Craig Allen: Founder + CCO of CALLEN

Craig Allen


Craig Allen is a Texas Creative alumnus and the founder and chief creative officer of CALLEN, an entrepreneurial creative lab in Austin. Craig has years of experience in the field of advertising and has created some of the most notable and funny ads of the last 15 years, many of which you have probably seen and loved. 


How did he end up in advertising?


Craig started his college career in art school studying ceramics and photography before deciding to change directions his junior year. He then went on to double major in art and advertising and became a part of the first ever Portfolio IV class. After graduating in 2003, Craig landed his first job as an art director at TBWA/Chiat/Day. There, he worked on several different brands, one of which was Skittles, where he helped create ads such as “Touch The Rainbow” and “Share The Rainbow.”


From there, Craig went on to work for Wieden and Kennedy in Portland for 10 years. He worked on several brands including Oreo, Nike, Coca-Cola, and most notably the Old Spice “Smell Like A Man” campaign.


Following his time at Wieden and Kennedy, he founded his own agency, CALLEN, located here in Austin. From local brands like Buff City Soap to large names like Nickelodeon, CALLEN works to “make cool stuff that positively impacts business in cool ways.”


How to make good work?


Craig shared his three rules to making good work. These rules are:


  1. Be Stupid Smart: Try to specialize in creating ideas that make other people say “I feel stupid for not coming up with that.” Make sure that your ideas are smart and have a foundation that comes from good strategy. 
  2. Be Entertaining: “If you’re going to put something out into the world, make sure it’s worth people’s time.” 
  3. Be Human: Craig often asks the question, “so what?” and “why do I care about that?”  when being presented with ideas. Think of what the human benefit of whatever you are working on is. You are a marketer, but you are also a consumer. Therefore, you should think to yourself, “do I even care about what I’m saying?”


How to survive your first few years in advertising?


Craig left everyone with some advice on getting through your first few years in the business: 

  • Make nice
  • Make sure people know you exist
  • Use your youth and coolness to your advantage
  • Find someone you like working with
  • See what others are doing, then do the exact opposite
  • Find great opportunity in sucky assignments
  • Don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know something
  • Don’t be afraid to screw up
  • Care way too much
  • Outwork everyone
  • Keep your head up
  • You will survive


Savannah Mere
Arlyne Barrera
Michaela Thai
Graphic Designer