Todd Anthony | [Top Agency Series] Peddling Phone Books Door to Door in the Czech Republic to Advising Top Tier Brands
Smart Business Revolution

Todd Anthony is an award-winning verbal branding expert and the Executive Creative Director of Pinwheel Content. With more than 20 years of experience, he has worked at some amazing global creative agencies like Ogilvy, Young & Rubicam, J. Walter Thompson, as well as held creative leadership stints at big media companies such as CBS, Yahoo, and CNET. 

In 2014, Todd created Pinwheel, a creative agency focused on brand storytelling and content marketing. He has worked with some incredible clients including Johnson & Johnson, Fitbit, Experian, Nokia, and Amazon. He has also helped launch and nurture young startup brands. 

In this episode of the Smart Business Revolution Podcast, John Corcoran interviews Todd Anthony, the Executive Creative Director of Pinwheel Content, about his journey to the Czech Republic and back to the US, and how he built a top creative agency. Todd explains how he got started in copywriting and shares his experience working at companies including Ogilvy and Yahoo.

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Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:

  • What made Todd Anthony move to the Czech Republic?
  • The communist approach to life and work people had in the Czech Republic in the early 90s
  • The reasons Todd moved back to the US and how he started doing agency work
  • How Todd became a copywriter
  • Todd’s experience working at Ogilvy and Yahoo
  • Why Todd started Pinwheel Content — and his advice on building a better creative agency
  • Todd talks about the work his agency has been doing with one of his clients and shares his thoughts on changes in the content industry 
  • The people Todd respects and how to get in touch with him

Resources Mentioned In This Episode

Sponsor: Rise25

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Episode Transcript

Intro 0:14

Welcome to the revolution, the Smart Business Revolution Podcast where we ask today’s most successful entrepreneurs to share the tools and strategies they use to build relationships and connections to grow their revenue. Now now, your host for the revolution, John Corcoran.

John Corcoran 0:40 

All right. Welcome everyone. John Corcoran here. I’m the host of this show. And I feel so privileged every week to talk to smart CEOs, founders and entrepreneurs of a range of different companies ranging from Netflix, YPO, EO, Activision Blizzard, LendingTree, OpenTable, go check out my backlog back catalogue. Lots of great episodes there lots of great wisdom for you to soak up. I’m also the Co-founder of Rise25, where he help connect b2b business owners to their ideal prospects. And quick shout out to Carl Smith of Bureau Digital. He introduced me to today’s guests, one of my past guests, you can go check out his episode, real smart and savvy guide.

But today’s guest, who he introduced me to, is Todd Anthony, an award winning verbal branding expert. 20 plus years of experience. He’s worked at some amazing huge global creative agencies like Ogilvy, Young and Rubicam, J. Walter Thompson, as well as held creative leadership stints at big media companies such as CBS, Yahoo, CNET, some of those names you’ve probably heard of. In 2014, he created Pinwheel, a creative agency focused on brand storytelling and content marketing. He’s worked with some amazing clients, including Johnson & Johnson, Fitbit, Experian, Nokia, Amazon has helped also launch and nurture young startup brands. And course this episode is brought to you by Rise25 Media, where we help b2b businesses to get clients referrals and strategic partnerships with done for you podcast and content marketing. And you are listening to a podcast right now. So if you’ve ever thought about doing a podcast, I’ve been saying for the 11 years that I’ve been doing it that everyone should have one, you should absolutely do it. Send us an email, if you have any questions [email protected] or go to All right, Todd, and pleasure to have you here and you’ve got this crazy story. you started your career in a way that I think, you know, I’ve done over 1000 interviews. I don’t think I’ve ever quite heard this story before. But um, yeah, you thought it’d be a good idea to hop on a plane, go to the Czech Republic go to Prague. This is back in 9192. Right after the fall of the USSR and the Berlin Wall, and you’re selling phonebooks door to door in a country that is not your native country, and you didn’t even speak the language. That is absolutely, absolutely craziness. So tell me how that happened.

Todd Anthony 2:51

Yeah, so I was living in Seattle. And I was selling. I was selling photo copiers, business to business door to door and it was a slog. I wasn’t doing particularly well. What’s it wasn’t really well suited to that particular job. I also had some roommates that I wasn’t getting along with, and you know, a girlfriend that, you know, things were not exactly smooth at the time. So I was thinking I wanted to get as far away from all of that as possible. And I chose Czech Republic because it was affordable to live there. And also, I spent a little bit of time just after college there. Just as a tourist just walking around town like, you know, like an idiot, but and so I just decided to go all in and put a bunch I put about $3,000 in my shoe. And put a huge pack on my back with all my stuff and just decided to just land there and figure it out.

