Getting to Know Dan Fietsam

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Dan joined FCB Chicago as executive creative director earlier this month. The creative, guitar-playing Celebrity Apprentice judge talks about his passion for advertising, his kids and more.

Describe yourself in three words.

Cave Man Simple.

Why are you excited to join FCB Chicago?

First, it’s one of Chicago’s biggest and most storied agencies. Secondly, there is a really great momentum story developing – with Carter joining, the name and branding change, the move to the awesome new Chicago space and the connection I’ve made with Todd [Tilford, FCB Chicago CCO] and Michael’s [Fassnacht, FCB Chicago president and CEO] leadership vibe and vision. This business is about building momentum, and joining FCB Chicago is an opportunity to add to the transformational narrative that is unfolding here.

How did you get into advertising and what keeps you in advertising?

I’ve been hooked on the business since my first junior copywriting gig at Ogilvy, right out of school. I’m addicted to working in a creative department. It’s the only place – outside of maybe a start-up – where you can walk in every single morning, make something completely out of nothing, and then have a real possibility that it will see the light of day. Yes, it can be insane, ambiguous, hectic and stressful, but there’s nothing else like it. The idea that we’re in a business and a career where you can create the future – literally change the world – just by the sheer force of your imagination is incredibly powerful and compelling to me.

Best career (or life) advice you’ve ever received?

One time, when I was discussing career options with my father-in-law, he stopped me cold with a powerful question: “What problems do you want?” Meaning, he helped me realize, especially with leadership roles, there are no jobs that are problem-free. There is no perfect role or organization. So find a place where the problems energize you versus demoralize you.

What work makes you most proud?

Well, let me confess that I am a chronic worrier about the work. And I always think the next creative project I’m working on is going to be the best thing I do. But I if I pause and reflect, I guess instead of just one piece of work, I look at the whole body of work I’ve been a part of over my career and that’s what makes me most proud. Sustaining a high-profile creative career of any duration is extremely challenging. So I am most proud that I’ve been able to generate famous, popular work numerous times, with multiple clients across all media. But if you tied me down and forced me to pinpoint, I would hold up all the Bud Light Super Bowl work, the Orbit “Dirty Shorts” branded content partnership with Jason Bateman and Will Arnett, and the “Red Cubes” project for the Art Institute of Chicago.

You’re throwing a dinner party and can invite any three people. Who is on the guest list?

My three kids. I literally cannot get enough time with them.

As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A fireman and an astronaut. I was convinced I was going to be, and could be, both. Oh, and play football for Notre Dame.

Favorite genre of music? If you could go see any artist or band perform tonight, who would it be?

I love late ‘80s/early ‘90s indie rock. Seeing any of the bands documented in Michael Azerrad’s book Our Band Could Be Your Life, would make me super happy. Specifically, my all-time favorite record/album (whatever we call it these days) is the Pixies’ Doolittle.

What are your hobbies?

Playing live music with my family – my wife is a singer, I play guitar and my oldest son is a singer/songwriter/guitarist. I also love attempting to complete the entire New York Times Sunday paper (yes, the analog version) each weekend. And I try to run and bike at least four times a week to clear my head and keep myself somewhat fit. I also practice being terrible at golf.

What did you learn from being a judge on Celebrity Apprentice?

That I am waaaaaaaay more comfortable behind the camera instead of in front of one. Also, Donald Trump is larger than life in person as much as he is on screen. And lastly, don’t participate in a reality show if you are a control freak.