The Escape Pod

Chicago, United States

Basic Info

Core Competencies: Full Service, Digital, Mobile, Social Media, Marketing/Creative Services, Experiential, Branded Content/Entertainment, Market Research/Consulting, Media Buying/Planning, Branding/Product Development, Packaging/Design, Branding/Celebrity endorsement, Strategy and Planning

Founded in: 2007

Employees: 72

Awards: 21

Creative Work: 33

Clients: 8


Contact Information

400 North Peoria Suite 2
Chicago Illinois 60642
United States
Phone: (+1) 312.274.1180
Email:
Website:

Norm Bilow

Norm Bilow

Managing Director & Founder
Core Competencies: Full Service, Digital, Mobile, Social Media, Marketing/Creative Services, Experiential, Branded Content/Entertainment, Market Research/Consulting, Media Buying/Planning, Branding/Product Development, Packaging/Design, Branding/Celebrity endorsement, Strategy and Planning

Founded in: 2007

Employees: 72

Awards: 21

Creative Work: 33

Clients: 8

The Escape Pod

400 North Peoria Suite 2
Chicago Illinois 60642
United States
Phone: (+1) 312.274.1180
Email:
Website:
Norm Bilow

Norm Bilow

Managing Director & Founder

The Escape Pod Leadership and Team Members

Norm Bilow

New Business

Norm Bilow

Managing Director & Founder

Norm stewards the growth of The Escape Pod, overseeing client relationships, evolving our service offerings, running company operations and having an occasional good creative idea.

He spent a decade working at large holding company agencies leading blue chip accounts including McDonald’s, The Home Depot and OfficeMax. In 2006, Norm decided he liked creating advertising and helping his clients grow their brands versus fighting it out in the political and bureaucratic battlefield of the holding company networks, and with colleague Vinny Warren escaped big agency life and founded The Escape Pod. They had a singular vision: to create a nimble agency focused on bringing brands to life through powerful creative ideas that sell products fast.

From pioneering the first branded entertainment reality TV hit, “Schooled,” for OfficeMax to launching Wheat Thins’ “Twitterventions” viral sensation, to having NFL MVP Drew Breese retire for one day for Can-Am Spyder and working with YouTube star Action Movie Kid for Toys”R”Us, The Escape Pod has earned its reputation as a fiercely independent agency creating game-changing work for companies across the retail, food & beverage, technology and automotive categories.

Norm is committed to bringing fast, fearless ideas to clients in the most cost-effective manner possible. An industry thought leader, he has spoken at Google on the topic of leveraging technology to “earn an audience” and at DePaul University about entrepreneurial approaches to advertising. His work has been featured in industry publications from The New York Times and Wall Street Journal to Advertising Age and Screen. 

Vinny Warren

Vinny Warren

Executive Creative Director & Founder

Vinny is the creative force behind The Escape Pod. For more than two decades, Vinny’s passion for advertising and signature hard-hitting style have left a permanent imprint on pop culture and earned him every major award and industry accolade.

He was born and raised in Galway, Ireland and learned his craft in New York working for legendary advertising writer Ed McCabe. In 1995 Vinny moved to Chicago to work on the Bud Light advertising account. The very first commercial he wrote was voted Best Beer Spot of the Year by Advertising Age magazine. In 2000 Vinny created the globally popular Budweiser “Whassup!” Campaign—the most awarded beer campaign in history, winning the Cannes Grand Prix, the Grand Clio, Best of Show at the One Show Interactive as well as garnering two Emmy Award nominations and being named one of the Top Ad Campaigns of the 21st Century. In 2005 Vinny was part of an international team that created a TV commercial for Volkswagen Germany that went on to become the fifth most awarded ad of that year. In 2006 he was inducted into the Clio Hall of Fame.

