Creative Director, Brand Strategy | ANTHEM, INC.

Dan Ablan is the Brand Creative Director for Anthem, Inc. He works within enterprise advertising and the brand strategy group, providing strategic and creative direction to the writers and designers in various locations throughout the enterprise. Dan is responsible for the brand when it comes to creative content across 38 entities. Over the past 25 years, Dan has worked with some of the world’s top brands and companies such as United Airlines, Keurig, NASA, Wrigley, NASA, Edelman, and many others. He has written for numerous creative magazines such as MacWorld, regularly lectures at the University of Notre Dame, is a Lynda.com video author,  and the author of 17 books on computer imaging and Photoshop. Dan is also a certified professional photographer, and founder of 3DGarage.com, an online training resource.


What was your very first job? 

My VERY first job was scooping ice cream at Baskin Robbins, 111th and S. Western Ave, Chicago. I made $1.90 an hour. 

Please describe, in your own words, what your job is and what work it entails. 

Anthem, Inc. is a fortune 29 company, with 54,000 associates. I am the creative director for the brand. The brand extends beyond Anthem, Inc., into the 38 entities that make up this 85 BIL company. I’m responsible for keeping all creative on-brand, from font usage, imagery, video, and digital. Added, I serve as the creative liaison for our numerous agency partners. We’re currently working through a brand refresh, and a major part of my role is owning the new brand resource center, updating all guidelines, while planning photography campaigns to build our internal library. Additionally, our group has partnered with a major celebrity spokesperson and will be launching a national ad campaign for TV and print.

How did you discover that the creative world was right for you? Was there a time in your life that you credit to this discovery? What was there train of events that brought you to where you are today? 

Yes, definitely. My dad gave me his Canon AE-1 when I was in 8th grade. I got into photography, built my own darkroom, and from then on was hooked. That passion for photography led me to study photojournalism in college, moving into video, eventually getting a degree in broadcast journalism. Images, film, graphics – all that tell a story, make you think, or simply grab your attention are what feeds my creativity.

In your constantly growing and expanding industry, how do you find inspiration to keep your work fresh, innovative and relevant? 

That’s always tough, especially in the healthcare space. How do you go beyond that stock photo look? Can you even distinguish one health company from another today?  It’s not easy. That alone is fuel to think differently and fortunately, Anthem, Inc. empowers its employees to go beyond the norm and break barriers. For me, inspiration can come from (and should) areas outside our industry. It can come from music, movies, short-stories, even children’s art. The trick is to use those assets to build your message and brand, in your company’s voice.  

If you had to pick one piece of work or project that you are most proud of, more for the creative work and innovation it required, rather than its recognition or industry “success,” what would it be? 

I’m going to age myself here, but I’d say it goes back to 1999. I was the supervising animator on a television show called “Night of the Headless Horseman.” It was ground-breaking for the time – as it was the very first 3D animated television show, and aired during prime time on Fox. We used motion capture technology that was still very new, but now widely used in games and movies. But in 1999, when we rented out a Medieval Times and motion-captured a horse, we were doing something no one had done before. I’m not at all proud of the final look, as the animation technology was limited, and in today’s standards, it’s quite horrible. As a no-name, non-hollywood company, we somehow got William H. Macy as the voice of Ichabod Crane, as well. I think the ratings were horrible, and it never aired again.


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