Bruce Rooke

Bruce Rooke

Bruce Rooke, one of the best-known creative minds in healthcare advertising and former global creative officer at GSW, has taken up a brand-new position at Fingerpaint, the Saratoga Springs, N.Y., shop started by former Palio founder Ed Mitzen.

Rooke, who will operate from his home in Columbus, Ohio, as well as the agency’s Saratoga Springs office, will lead Fingerpaint’s ideation/innovation group that will drive the agency to challenge and answer the needs of the ever-changing healthcare communications landscape.

According to Fingerpaint, Rooke “will help invent new communications ideas, including novel partnerships with venture capital, drive new business, and expand Fingerpaint’s international presence.”

“Our business continues to change,” Mitzen says. “Our clients’ customers are drifting away from traditional communications, and it’s our responsibility to keep connecting, keep engaging. That takes new thinking and new ideas.”

Prior to his role at GSW, Rooke operated as executive creative director for J. Walter Thompson, managing major accounts including Ford, Goodyear, Shell, Bosch, White Castle and more. In 2011, he was awarded the first-ever “Lifetime Achievement Award” by the CLIO Healthcare Awards for his talents and portfolio.

Rooke says after 13 years at GSW, he thought it “was time to get to a new stage to see what we could create. I do like the ability for a smaller independent to carve out a point of view and act upon it. There’s a certain entrepreneurialism that’s attractive. I think that’s been proven out by places like Klick and Intouch Solutions and some of those folks who had a belief and went for it.”

He had known Mitzen when Palio was part of the GSW/inChord family of agencies, and after Mitzen had started Fingerpaint, they got in touch again.

“He shared his dream to not create another déjà vu small independent healthcare agency, but to really try some different things, and he was looking for people who might make that dream come true, people like myself and Bill McEllen [formerly president of McCann Torre Lazur, now head of Fingerpaint’s Saratoga office]” Rooke says. “I trusted Ed, I liked his entrepreneurial aspect, and in a lot of ways it reminded me of 13 years ago when I came from J. Walter Thompson from the consumer into the healthcare world, with this small $30 million agency called GSW that was in Columbus, Ohio, and they asked me, what can you do with it?”

Rooke says Mitzen “has been incredibly successful and his momentum and growth rate in the marketplace has been strong, so I just didn’t want to jump for a novelty or to help a friend out. I just think he already has a lot of momentum in the marketplace and yet he doesn’t have a well-known name. I’m looking and seeing what I can do to create a story, create some things, get the name out there and get in front of clients to say these guys do some things differently. I think that’s one of the things that we’re unified in, our belief that this business is changing and will continue to change, and our clients can change faster than the agency can change so you want to stay ahead of that and you want to be touting that—so that clients know where to go if they feel the urge to do some different things.”

Officially, Rooke started at Fingerpaint in mid-January, and he’s been busy since then working on internal brand and process development. He believes Fingerpaint has “unique assets I felt there could be a collective story around.” These include the PR and experiential marketing group in Scottsdale, Ariz., as well as the audiovisual editing studio in Albany.

These assets “are just some kind of unique things most small agencies don’t have,” Rooke says. “While some could look at that as crazy, I looked at it as ingredients for a cool story.”

Rooke is eager to “build a new dream for clients and their brands that we can actually realize.”

“My old boss, Joe Daley [at GSW], said there’s never been a better time to be a big idea because it can live in so many forms and fashions. And yet the sort of muscle memory or ritual of our business can hem in and limit creative thinking in so many ways,” Rooke says. “So to be able to have the freedom to get in front of clients and really show them what could be for their brand, that’s what I really want to do.”