Alumni Interview With Brad Phillips ‘84, Founder of Black Sedan

August 13, 2021
headshot of CCS Alumni Brad Phillips outside in sunglasses

Alumni Interview With Brad Phillips ‘84, Founder of Black Sedan

“I see CCS at work all the time.”

Brad Phillips is an award-winning veteran of the Detroit advertising scene, but his knowledge and expertise is global. Across four continents, Phillips has collaborated with clients like Chevrolet, Shell, Guardian Industries, Faygo, Bosch and White Castle. A former senior vice president and creative director with J. Walter Thompson, Phillips is now the founder and director of Black Sedan, a video production company that provides agencies and marketers with a local, high-quality video production experience. 

Join us as we learn more about Brad Phillips, his time as a student and some of his career highlights in the world of advertising and video production.

Brad on his Career

College for Creative Studies (CCS): Can you describe your first job for us?

Brad Phillips: I was hired over a pay phone in the CCS cafeteria. I started the next day as an intern and mat room grunt. My boss was a real stickler for detail and made me do layouts over and over until they were perfect. There were times I hated him, but now realize how much that helped me succeed. We still talk to this day.

CCS: How does Black Sedan fit into your story?

Phillips: I was with J. Walter Thompson for 22 years and accomplished a lot of things I’m proud of. Black Sedan seemed like a logical next step and I’m proud to say that we’ve been around for almost ten years. We create and produce television and web content for ad agencies and marketers. We’ve worked with brands like Chevy and the Henry Ford Health System and even musical artists like Luke Bryan. I’ve done a lot, but starting Black Sedan is the most adventurous thing I’ve ever done. 

CCS: What professional moment are you most proud of?

Phillips: Winning a gold Effie award for the White Castle WHAT YOU CRAVE campaign. I worked extremely hard on that campaign and I’m proud of how it turned out.

CCS: What is the biggest challenge in your industry?

Phillips: Keeping up with technology, so that I can compete with the stellar new crop of creatives coming out of CCS. Between attending and teaching in the ad program at CCS I feel that I have a pretty good idea of what to expect from the talent graduating from there. So whenever I need to hire someone and I see CCS on their resume I instantly know they are going to be up-to-date on the latest tech and trends.

CCS: What career advice would you have given your younger self?

Phillips: Travel more. Nothing can really prepare you for being in South America for a pitch meeting while relying on an interpreter. Moments like that are always a little surreal.

Brad on his Time at CCS

CCS: What was your favorite class or professor at CCS?

Phillips: My favorite class was Lothar Hoffman’s typography class. I never saw anyone more excited about Helvetica before. My favorite professor was Mark Williams. He set the stage for how ruthless the advertising business could be. He would say, “you’re only as good as your last project.”

CCS: You used to teach at CCS, how was it?

Phillips: I loved it. Actually, I see CCS at work all the time. After I started Black Sedan, I began working with the creative directors at agencies—like I used to be when I was with J. Walter Thompson. Some of those directors were actually former CCS students who I taught in class. It’s funny how things come full circle like that.

CCS: What advice would you give to recent graduates?

Phillips: Go to as many lectures, industry events, gallery openings and award shows as you can. There are so many chances to network and get your message and brand to potential employers, collaborators or clients. 

CCS: If not for College for Creative Studies…

Phillips: I would not be where I am today. Two of the best decisions I ever made were going to CCS and staying in Detroit throughout my career. I’ve been fortunate enough to make a ton of friends through the CCS Alumni network, with many of them becoming professional colleagues. 

Behind the Scenes with Brad

CCS: What’s the first website you access in the morning?

Phillips: The Detroit Free Press. I always start local and then move to CNN.

CCS: Speaking of local, do you have a favorite spot in Detroit or the CCS campus?

Phillips: I’d have to say the Scarab Club or the Grasshopper sculpture, by Tony Smith, on the north lawn of the Detroit Institute of Arts. I had lunch with some new CCS students there on orientation day and we remained friends for years. 

CCS: You’ve obviously had a remarkable career, but what did you want to be when you were a kid?

Phillips: An international spy. My dad and I would always watch James Bond together. He had the coolest clothes and cars and he always got the girl. I love the entire James Bond collection—especially the old ones. 

CCS: What do you do to relax?

Phillips: I like to meditate in the mornings. I also really enjoy visiting Yelapa, Mexico, but if I can’t make it there I’ll settle for hanging out in my kitchen with a nice glass of red wine. 

CCS: What’s next for you?

Phillips: You never really know. Advertising and video production are both fast-paced and exciting. I’m hoping to travel more and to continue growing the success of Black Sedan.

Are you interested in sharing your story with CCS? Let us know by updating your information with the College so we can stay in touch!