Later that year Vinny struck out on his own, co-founding independent agency, The Escape Pod. True to form, his fresh, attention-grabbing work ignited widespread recognition from the industry and revenue gains for clients. In 2008, he transformed boring into branded entertainment with Office Max’s “Schooled” reality TV series and “Penny Pranks” viral hit, creating category-busting work that dominated industry awards, from the Clios and American Advertising Federation to retail-focused Racie and RAMA Awards. His “Twitterventions” campaign injected new life into the stale Wheat Thins brand, driving 12 straight months of revenue gains after 24 months of decline, and earning multiple Cannes shortlist honors. He brought the world’s greatest toy store to life, launching Toys”R”Us’ YouTube Channel with a Buy Now button to drive e-commerce sales, and creating the “Come On, Let’s Play” campaign that forged a year-round emotional connection with consumers, increased gross margins and earned a top spot on Nielsen’s most effective TV spots for Holiday 2014.

Vinny is married and has three children. 

Leah Hattendorf

Leah Hattendorf

SVP, Director of Stategy

As The Escape Pod’s strategy leader, Leah prides herself on being “The People’s Planner,” bringing heart, empathy and a true desire to understand the lives of customers into the development of strategy. Firmly believing that without creativity, you don’t have a real strategy, her department’s approach is equal parts academic rigor and creativity.

During her time at The Escape Pod, Leah has been responsible for guiding the brand and communications strategy for Wheat Thins, Toys”R”Us, KIND, EGO and Winn-Dixie. Her leadership at The Escape Pod includes the creation of the Toys”R”Us brand promise that championed the importance of play in the social, cognitive and emotional development of kids. She was also responsible for positioning EGO as a tech brand in a category that had become functional and boring, resulting in year on year double-digit growth.

Prior to joining The Escape Pod, Leah was a member of JWT’s global leadership team for Kimberly-Clark, overseeing brand strategy and marketing plan development in Latin America, Australia, Russia, Europe, Southeast Asia and South Korea. At JWT NY she was a core team member responsible for turning around the Kleenex business with the “Softness Worth Sharing” campaign, resulting in share growth for the first time in over five years.

While at FCB, Leah reinvigorated Kraft’s Jell-O business, transitioning the brand from its earlier association with children to a low-calorie permissible indulgence for women, resulting in 9% sales growth vs. the prior year.
She also spent time at DDB, successfully launching the Cars.com brand, resulting in a 30% increase in site traffic in just six months.

Leah is a graduate of the University of Illinois’s College of Business, and has studied at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
In her spare time, Leah can be found in her studio making art. 

Kent Kwiatt

Kent Kwiatt

Executive Producer

Kent has been producing bold, breakthrough marketing content for more than two decades. He began his career at Ogilvy & Mather working in the fast-paced retail category, quickly learning how to navigate the intricate dynamics of stewarding sound creative concepts through the complicated production, post-production and review processes.

From there, he honed his production chops at numerous agencies including Young & Rubicam and DDB, where his experience spanned myriad brand categories from high-volume retail to high-concept automotive. Kent has produced on five of the seven continents and for every media channel including cinema, network, long form-branded television, documentary, and the ever-evolving digital space.

His work has won the acclaim of every major industry award organization including the Cannes Advertising Festival’s coveted Grand Prix, The Grand Clio, The Grand Addy, Best of Show in The London International Advertising Awards, as well as garnering two Emmy nominations. Additionally he has the distinction of having his work inducted into the permanent collection of the New York Museum of Modern Art.

Through 20+ years of technological development in the production industry, Kent believes the central responsibilities of an effective producer have never changed: to be well versed in the tools and language of the ever-developing communicative arts and to use those skills to protect and steward creative concepts from idea through execution into actualization.

An adventurer at heart, Kent is an accomplished solo sailor, has dove with great white sharks, meditated alone in the funerary chamber of Cheops, once poked a Komodo dragon with a stick, has been struck by lightning and won the only known footrace around the Homestead Florida NASCAR track. 

Mark Andeer

Mark Andeer

Chief Marketing Officer

Mark Andeer is Chief Marketing Officer of The Escape Pod, responsible for leading the company growth initiatives, supporting current client account teams with strategic input, and participating in creative campaign development.

A veteran marketing and advertising executive, Mark has been instrumental in developing innovative, brand-building ideas and global award-winning campaigns—garnering the rare distinction of earning more than a billion viral views.

