About Us

Although we do enjoy wearing tight Speedos, Highdive isn’t a dive team. We’re an independently-owned ad agency based in Chicago, IL. Our mission is to create the healthiest client + agency relationships in the world. The reason why is simple: When relationships aren’t healthy, performance suffers. Many of our philosophies are based on the writings of Patrick Lencioni and Brené Brown, among others: Performance comes from maximizing both Productivity and Positivity.

Our strategy and creative seek out the new and different with one goal in mind: to provoke our audiences to think differently about the brand and to ring our clients’ registers rather than someone else’s. Our litmus test is simple: If our work looks like, sounds like – or reminds consumers of – a competing brand, we haven’t done our job.

We haven’t yet met a client for whom the current state of affairs is good enough. Each relationship comes with similar expectations: Sales and brand growth. In other words, something needs to change. Campaigns and marketing programs that are easy, safe, and “tried and true” will, by definition, keep things as they currently are. Not the recipe for healthy, long-term relationships.

We’re best known for producing creative that ignites brands and connects with consumers. We do that by grounding everything we do in brave thinking that moves markets.

Mediocre talent doesn’t cut it – for us or for our clients. The math is simple: every crumb of mediocrity negatively impacts the performance of our marketing and the health of client-agency relationships. The heart of our business model – and our financial structure – is based on being an agency of top performers only. Instead of paying ‘more people less’, we pay ‘less people more’. It means leaner, higher-performing teams who are able to elevate both performance and the quality of our client relationships.
When smart people disagree, there’s usually a good reason. The key to positivity is taking a beat to understand what’s behind the disagreement rather than leaping towards conflict. It’s why we prioritize the skill of being able to put ourselves in others’ shoes. Or what we affectionately refer to as “working at one-sided tables.” No one said it better than one of our clients: “You’re so sensitive to our words and our thoughts. You never ignore them, even when they’re jumbled up, ambiguous or different from yours. Rather than reject what we’ve said, you find what’s most important, uncover what hasn’t been said, and dig in to find a solution that works.” That’s a one-sided table in action.
Energy is the foundational element of great marketing and healthy relationships. With that, our walls are our primary presentation tool – not PowerPoint or Keynote. The walls unveil the good stuff from the moment everyone walks into the room and help keep the energy high. What’s the strategy? No one has to wait to find out – it’s on the wall. What are the campaigns? On the wall. What are the hidden problems we’ve uncovered that are creating a drag on the business? Again, on the wall. Everyone’s ideas are captured as we go. We challenge one another, debate, write even better ideas and then distill the magic together. Everyone is heard. Everyone contributes. And most importantly, it’s how we get to the really good stuff faster. Together and in real time.

Mark Gross

Co-founder, CCO

Mark Gross

Co-founder, CCO

Son of a plumbing & heating supply company owner, Mark grew up on the rough streets of the Jersey suburbs. One fateful day in high school, Mark’s teacher showed his class a Clio awards highlight reel and from that moment on Mark knew he wanted to be in advertising. That or neurosurgery. With a BFA from Syracuse, Mark moved to NYC where he got his first job at RGA designing movie titles, logos, and handling their in-house advertising. Next was Chiat/Day where Mark learned a few things from the legendary Lee Clow. There he worked on MTV, Reebok, American Express, New York Life, and The New York Lottery. With a nudge from his Midwest wife, Mark moved to Chicago in 1993 where he landed an Art Director position at DDB. Mark rose to Executive Creative Director creating award-winning work for multiple clients including McDonald’s, Frito-Lay, Capital One, Discover Card, Anheuser-Busch, Cars.com, and Mars/Wrigley. Mark’s most notable work is the Bud Light “Real Men of Genius” campaign, now known for being the most awarded radio campaign in advertising history. In 2012, Business Insider named Mark “one of the top 25 most creative people in advertising.” His list of awards includes an Emmy, Grand Andy, Grand Clio, 3 Best of Show Radio Mercury Awards, D&AD, Art Director’s Club, New York Festivals, and multiple Cannes Lions including two Grand Prixes. Mark has been a part of more than 75 Super Bowl commercials, placing #1 four times on USA Today’s Ad Meter.

Megan Lally

Managing Partner

Megan Lally

Managing Partner

Megan has been leading coordinated groups of people to create entertaining content for others since she was 13 (her first big promotion to cheer captain).  Under the wise counsel of her father, she sought out to make a career out of creativity and got a marketing degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Business. 

Now with over 10 years’ experience on both the client and agency side, Megan has built a full arsenal of comprehensive marketing tools (from site development to film and everything in between). Her specialty is helping clients overcome their biggest and most complicated business challenges. 

