Scott Creamer puts his heart into everything he does. Whether he is creating, working or loving, his approach is dedicated and inspired. In life, he sinks his teeth in so deeply he comes close to biting off more than he can chew. At his creative firm, the SCreamer Company, he shares a curious, adventurous, and hands-on approach to work that his clients love.
Creamer is a small-town boy who grew up in the east Texas Hamlets of Marshall, and Wharton, a town of about 9,000 residents located 59 miles south of Houston.
“I absolutely love coming from a small town. Growing up in a small town gave me a solid foundation and a real secure base,” Creamer said. “I was a very happy kid.”
Having traveled and lived in various other Texas cities and Chicago , Creamer still retains his east Texas drawl, a comely and sweet-natured twang that, combined with his bright smile and approachable demeanor, is certain to put anyone who spends the least bit of time with him at ease. But despite his sweet-Southern-boy manner, Creamer is not an overly private guy. In fact, quite the contrary; he’s remarkably open, forthcoming, sensitive and unencumbered. He’s extremely easy to talk to and has the rare ability to engage others with the affection and aplomb of a longtime and beloved family member. He credits his upbringing with instilling his senses of courage, inquisitiveness and determination. It was obvious to him from a young age that he had an overly creative bent.
He speaks fondly of a first-grade episode in which he received an “F” on an art project.
“In fact, I think I got in trouble at least twice in first grade because of something that was art-related,” Creamer laughed.
One such occasion involved a holiday art assignment in which students were to color an Easter landscape according to the color-by-number instructions. Creamer, who didn’t want his drawing to look like every other student’s, had the idea to shift each color-number combination down a number, thereby making his grass orange instead of green, his sky purple instead of blue.
“I was thrilled that my drawing was different from everyone else’s,” he said. “But, of course, this was an assignment that was really about doing what you’re told and following directions, not about being artistic.”
Though he failed the assignment, Creamer was still immensely pleased with the outcome of his art.
Art, and later theater, continued to appeal to the young Creamer, who often performed in lead roles in junior-high plays. Even then, he was at ease in front of large audiences, and grasping the idea that he was more adept when having prepared than simply improvising, he’d laid the groundwork for what would become one of his more effective skills in adult life.
Cats and dogs don’t even scratch the surface as high school senior, Creamer – who has often found himself ahead of the learning curve – received a yearlong scholarship to the Wharton County Junior College Division of Communications & Fine Arts, and as such, was able to attend some college-level art and theater classes before he’d even graduated high school. While he thoroughly enjoyed those classes, they also helped him realize that he was more skilled at and suitable for the field of visual arts. So after graduating high school with honors, Creamer headed to Huntsville to attend Sam Houston State University, where he pursued his degree in art with a specialization in advertising.
He describes his college experience as “fun fun fun” and took the opportunity while studying to pick up a few side jobs, first as a bartender and later at a t-shirt shop, where he honed his design, illustration and silk-screening talents. By his fourth year, his professors were well aware of creamer’s talents, and one teacher proposed the idea that he connect with a former Sam Houston State University graduate at an advertising agency in San Antonio for an internship.
“I was kind of surprised because I ended up getting five interviews with agencies and two of them were interested in hiring me,” Creamer said, adding that he’d even landed an interview with agency giant GSD&M in Austin . “I decided to go to San Antonio for the summer and take the paid internship at DBG&H ad agency.”
Creamer, once again working at an advanced level for his age and experience, so impressed the leadership at DBG&H, that they asked him to stay on the job after his internship was completed. But with another year of college to finish, Creamer was unsure of his path. Amazingly, he managed to get permission from his university to receive credits toward his degree by attending classes at the University of Texas at San Antonio and what was then Southwest Texas State University, all while maintaining an advertising agency job.
The opportunity opened even more doors for creamer. After two years at DBG&H, he landed a junior art director job at Kich/ Cotter advertising and marketing in San Antonio, thanks to the encouragement of another college professor who saw a promising future for him in the ad business. Creamer spent another two years at Kich/Cotter and soon was afforded a different kind of professional opportunity that he simply could not turn down. He received a call from Texas A&M University asking him to come to College Station and interview for an ad-designer position. Intrigued by the job, he sat for two interviews and, after easily impressing the interviewer, she offered him the job that afternoon.
“My whole goal was to be able to work on bigger campaigns. Probably the best campaign I worked on there was a recruitment campaign for the School of Veterinary Medicine,” Creamer said. “I came up with the tag line: ‘Dogs and cats don’t even scratch the surface.’ and we launched a whole campaign around that.”
The decade-long campaign was wildly successful and targeted every age group: there were coloring books and stickers for children, book covers for older kids, brochures and posters for grown students, and recruitment posters for A&M alumni to hang in their veterinary offices. The campaign was recognized in Print Magazines regional design issue, and A&M’s vet school met its two-year recruitment goal within six months.
