes, I became better at both producing quality content and running a business. Gradually more work came in, and I found a need to hire freelancers who could both accomplish the increasing amount of work, but also bring a stronger skillset in unique areas that I did not possess. Eventually, some of those freelancers would become employees at Draft. To this day, that continues to be one of our primary focuses - acknowledge your strengths and hire to your weakness. That simple principle has helped develop a work environment that fosters respect, humility, encouragement, and creativity.
Describe your customers. Simply put, we wouldn't exist without our customers. As such, we take no client for granted. Draft pairs best with companies who believe in constantly trying new things, taking chances, and ultimately striving to make this world a better place. We focus on building long-lasting relationships based on trust, understanding, and transparency. How do the social, economic, environmental, technological, legal and political environments impact the business environment you work in? East Tennessee has done an excellent job of fostering small business growth and development. With the Draft office and studio located on the 100 Block of downtown Knoxville, we are happy to be both witnessing and contributing to an ever increasing appreciation of arts and culture in our area.
Name three things you wish you knew when you started. The three things I wish I knew when I began Draft: 1) Embrace failure as part of the process. The process leading up to failure is education. 2) Don't waste time negatively comparing your work to others. Take it as inspiration, not humiliation. 3) Say "No" more often. It's too easy to over promise and under deliver.
What do you enjoy about Draft? Every day I walk into Draft I'm humbled by our team. It is truly a remarkable place to think, create, experiment, and try new things with incredible people at every turn. Each person brings a unique set of skills and ideas to the table that push our limits and expand our imaginations on a daily basis. With this unique culture, we are able to create content and strategies that are both memorable and effective for our clients. Furthermore, Draft believes in supporting and chasing big ideas. We believe in having creative outlets to express ourselves and get a little weird from time to time. That mindset has been imperative to our success and is the reason we've made such things as our independent film "Voyage", award winning short films made just for fun, as well as pro-bono work created to help non-profits and charities across the globe.