Crushing Copper with Annie Heckenberger

Editor’s note: Please welcome Annie Heckenberger of Red Tettemer O’Connell + Partners to AdPulp. Her first post is a “get to know me” piece and an excellent intro to her fast moving world.

I have this favorite childhood memory. Every Friday afternoon in the summer, my best friend’s mother would drive my best friend, her younger brother and me to the Atlantic City train station to pick up their dad. We’d bypass a ground level platform in front of the station, the four of us walking through overgrown weeds, gravel and wildflowers along the tracks until we found the perfect spot.

My friend’s mother would give each of us a penny or a quarter and we’d carefully climb over and place each of our coins on a rail of the track. Then the three of us would step back, away from the tracks, and wait.

The anticipation was overwhelming.

We felt it coming on the ground before we could even see it. Tremors shook under the soles of our summer sandals, reverberating up through our knobby knees. Then the noise. Suddenly, like a mirage, we’d see a massive locomotive racing toward us at a speed collected over some 360 miles. Our mighty 60-pound frames blew back a bit and we were warmed by gusts generated by this beast as it pulled ahead into the station.

When my friend’s mom gave us the ok, we’d race to the tracks to find our coins. And there they were, pressed by heat and power into something completely new. Flat and big and warm to the touch. The shape and image different each time. We’d race to the station to show our friend’s dad what we created. And on those Friday nights, we’d sleep soundly with our hands wrapped around flattened coins under our pillows. We had made something, both story and product.


That’s what working at Red Tettemer O’Connell + Partners feels like.

Every day there’s that anticipation and the question, What am I going to make today? Sometimes the creative opportunity is as big as a locomotive and has that kind of beastly power behind it. Other times it’s that perfectly pressed and shaped penny. Nearly every time it blows you back a little with its force.

We’re an agency in the moment right now. You know the moment. It’s that twinkling second when an agency goes from mid-sized to well, more, and everything is changing so fast that the frame is blurred.

Some of this rapid acceleration may be because the industry landscape is shifting relentlessly. Creative thinking and content is needed across platforms at a speed like never before. Social media equals deliverables times infinity. The content hole will never be satiated. You will feed the social content beast forever. And when you best it, you will be bested. That’s the game.  Get in or get out, ad world.

We believe that the best creative comes out of collaborative teams. As such, art directors and writers and creative directors and developers and production and social and digital strategists and media planners all work together at RTO+P. Always. And we silently thank Buddha, Jesus and even Elvis each night for the badass account people who advance us while keeping it all together.

I’m not going to get all kumbaya on you about this. The real skinny on working at a creative agency during a period of immense growth and momentum is that you might feel more like the conductor driving a train than the childlike observer. There’s a tremendous amount riding on your performance. Every ride is weighty regardless of the distance traveled. And the hours might break you, if the breakneck speed doesn’t clobber you first.

But the thing is, the anticipation is overwhelming. We share a common drive to get up, get in and get it done like it’s never been done before.

And on the best days, you can still feel it in your knees.



About Annie Heckenberger

VP, Community Trailblazer at RTO+P, Social & PR practice lead. Annie began her work in social media before the term "social media" existed.