Previous to coming to The Escape Pod, Andeer was CMO/vice-president of creative with Kmart and was previously with OfficeMax, where he held the vice-president of brands strategy role. Prior to his corporate roles, Andeer held leadership roles in advertising agencies BBDO in Minneapolis and Lowe in New York. Andeer has earned numerous awards and accolades, including Best of Retail Gold Effie, Cannes Lions, One Show, Graphis, World Retail Awards and Best of Show at RAC. His ElfYourself campaign is included in the Forbes top 10 viral websites ever created. Andeer has a BFA from College for Creative Studies in Detroit, Michigan and attended post-graduate at Miami Ad School in Miami, Florida. 

Matthew Johnson

Matthew Johnson

Director of Accounts

A senior leader at The Escape Pod, Matthew oversees valued client relationships while also heading up the agency’s media department. He acts as a true partner to our clients, ensuring their growth by working closely with the creative team to develop efficient, media agnostic plans that break through the clutter to reach consumers in new and exciting ways, while also delivering business results.

For more than two decades Matthew has carved out a reputation as a proven problem-solver who thrives on bringing creative ideas to life in the most interesting—and efficient—ways possible.

He is a champion of challenger brands and takes pride in his success fueling the growth of such brands as Corona and CareerBuilder by making their smaller budgets punch heavier than heavily funded market leaders. He believes breakthrough work happens when brands take a holistic view on their marketing spend, and creative ideas are fused with media from Day 1.

Prior to joining The Escape Pod, Matthew served in senior Media roles at Cramer-Krasselt and PHD, creating award-winning work for OfficeMax, LaSalle Bank, Hyatt Hotels, and Kentucky Fried Chicken.
He is a native of Joliet, Illinois. 

Jared Creason

Jared Creason

Creative Director

As Creative Director for The Escape Pod, Jared helps fuel the agency’s signature hard-hitting style of advertising, while also mentoring young talent and playing a key role in driving new business efforts.

An award-winning Creative Director, Jared started his career at Goodby Silverstein & Partners, where he created the Doritos “Crash the Super Bowl” campaign, earning the #1 spot on the USA Today Admeter and the Cannes Titanium shortlist. While at Saatchi & Saatchi, he created the Tide “Montanaland” campaign, a Super Bowl commercial hit that won a Cannes Film Lion and garnered the #2 spot on the USA Today Admeter.

A true hybrid creative bringing a unique passion for both art and copy, Jared also freelanced at many of the nation’s top advertising agencies, including StrawberryFrog, DDB, David&Goliath, RPA, JWALK and Olson. He has created innovative campaigns for Starbucks, Trident, JC Penney, Hans Brinker, Head & Shoulders, Miller, Visine, HP, Scotch Tape and Sprint, and earned a host of industry accolades from the Cannes Lions, Clios, One Show and Art Directors Club to Creativity and Communication Arts.

Originally from Newport Beach, California, Jared is an avid sailor, surfer and golfer, with a passion for creating silk screens and writing screenplays. He also loves hanging out with his Boston Terrier, Buck. 

Heather Hayden

Human Resources

Heather Hayden

Director of Talent

As HR lead for The Escape Pod, Heather is a talent scout, connector, mentor and champion of our creatively driven culture. Her multifaceted experience prior to recruiting on both the account and production sides of the business, coupled with her sharp instincts and empathetic approach to hiring, has fueled her unique ability to spot raw talent and see potential where others don’t. Heather strives to uncover dimension beyond a portfolio or resume, taking a wholistic casting approach for building teams, not just filling seats—all in support of producing a supreme creative output.

In Account Management for more than 10 years at such agencies as Element 79, FCB and JWT, Heather learned the invaluable skills of brand building, strategic thinking and creative problem-solving. Most importantly, she honed her passion for championing and protecting curiosity, creativity and ideas, as well as fostering collaboration.

With five years on the production side, Heather built a huge network of advertising/production talent and gained incredible knowledge about the craft of production. She believes that the idea will always be king. And no matter what new or emerging channel or platform, an idea goes nowhere without flawless execution.
Heather values integrity, authenticity, hard work, entrepreneurship and a sense of humor.