By thinking small, Creative Ocean’s Tom Miller generates big demand
Since moving to Omaha 18 months ago, Tom Miller has found a home in What Cheer's space in the Mastercraft building. Photo by Michael Quinlan.
Tom Miller thinks small. 40k small. That’s the size restriction called for by most ad agencies in online banner advertising today. “That’s what I take a lot of pride in, the ability to squeeze large amounts of visual information into teeny, tiny ad restrictions," Miller said. "That’s where I get a lot of my repeat business.”
Miller is a freelance designer and Flash developer working out of What Cheer’s office space in the ever-evolving Mastercraft building in north downtown Omaha. “They are my benevolent hosts,” Miller said, “but it’s a one-man show.” Creative Ocean is the moniker under which Miller produces his work, which consists mostly of online advertising — lots of rich media and homepage flash pieces.
Miller’s work is mainly production. He receives a layered Photoshop document from an agency with specific creative direction and makes those files come to life in the strict confines of a banner ad. “My work is 90 percent production, five percent project management and another five percent hustling (getting new clients),” Miller said. Production time can range from a couple of days all the way up to several months depending on the complexity of the project.
Miller, 29, has an impressive client list that includes Taco Bell, Applebee’s, T-Mobile, Best Buy, State Farm, Qwest, Adobe, Home Depot, Nintendo, Capital One, McDonald's and Firestone to name a few. And he doesn’t show signs of slowing down. “I’ve been booked solid or overbooked ever since I moved here,” Miller said. That was 18 months ago, and most of that work is for clients (direct and agency) outside of the Omaha area, mainly in Chicago and New York.
Miller made an explainer video for Hollrback earlier this year, providing him a welcome and local break from the norm. “I love the motion graphic stuff, it’s really creative.” Miller said. “Getting to work with creative consulting and the design illustration process was great.” (Left: a screenshot from Miller's Hollrback video on hollrback.com.)
Miller got his initial Midwest exposure through an internship out of college with Digital Kitchen in Chicago, which brought him from his hometown. He earned a degree in fine art as an undergrad at Florida State and only actually worked in computer design during the latter portion of his college career. From Digital Kitchen, Miller moved on to Draft FCB Chicago and then to a full-time position as the freelance art director at Arc Worldwide (the digital arm of Leo Burnette at the time), followed by full-time Flash production work. Miller eventually moved to Los Angeles to meet up with his girlfriend (now his wife), and after she found work in Omaha, Miller started looking, too. “It happened amazingly quick” he said.
Two years ago, a Google search for “Web Design Omaha” yielded a handful of solid results, with What Cheer at the top of the stack. After a couple of short meetings with What Cheer's John Henry Müller, Miller was locked in.
It is fascinating to see the meticulous methodology and attention to detail involved in banner advertisements that are glanced over thousands of time a day. The ads go through the hands of dozens of people, and it takes some serious creative thinking to produce animated work that might catch someone's attention, even for a half-second. The web moves fast, and many of the campaigns have short run time. But with his ability to maximize the time and space at hand, Miller is awash in opportunity at Creative Ocean.