Creamer had, yet again, proven himself indispensable to his employer. But he started to get that two-year itch and entertained ideas about other, more significant, advertising jobs. So, while on vacation from his A&M job, Creamer headed to Chicago , home of some of the world’s most celebrated and successful advertising agencies. Ad designer Larry Broom, whom Creamer had befriended while at DBG&H in San Antonio, and who had become somewhat of a mentor for the young Creamer – in part, because he was living as a successful, openly gay man, and also because he was unparalleled in his knowledge of and experience in the ad world – encouraged Creamer to look for work at Chicago agencies, and even secured Creamer an interview at Leo Burnett, one of the world’s largest advertising agencies.
While visiting Chicago, Creamer interviewed at seven agencies, Leo Burnett and BBDO among them. He also spent plenty of time absorbing the rich culture of Chicago. For Creamer, who had always enjoyed living in a small town, discovering the big city was intoxicating. a month later, he was hired as the art director at BBDO and was excited to live and work in the city that had managed to romance him so thoroughly in such a short period of time.
“I was absolutely thrilled to live in the big city and had no apprehension about it whatsoever,” Creamer remembered. “By that time, I had come out and was wanting to be in a place with plenty of other gay people and neighborhoods. And I also wanted to see if I could actually make it in advertising in Chicago.”
Creamer imagined he’d give the city two to three years of his life, but loving the experience of big-city life so much, he planted roots and remained in Chicago for 13 years. Though he really enjoyed working at BBDO, he knew within six months of his job change that he was not long for big-agency work; it was less collaborative than he’d hoped and little direct involvement with the client meant that hands-on, experiential methodology Creamer holds so dear was lost. After two years at the agency, he made the decision to give it his all at his own business: the SCreamer company was born.
Love and the great equality
If there’s one thing that Creamer has always valued in his love life, it’s his freedom. He rarely committed to long-term relationships for fear that he’d lose his independence to a partnership that required too much compromise. Being single was easier and more fun, and it allowed him to go when and where he pleased at a moment’s notice. Exercising that freedom, ironically enough, is what led him to the love of his life.
Fifteen years ago, while on a trip to New York City to check out the Pride celebration and the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall riots (the America’s first major gay- rights demonstration to take place), Creamer became friends with Tim Lee, a fellow Texan he’d met at a party with whom he later attended the Pride Parade. The two were instant kindred spirits, and despite creamer’s comfort with single life, he couldn’t ignore that something was quickly developing between Lee and him.
He returned to Chicago and Lee came back to his hometown of Austin , but the pair talked on the phone daily, and within a month of their meeting, Lee traveled to Chicago to visit Creamer. They maintained a long-distance relationship for a few months before the inevitable conversation arose.
“He said to me that if we were going to do this, his goal was for us to be together,” Creamer said. “So after three months, we started really talking about that prospect. I decided that I needed to give it a chance. So eight months from when we met, he moved to Chicago.”
From that day forward, the two have been an incredibly close couple, committing from the beginning to be extremely open with each other, a promise Creamer said has made their relationship even stronger, despite the fact that the two men have diametrically opposing personality traits.
“We’ve always had a great equality between us and we really complement each other, even though we’re very different in a lot of ways. We balance each other out, and that’s part of the success of our relationship. I’m all about experiencing the moment; I’m not a planner. He’s a major planner. Ninety percent of the time, I love that about him. But sometimes it does drive me nuts,” Creamer said, laughing. “I find humor in the way he does things, and he’s hyperproductive. I love that about him!”
Years later, one particularly frightening incident that occurred while the couple was living in Chicago helped further solidify their commitment. While Lee, who now works as a lawyer and business consultant, was attending law school, he had a tooth removed.
One morning, while recovering, he was having difficulty eating and began shaking uncontrollably. Creamer hurried Lee to the hospital, where they were told Lee had a severe case of pneumonia that had become systemic. He was hospitalized immediately in the intensive-care unit, hooked up to a respirator and told he had only a 50-percent chance of survival. Later, the doctors told Creamer that estimate was only hopeful; they didn’t expect Lee to survive the illness.
For two weeks, while Lee lay in the hospital bed unconscious, his family and Creamer rarely leaving his bedside, Creamer stared at Lee’s respirator, battling a cascade of emotions at the very tiniest fluctuation in the machine’s numbers.
“I really believe in the connection between the mind, body and spirit, and I felt like I knew what Tim’s mind and spirit wanted, but it was very different from what his body was doing,” Creamer said, tears welling up in his eyes as he recounted how fearful he was that he’d lose his partner. “So, at one point, I asked everybody to leave the room and I told him that if his spirit was ready to go, I knew my spirit would want that for him. If that was really the case, it would be OK if he died; I’d just have to let him go.”
