The interview did not start well. It was the early 1980s, and Rick Greene, a graduate fresh out of college, answered a help-wanted ad for a job with an advertising specialties firm, Walter Cribbins Co., in Los Angeles. When he showed up for the interview, the hiring manager announced that she was intent on hiring a woman for the new position. Greene was dejected. Before dismissing him, though, the manager asked if he even knew what the ad specialties industry was. Sure, the fresh graduate replied, pens and stuff with logos on them. Growing up in Cleveland, his mom had been in the industry. Turned out the dozen women interviewed for the job hadn’t known anything about the business. Greene was hired on the spot.
A boss sticking out their hand after a first interview and extorting, “Congratulations, you’re hired!” What a feeling for a recent graduate! Sounds like something straight out of an old black-and-white movie script, right? That would suit Greene, western regional vice president of Counselor Top 40 firm HALO Branded Solutions (asi/356000) and a lifelong fan of film, just fine.
From an early age, Greene collected 8-millimeter movies of classics starring Abbot and Costello, Mae West and the Three Stooges. He watched Charlie Chaplin on a screen set up in his living room. These comic legends inspired Greene to enroll in the Ohio State University as a film major.
When his father, a photographer, moved to Southern California, Greene tagged along and became a writing major at University of California, San Diego. He’d been inspired to move to So Cal after spending the winter of 1978 with relatives who lived in Los Angeles.
“That winter was brutal,” he says. “In Ohio, you could take a breath and feel the inside of your lungs start to crystalize. I went to Beverly Hills for a fresh start and stayed with my aunt and uncle, who lived next door to actor Kurt Douglas. Needless to say, I fell in love with Southern California.”
Greene intended to take the new job and stay in the promotions industry for only a short time, or, “until Disney or some studio called to hire me.” Soon enough, he realized he was making more money than any of his counterparts working in the film industry. He’s now been in the business for 33 years, on the distributor side for all that time. He’s served on the board for the Specialty Advertising Association of California, and was the 2009 president.
His work with HALO, where he’s been for the last 11-plus years, encompasses recruiting, sales management, large account presentations, creative brainstorming, planning and facilitating events and writing.
The writing is his forte. He penned a series of articles on a new approach to branded marketing called: “Be Bold, Be Different, Be Memorable.”
He also authored two fantasy fiction novels, Boofalo (2004) and ’Shroom (2007). Both feature a lead character that takes on magical powers and has adventures that include time travel, excitement, intrigue and epic battles between good and evil.
Greene’s experiences with good and evil in the promotional products industry spans three decades, and he takes a moment before summing up his experiences and advising anybody interested in getting into this realm.
“Twenty or thirty years ago, this was a different world than what we now live in,” he says. “When I started, there weren’t the research tools that we have today. And even five years ago things were so different. The economy is better now, so everybody is positive again.
“My advice is to take to heart the theme of be bold, be different, be memorable. Apply that in how you go to market. Don’t be just another person who has crap with logos on it. Be startlingly unique as a promotional partner. Find out what you are passionate about and use that to stand out from the pack.”