WHO WE ARE
Richard Holt, founder of M5, is an award-winning creative director and writer who lives on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.
WHAT WE DO
M5 is a hybrid: partly a creative resource (ads, videos, web sites, articles, presentations), partly a branding consultancy.
HOW WE DO IT
Sometimes one-on-one, other times with a hand-picked team of talented experts in digital, design, video and music.
WHY WE DO IT
It’s great to have the creative and intellectual stimulation. It’s wonderful to meet interesting new people. And it’s a lot of fun.
Welcome, and thanks for visiting this site. You can scroll through in one fell swoop. Or click and link wherever you like. And please, say hi.
M5 began in’04, when I left Saatchi & Saatchi to start my own company. Our first assignment actually came from Saatchi’s International Chairman, Kevin Roberts, to create a video for Misys.
Gradually, our business has evolved from doing only creative work, to helping with broader issues of branding. One of the things we enjoy most is working with client teams to understand a brand’s true equities: interviewing stakeholders, analyzing the competition, figuring out what equities to keep, lose, or add. Along the way, we’ve also earned a reputation for playing well with others (ad agencies, design firms and the like).
Almost all our business has come from referrals, which is gratifying. It’s a privilege—and a delight—to collaborate with clients I like, doing work I love.
For more background info, you can check my bio and meet some of the people who’ve inspired me over the years. It’s been fun putting this site together, and I hope you enjoy it.
It all began at Sunny Hill School, the kindergarten which my grandmother ran in her big old house outside of Boston. That’s her, looking into the room. And me, in the cowboy gear. I practically lived there, playing with building blocks, pounding out tunes on the piano, reading Little Golden Books, coloring with the hugest , most wonderfully waxy, aromatic collection of Crayolas ever.
Nana Lander loved to tell stories, and dream out loud about the farm she would one day own.
To earn extra spending money, she did marketing for Birds Eye frozen vegetables, giving out samples in local supermarkets. And on weekends, she worked at a florist, which may explain the green thumb that I put to work on Nantucket and in Riverside Park.
My dad worked at the local GE plant, and every year he brought home a large GE wall calendar which we hung in our kitchen—and which imprinted on my brain the first slogan I remember: “Progress is our most important product.” My mom was a homemaker, and also a writer. She was always firing off angry letters to the editor of The Reading Chronicle, as well as writing a Reading news column for the Lawrence Eagle Tribune.
After going to college at Brown University, and grad school at Wesleyan, I heard about an amazing place called Cranbrook in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. I taught 8th and 9th grade English there. Was in awe of the extraordinary campus designed by Eliel Saarinen. Not just the buildings and the vistas, but the furniture, tapestries and every single floor tile. This is where Eames designed that famous ottoman and lounge chair. Loved everything about the experience there—except being broke.
Intrigued by David Ogilvy’s Confessions of an Advertising Man, and wanting to live in New York City, I got a job as a junior copywriter at JWT where I worked on iconic brands like Planters Nuts, French’s Mustard, Scott Paper and Reader’s Digest (yes, their offices really were in a town called Pleasantville).
Then it was off to Dancer Fitzgerald Sample, which later became Saatchi & Saatchi New York. Hired to work on Hellmann’s Mayonnaise and Skippy Peanut Butter, I was lucky enough to move into Stan Becker’s group, famous for “Where’s the Beef?” and “Sometimes You Feel Like a Nut.”
I became a Creative Director, contributing many breakthrough, brand-building ideas for Johnson & Johnson (a top 10 Super Bowl spot for Tylenol, and award-winning re-launch for Motrin), General Mills (awards for Cheerios, Kix and Total; creation of AlphaBakery, best-selling childrens cookbook for Gold Medal Flour) and Procter & Gamble (award-winning work for Pampers, and the highly successful “Touching lives, improving life” campaign for all of P&G).
Another highlight was the Relenza campaign using Seinfeld’s nemesis, Newman, as The Flu. It won several awards, and was accused by some (The New York Times and Time Magazine) as being too entertaining for pharmaceutical advertising. Ha!
Along the way, I have also been on the faculty of the ANA (Association of National Advertisers) School of Marketing, running workshops in Creative Strategy.
I’ve also enjoyed contributing to an architecture blog for The Institute of Classical Architecture, and doing advocacy work for a citizens group on the island of Nantucket.
But enough about me. Tell me about you.
A great judge of creative, and the best boss I ever had. Could command the attention of any room, of any size. I’ll never forget, in a meeting where things weren’t going as planned, he disarmed the client by simply asking: “Bill, why aren’t you smiling?”
Stan’s story here
Never knew him, but admired this mythic ad man—having nothing to do with martinis or the stuff of TV shows. For him, like for Stan, it was all about the work, and about being different, because, as he said, “ if you’re like everybody else, where are you? Nowhere.”
More classic Bernbach
A book about “winning friends and influencing people” always sounded cheesy to me, until I picked it up and couldn’t put it down. “Try honestly to see things from the other person’s perspective…Nobody was ever argued into buying anything…Smile.”
And there’s more
Especially the essays in Esquire and The New Yorker. I heard her speak several times at the 92nd Street Y. One memorable night, she told her “What’s the Point?” story, which I’ve repeated to every client and class I’ve ever had. It’s a lesson you’ll never forget.
“What’s the Point?”
Illustrator of 70 Little Golden Books, including The Taxi That Hurried, which convinced an impressionable 5-year-old in Reading, Massachusetts that he had to live in New York City. And he did (20 years later).
Video by step-grandaughter
We were colleagues at DFS/Saatchi, then she made the transition from media department to president of the Food Network. Now a consultant, she creates content across all platforms, like The Biggest Loser. “I was digital when digital wasn’t cool,” tweets she.
More about Erica
The most scenic bus route in New York City, from the George Washington Bridge to the Staten Island Ferry, along Riverside and Central Parks, down Fifth Avenue, uptown past the World Trade Center site. A great way to get to where you’re going. Hint, hint.
NYC Transit Map
We first knew each other from teaching a course for marketers at the Association of National Advertisers. Then I watched as she came up with a brilliant idea for a book (Mad Women), made it happen, then embarked on a 40-city book tour at age 80.
Here’s one review
In Everything’s an Offer he offers lessons from the world of Improvisational Theater. Six of the key words: “Let go. Notice more. Use everything.” And I love what he says about “being really, really present: a rare combination of serenity and adrenalin.”
Nice clean site
As an 8th and 9th grade English teacher, I lived / worked / slept / ate / hiked / played tennis at Cranbrook, the school he designed in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. How amazing it was to experience this world he created with Charles and Ray Eames and others.
Check it out
Henry David Thoreau
I grew up 11 miles from Walden Pond, but had never visited (or read the book) until I was in my 40’s. A good age to have someone urge you to advance confidently in the direction of your dreams, and endeavor to live the life you have imagined.
Dive right in
A good friend of one of my best friends, this 2011 hire at Khan Academy is co-creator (with Beth Harris) of Smarthistory, the leading open educational resource for art history, offering nearly 500 free videos that feature audio conversations with experts.
Pick an artist