Wednesday, October 7, 2015
Charlie Stephan, Vice President / Creative Director

People leave their jobs fairly often. But at Swanson Russell, our annual turnover rate (13 percent) is quite a bit less than the ad agency national average (30 percent). That might explain why we react a little different when someone does leave.

Such was the case with Ben Swift, a talented interactive designer who left Swanson Russell to pursue his dream of being an artist. While we were sad to see Ben leave, we were also supportive of his dream. It’s a good reason to go.

Aside from his artistic endeavors, Ben had a special talent: the ability to find viral videos on YouTube before they went viral. Only in an ad agency would this be considered a viable talent and skill, but Ben has it in spades. Some claim he knew about Gangnam Style when it was but a twinkle in the Internet’s eye. To think, he could’ve warned us.

And one of Ben’s favorite videos was this offering, from someone named Bishop Frederick Barr. It’s about a hotdog stand in Nashville, Tennessee, that offers $2 hot dogs, with a $1 bottle of water. The song is appropriately titled.

It’s difficult to explain how much Ben loves this video. It’s even more difficult to explain why. But he does. He posted it on his Facebook page regularly, and you could often overhear it when walking through the digital department. 

And so, as a going away present, a few of Ben’s closest colleagues emailed Frederick Barr to ask about buying a t-shirt. For reasons that are still somewhat unclear to all of us, Mr. Barr upped the ante. Not only did he provide a shirt for Ben, he insisted on hand-delivering it. As a reminder, Nashville is not terribly close to Lincoln, Nebraska. But Frederick hopped a plane on one week’s notice, t-shirt in tow. He said he wanted to support Ben’s decision to pursue his dream of being an artist, and that he would make sure Ben had a proper send-off.

So on Ben’s last day, we gathered at the usual post-work pub for a send-off. Everyone but Ben knew what was coming. We turned on $2 Hot Dog $1 Water and beamed it to the bar’s big-screen TV. And then…

He actually came. He actually hopped a plane, rented a car, put on some bitchin’ threads and came to Lincoln to surprise Ben. Because here is a thing we learned about Frederick Barr: He’s the nicest man on the planet. He talked to all of us about the importance of art, pursuing your dreams and supporting people. He was like a Mary Poppins for offbeat advertising people. And he is awesome.

And so is Ben. And if there’s any way to ride off into the sunset towards your next big endeavor, it’s arm-in-arm with your favorite viral video star.

Only in America. And only at Swanson Russell.