Jake Yarbrough is a very polished ad man, but don’t let his vast knowledge fool you. Most of the time, he’s just his quirky, down-to-earth self. Either way, he brings dedicated success and unrelenting humor to the day-to-day. His experience has made him a reliable lead and director on our healthcare team, as well as, a strong steward of sending agency-wide calendar invites reminding all to get away from their desks just to chat. He describes himself as a “fish out of water,” no matter the environment he’s in, but he’s planted his seat in our house, and we like to think he fits in pretty well.
Schaefer: So Jake, tell us about yourself.
I grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and graduated from TCU. I met my wife on a blind date, and have been married 21 years – 22 this summer. My wife and I have two daughters, one 17-year-old and another 14-year-old. They are truly really great kids.
I am a dad and a husband who works in advertising. I have worked in the business a long time and spent about half of my career in healthcare, and the other half mostly in hospitality, tourism and nonprofit. All have been small to mid-size agencies, because I love doing diverse work. I’ve always worked in account service, marketing strategy and brand strategy.
Schaefer: When did you decide that advertising was the route for you?
Honestly, it was a slow burn. When I first got to TCU, I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go career-wise. I took a one-hour “find yourself” course, and took tons of aptitude tests, and the test came back that I would be most satisfied in a career that combined business, art and communications. That led me on the advertising track. As I reflect back on my childhood, I was the kid who always watched the ads, memorized the ads and was fascinated by them. It started to really snowball, and after a couple of internships, I realized that I really enjoyed this.
Schaefer: What has kept you in advertising over the years?
You have to have a bit of adrenaline junky in you to enjoy this, because of the subjective, deadline-nature of what we do. There must be something in me that enjoys that rush. The first time I made a presentation to a client, I looked into their eyes and saw the lightbulb go off in the back of their head. It was impacting them, and they saw the possibility, because they could see something working toward their goals. Being able to bridge that and finding ways to connect to our clients’ people, that is what keeps me coming back every single day. The point of realization when someone gets what you are trying to share with them and it means something to them – that’s my drug.
Schaefer: So apart from the size, Why Schaefer? What caught your eye?
So I met Ken through somebody who used to work here and have always had a great respect from this agency from afar. When he reached out to me about a year ago, I truly enjoyed hearing his philosophy, which translates to the culture of this place.
Schaefer had a great reputation, seeing it and experiencing it confirmed that for me. The best description I have come up with so far is that there is a warmth in this place that doesn’t exist in other places, and I really cherish that. It is a really exciting time to be here, and I am so thrilled to be a part of a team that is growing this part of the healthcare business. I feel energized in a way I haven’t felt “professional-energized” in years. A different kind of youth and vigor.
Schaefer: What is the most fun you had while at work?
The best times at work usually have nothing to do with work. Camaraderie and belly laughter. I think we spend so much time at work, so those moments of letting off steam and connecting about non-work things is the best. We are a merry band of soldiers in an agency. We are in the fox hole together, and you develop a bond that is so different than what I have seen in corporate settings. There is just something about the need to persevere in spite of all the challenges that come our way, where you have that moment of release, and it’s great. That’s part of the fun of this business.
Schaefer: What’s a random fun fact people wouldn’t know?
I did improv comedy for a little while. I took classes at Four-Day Weekend downtown. They go by levels, so I got up to level 4 out of 5 before I dropped out. It is such a different mindset. It was really challenging for me and fun. I don’t know if I was any good at it, but it was a nice way to exercise a creative muscle I wouldn’t otherwise.
Schaefer: I notice you have a signature look with your glasses, how long have been wearing glasses?
I had better than perfect vision until I started spending late nights working on a computer. This might give away how old I am, but I have been wearing glasses for 25 years. But the mustache… is a relatively new phenomenon. I can’t grow a beard very well, but one November I just kept going and going, and then it stuck. Frankly, it is more effort than shaving it is. It takes me as much time and effort to groom my mustache as it would to shave my whole face every day.
Schaefer: And what about your hair?
As a kid, my parents told me, “do whatever you want to do with your hair.” Their philosophy, which they told me later on, was that if we let you experiment with your hair, maybe you won’t get a tattoo and, luckily, hair grows back. That being said, I have had so many different types of hairstyles. At my last agency, I actually would email out a weekly story related to my hairstyles. I’ve had a mullet, butt cut, frosted tips, reverse mullet – party in the front and business in the back, buzz cut and slicked back.
Schaefer: Alright, what is your alter ego?
Jeffrey Lebowski. He’s the dude. He is the world’s laziest, spaced out, California guy that gets mixed up in a kidnapping case. It’s a classic movie. Some days, I just really like his style.
Schaefer: If you were able to relive the same holiday every day, what holiday would it be?
Thanksgiving. I just love that holiday because the pressure is off. It’s not the commercialized Christmas or Halloween, Thanksgiving is chill. It’s a good time and brings people together.
Schaefer: Given the opportunity, what is one piece of advice you would give to someone entering the advertising world?
Ask WHY. That’s my advice. The more you can ask why, and understand the reasoning behind something, the better able you will be at solving a problem.