Cut to the Chase with Jeff Graham, Cactus-Mental Health

Cut to the Chase with Jeff Graham, Cactus-Mental Health

Jeff Graham is President & CMO of Cactus, a 33 year-old independent agency located in Denver, CO, and in this episode of the RSW/US Cut To The Chase series, he talks with Lee McKnight Jr. about mental health, verticals, agency process, and content creation.

Jeff’s 30 years in advertising includes agency and account leadership roles at Barkley, Grenadier, Crispin Porter + Bogusky, Arnold, CORE and TBWA\Chiat\Day.

In part 1, Lee & Jeff talk:

  • The shared love of early metal and how that ties into an RFP (it will make sense when you see it)
  • Jeff’s background prior to Cactus, which included runs at TBWA, Arnold, Crispin Porter + Bogusky, & Barkley
  • The background on Cactus, founded in 1990
  • The Cactus vertical breakdown amongst 5 verticals: how they structure those on their site, and from a business development standpoint
  • Every agency seems to have a process: why the Cactus Belief and Behavior Design™ process stands out and reinforces everything the agency does/stands for
  • How and why Cactus said “yes”, early on, to the briefs so many agencies run away from
  • Man Therapy-what it is in relation to mental health, why Cactus created it, and what it’s meant to the agency
  • In 2022, Cactus was named one of the Drum’s best performing agencies, one of Outside Magazine’s Best places to work, and ranked in The One Club, global creative rankings. While so many firms were struggling post-pandemic with maintaining culture and teams overall, Jeff discusses how Cactus remained vital and how the entire team realized success.

In part 2, Lee & Jeff talk:

  • A piece Jeff wrote in Campaign US called “The Upside of the Great Resignation for Agencies” back in March of ’22 that absolutely still applies, including 4 pre-pandemic pitching rules.
  • The consistent theme: “Cactus exists to work with brands that help people thrive in their lives”
  • Cactus’s focus on Mental Health Awareness and the weekly series with Grit Digital Health (discussed in Ad Age)
  • The Frame of Mind series, featuring some of the industry’s top leaders in conversation with Cactus Founder & CEO Joe Conrad
  • The Cactus in-house psychologist -Jeff’s content in Ad Week, on podcasts, and appearing at conferences-how that process works and advice to agency principals on content and getting yourself out there
  • One piece of advice to marketers to make their agency relationships more effective

Key links:

Cactus site:

Jeff’s LinkedIn:

Jeff’s Campaign piece “The Upside of the Great Resignation for Agencies” :…

Cactus’s Frame Of Mind Series:

More about Jeff: Jeff’s account work spans some of the world’s most iconic brands—Microsoft, Volkswagen, Jack Daniel’s, Best Buy, the NFL, Gibson Guitar, Virgin Mobile, Bass Pro Shops, Indian Motorcycle, Under Armour, and Old Navy (where he served as interim CMO).

For decades, Jeff has taught university students and mentored young account professionals on the art of ‘creative account leadership’ – by creating the conditions on their accounts where bold, culture-changing creative ideas can live, the account discipline can play a crucial role in making great work possible.

Jeff is a graduate of the Missouri School of Journalism and St. Louis University’s MBA program.

He’s a classic car nut, cancer survivor, proud dad to 4 amazing girls, board member of One Club Denver, and a past-president of Ad Club Colorado (AAF).

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