John Corcoran 3:58

So well. And so how long did it take you to find a job? Yeah,

Todd Anthony 4:04

it didn’t take me very long. But it wasn’t exactly well it was sort of serendipitous I got locked out of my apartment at the time. So I’m there for basically 48 hours and suddenly I can’t get back in because in the Czech Republic, they have key holes that you can put the key in on the inside, or you can put the key in on the outside and I was given two keys. So I thought I would stick one key on the inside just so I wouldn’t lose it. And then you know, I left and I when I came back to stick the kin I realized through the keyhole with the other key and couldn’t get in. So I called the only phone number that I had in the Czech Republic which was the son of one of my dad’s friends and asked him for help and it turns out he had a company that was a was a basically an information company. Were there we’re creating because the check phone books were so out of date due to communism and nothing really worked all that well during communism. And so the phone numbers were like six years old in current phonebook. So what his company was doing was saying, Okay, what information do people who want to come into the Czech Republic and do business there and be successful? What information do they need? You don’t need the whole phonebook, you just need certain things. So you need to know all of the different phone numbers for the different check government agencies and who’s in charge, you need to know who is running, you know, the other foreign businesses because you might want to partner with them. You need to know the restaurants because you want to get some good food. So things like that.

John Corcoran 5:50

And they put that together in a book. And no, I was in Prague in 1998 1998, I traveled around backpacked around Europe, and amazing country, and I remember at the time amazing country, amazing city. And I remember, at the time thinking, wow, this doesn’t feel that far removed from what it was like, under communism. I remember seeing, you know, older men and women walking around in the same price, same clothes hadn’t changed a bit. didn’t look like their life had changed all that dramatically. What was it like in 91? In 9192? Was it just like the total wild west? Was it like a self governing country? What did it feel like?

Todd Anthony 6:30

That’s an interesting observation, John, because a lot of the country was still kind of under the impression that they were still under communism, or hadn’t fully absorbed the fact that they are now no longer part of the Soviet Union. So so there was a lot of the communist style, you know, lifestyle approach to work is another thing. So, and then there were the younger, the younger generations that really, I think embraced the newfound freedom, and they embrace the new possibilities that a more capitalist driven economy could bring them. And so there was a lot of excitement in the Czech Republic when I was there. I mean, you could see it in people’s eyes. They were, you know, just looking at people on you know, on the metro. There’s there was like a shining light in there. I just so much excitement, so much possibility. Hmm, that’s cool.

John Corcoran 7:35

Yeah. And, and I will point did you decide it’s time to go home?

Todd Anthony 7:42

I thought it was time to go home. Oh, I, I. I wasn’t expecting that question. Nobody’s ever asked me that.

John Corcoran 7:53

You were the I mean, that usually there’s some kind of breaking point, because when I traveled around Europe, I actually spent a little time in Paris trying to get a job there didn’t have any working papers or anything like that didn’t speak French, hardly at all. And I kind of felt defeated, and ended up going home after that. So is there some kind of defeat? Or was it just a time to go?

Todd Anthony 8:15

Well, living abroad can be I mean, it’s exciting. But it can also be really hard. Because everything is different, especially, you know, these post communist countries, they were so incredibly different from where we grew up. And so the adaptation, the you have to make the, you know, the sort of mental shift that you have to make is, is difficult. For example, you go into a restaurant, you might not see your food for like over an hour. I’d actually eat dinner and then go to dinner.

John Corcoran 8:53

So you wouldn’t be hungry.

Todd Anthony 8:54

Yeah, I mean, that’s, that’s a very minor thing. But they’re so so it’s a grind the whole way through. And I think maybe I reached the same, the same point that you did, I just did it more gradually. Yeah, like, after, you know, 1001 tiny little aggravations,

John Corcoran 9:15

but you actually got a job with McCann Erickson. So you’re an account executive, this is how you got into agency work. Okay, and then did you transfer back to the States through the same company?

Todd Anthony 9:28

Not initially. So I just left. In fact, I had offered them to stay for a certain amount of money and they balked at my number. So I just said, Well, I’m gonna take off and go back to the state. So I came back and I worked for a very, very small agency run by a guy who, whose license plate said ad man, so this is the kind of guy that I was, you know, working for. He was from the 80s You know, when advertising was You know, a three Martini lunch and you know, sexual harassment and all that. All that stuff.

John Corcoran 10:09

Yeah. Kind of a madman type of

Todd Anthony 10:13

total madman type guy. I lasted there for four months. He was not an easy guy to work for and I wasn’t learning anything new. So I went to actually did get a job at McCann and started working there with on the Safeway business and then eventually worked on pg&e, but I met my wife there. Who’s the person who interviewed me when I first came in, so that’s great.

John Corcoran 10:41

Wow, you must have nailed it. Then. I was in that interview.

Todd Anthony 10:45

I was gonna ask her out if I didn’t get the job. It took me a little while to after I got the job to work up the nerve. But yeah,

John Corcoran 10:52

yeah, that’s funny. You go into copywriting which is not an easy skill takes a while to get good at it. Some never do. How did you pick up the skill?