The following day, Lee felt a bit better and had begun to recover. Within 11 days, he was off the respirator and conscious again, though he did sustain complete hearing loss and was paralyzed on the left side of his body.
“That whole experience completely transformed our lives,” Creamer admitted.
Lee spent another three weeks in the hospital and his rehabilitation was arduous. Creamer took a hiatus from work for three months in order to stay home and care for Lee, who regained all of his mobility but still lives with some hearing loss.
“He had to relearn everything, and he really struggled, but it was inspiring to watch him come back to life the way he did,” Creamer said.
“Scott never complained,” Lee said. “He was always there to give me both physical and emotional support. There were times that I became very frustrated with my recovery and wanted to take a break and he wouldn’t let me. There were several times that Scott pushed me to do a little more and try a little bit harder than I wanted, but looking back, I am so glad he did. It would have been much easier for him to have just walked away and left me to deal with my problems by myself. But he didn’t, and I never doubted that he would.”
A sweetheart deal
After Lee’s recovery, he had some trouble passing the bar exam in Chicago, and the couple – who always knew they’d end up back in Texas – made a pact: if Lee failed to pass the bar for a second time, they’d pack up and move back home to the Lone Star State. For the two years prior, they’d been looking online at properties in Austin, and by 2000, Lee found a cute little 800-square-foot home on a magnificent half-acre of property rich with venerable trees bordering Bouldin creek in South Austin. The pair cut short a July Fourth holiday trip to check out the Austin home.
“We made an offer and before we were back on the plane, our offer had been accepted. Two weeks later, we moved in,” Creamer said.
Later, Lee passed the bar and began working as a lawyer in Austin, and Creamer set up a small office for the SCreamer company in a one-bedroom apartment on South First Street. Creamer, who hadn’t wanted to grow his business so much so that he’d have to hire and manage employees, brought on freelancers to help with larger client projects. But after landing a project with the Seton Family of Hospitals – a monster of a client for a one-man advertising company – creamer’s business began to thrive.
“Their projects kept getting bigger and bigger, and they gave them all to me,” said Creamer. “Seton took a huge leap of faith on me!” Theresa Lord, marketing manager for the Seton Family of Hospitals, says that leap of faith has really paid off for the organization, noting that the company’s partnership with the SCreamer company has produced some of Seton’s most exciting marketing campaigns.
“Our branding and scope of marketing initiatives has really grown and developed in the last several years, and the SCreamer company has been an important part of that transformation and growth,” Lord said. “[Scott] has such a strong understanding of our brand that he consistently delivers on smart, compelling creative strategies to help us articulate that brand across multiple hospitals, service lines and audiences.”
Creamer’s philosophy is simple: Focus on the work and everything else will follow. He believes in one-on-one, eye-to-eye interaction. His experiential method, for a client like Seton, for instance, has found him literally spending hours at a time in the hospital, interviewing nurses and doctors, and really getting a feel for what it’s like to be a part of the organization. As the SCreamer company continued to gain more significant clients, Creamer knew he’d have to allow his business to respond to the growth.
“My only apprehension was that bringing on employees meant completely changing my business model, and that was a huge challenge for me,” he conceded. “I’ve had to let go a little bit and figure out what I’m actually good at and where I’m lacking.”
To that end, Creamer worked with business coaches and even joined an entrepreneurs’ group to help him best understand how to run such a booming business.
These days, Creamer said he’s always happy to entertain the idea of a new client, but such prospects must be able to meet three criteria to be a good fit for the SCreamer company: 1.) Do Creamer and his staff want to see more of that company’s product in the world? 2.) On a day-to-day basis, is their main point of contact someone they’ll enjoy working with and respect? 3.) Does the prospective client have the advertising budget for what they want to accomplish?
“If we can say yes to all three of those questions, they’re probably going to be a good fit for the SCreamer company,” Creamer said.
Now a successful but nontraditional agency-style business, the SCreamer company is housed in a quaint, art-adorned office space just off South congress avenue, and employs six highly creative, highly motivated ad geniuses.
Creamer’s personal life is just as successful, he and Lee having married in 2008 in a small ceremony just north of San Francisco. “I absolutely did not want to get married; it felt too straight to me. I mean, I have protested for our right to get married, but I just didn’t feel like I needed it,” Creamer said. “But when Tim proposed to me on a Sunday afternoon when we were walking down Second Street on our way to Jo’s for a beer and barbecue sandwich, without hesitation, I said yes!”
Now happily married with a family that consists of a sweet kitten named Poquito and a beautiful and loveable mixed-breed dog named Shiner, the couple is planning to expand their abode by building an immense but simple modular home on the back of their property – a project creamer, laughing, said Lee has been planning for at least 10 years.
“We’re so happy with most things in our lives right now,” said Creamer. “I really don’t think I could ask for anything more.”