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Waves of Inspiration

“I was born with one skill, writing,” says Mark Lantz, BA ’87 and MACTM ’90.

Some might call that an understatement.

Lantz’s deft skills were honed at CSU and have been expressed over a 30-plus-year creative career, culminating with the founding of his own ad firm, Factory Detroit Inc. in Royal Oak, Mich.

Many of his clients and projects have involved promoting the public good. Take, for example, the Pure Michigan campaign. Lantz was deeply involved in the creation and management of the award-winning campaign to promote tourism and travel. Wildly successful, it has sparked a measurable increase in revenues for Michigan and renewed excitement about Lakes Michigan, Superior and Huron.

While Lantz jokes that “nature and I have a pact” of mutual regard and distance, he firmly grasps the appeal of nature and working with a team to get precise words, uplifting music, cascading images, and expressive voiceover – in this case, the  unmistakable voice of actor/comedian Tim Allen.

Lantz credits a diverse agency team of more than 30 people for Pure Michigan’s success, particularly the word choices of Dave Moore, who wrote the first year’s scripts. Neither Lantz nor Moore were initially from Michigan and neither were “outdoorsmen,” as Lantz puts it. Yet, the Pure Michigan campaign embodied a universal yearning for relief from the mundane plus a “redemptive sense of purification and cleansing.”

Lantz, a Euclid, Ohio native, grew up just south of Lake Shore Boulevard, not far from Lake Erie. He and his friends would bicycle to Sims Park.

His grasp of words was honed as a CSU English major, studying diverse writers through the ages and serving as editor-in-chief of the student newspaper, The Cauldron. Earning a master’s in applied communication theory and methodology, he found new ways of knowing, including statistics, and the blend has served him well.

“In school you learn the skills, the tricks of the trade,” he says. “The way you live is by banging out copy.”

Inspiration, like water, can flow anywhere. Lantz aims to craft great stories, including a few of CSU’s own. His firm has helped the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences develop The Story of Us – a campaign to share the wide realm of disciplines and study within the College. The Story of Us includes three social media videos highlighting CLASS’ innovative work in social work, criminology and digital humanities. There also are email blasts, social media posts, a web page and a poster.

A member of the CLASS Visiting Committee, Lantz speaks with genuine admiration of current faculty and has not forgotten his professors.

“What college gives you is a lot of role models, hundreds of different voices and ways to tell stories,” he says. Among those who inspired him were English professors David Richardson, Glending Olson, Phillips Salman, Daniel Melnick and Gary Engle, who was also Cauldron adviser. And from communications, Gary Pettey and Donna Rouner.

Perhaps because his MACTM degree was a conversation-starter when he submitted resumes over the years, Lantz has established a scholarship for graduate students in the Master of Applied Communication Theory and Methodology program.

Lantz has a penchant for writing radio ads and offers a comparison between a radio spot and a sonnet. “There are rules for both,” he says. “A sonnet has 14 lines; a radio spot runs 30 or 60 seconds. Each phrase must resonate.” Lantz reads aloud as he composes radio spots, capturing a cadence, and it’s not hard to imagine a sonnet writer doing the same.

What else would a master story-teller do?

Alumna Maria Shine Stewart, BA ’81, is a writer and licensed professional counselor in Cleveland.

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