Megan’s work has been recognized at Cannes, the Clios and the One Show, among others. Her past clients include Allstate, Fifth Third Bank, Donate Life America, Brooks Running, Capital One, State Farm, Pepsico, Bud Light, SeaWorld and Busch Gardens.

Chad Broude

Co-founder, CCO

Chad Broude

Co-founder, CCO

Unlike most creative directors who studied art or creative writing in college, Chad graduated from the University of Iowa’s Tippie School of Business. From there, Chad attended The Chicago Portfolio School where he learned how to express his business problem solving skills in creative ways. Chad launched his career by winning Best In Show at Portfolio Night, the world’s largest student advertising review. After quickly being scooped up by DDB Chicago, Chad created a top 5 Super Bowl commercial for Bud Light in his first year. Over the next five years, Chad created award-winning work for Skittles, Juicy Fruit, State Farm, Capital One, and McDonalds, earning him the position of one of the agency’s youngest Creative Directors. His work has been awarded at Cannes, Clios, Radio Mercury Awards, Communication Arts, Archive, London International awards, and the Facebook awards. In 2014, Chad had 3 commercials from 3 different brands featured on Spike TVs funniest commercials of the year. In 2016, Chad worked with Skittles to help create their first ever celebrity Super Bowl spot featuring Steven Tyler.

Louis Slotkin

Managing Partner

Louis Slotkin

Managing Partner

Son of a meat man and a hippie Librarian Mom, the only thing Louis was certain of after college was that he wanted to live in Paris. After selling perfume in French malls and painting hotel rooms in Paris to earn his keep (and fund his baguette and cheese habit), Louis fell in love with marketing at Ogilvy Paris. 

A 20+ year agency veteran, Louis’ career has taken him from Paris to New York and Chicago at agencies such as Ogilvy, Cramer Krasselt, Y&R and, most recently, Leo Burnett.
His past clients include KraftHeinz, Invesco, Fifth Third Bank, IBM, Edward Jones, Nestlé, CareerBuilder, Sealy, Hyatt and Miller Brewing. 

Never satisfied with being “just an ad man”, Louis has built teams with the reputation for uncovering unknown obstacles standing in the way of their clients’ business and, in turn, building programs to overcome them. Product innovation, customer experience evolution, participation/social programs, pricing strategies, and super bowl programs are all part of the story. 

Louis is best known for his ability to build and lead highly-progressive teams through times of intense change – when the unknown often outweighs the known. Navigating smart, fast and safe are his beacons. 

As a trailblazer with little patience for things like “good enough,” “fair share” and “small steps,” Louis’ sworn enemies are cruise control, silos and ambiguity. Louis’ work has been recognized at Cannes, the Effies and the One Show among others, and by clients around the world with whom Louis has partnered closely to change the trajectories of both their brand and sales curves.

Kaley Meier

Lead Account Director

Kaley Meier

Lead Account Director

Kaley is most excited when she is blazing trails and tackling client’s next-to-impossible business challenges. Most recently she served as Account Supervisor on SC Johnson global home cleaning at Ogilvy & Mather. Kaley helped Fifth Third Private Bank launch a unique content partnership with The Wall Street Journal, which drove impressive returns for a traditionally challenging target.

Client Experience: Procter & Gamble, Publix, Fifth Third Bank, SC Johnson and Donate Life America

Jen Passaniti

Head of Production

Jen Passaniti

Head of Production

Not a ballerina. Not an astronaut. From a very young age, Jen dreamed of being a producer. She started her dream in production at Leo Burnett before expanding her talents to many other major agencies in Chicago where she worked with different A-list directors and production companies, all within a multitude of budgets for fully integrated campaigns. There’s no budget she hasn’t faced, which is why she also freelanced as a cost consultant, guiding clients to the best, efficient results. Jen achieved more success in 2019 when she produced a Super Bowl ad for Michelob Ultra. Outside of the big game, her work can be seen in spots for Jeep, Nintendo, Kimberly Clark, State Farm, Kellogg’s and Whirlpool.

Casey Stern

Associate Creative Director

Casey Stern

Associate Creative Director

A lifelong midwesterner, Casey began his advertising career working at various agencies in his hometown of Madison, Wisconsin; a place some consider to be the “Madison Avenue” of the Midwest, while others would say that’s a blatant lie and total fabrication of fact. In any case, he moved to Chicago to continue his career as a copywriter and quickly began creating award-winning work for clients like McDonald’s and Ronald McDonald House Charities. After spending time at a few of the “big shops” in town working on Hershey’s, Dunkin’, Planter’s, Marriott, Firestone and more, Casey made the leap to join Highdive. For more information, a three part docuseries on Casey’s life is also in the works with an unspecified release date.

Sarah Wickman

Account Director

Sarah Wickman

Account Director

To Sarah, the best part about working in advertising is the teamwork – with clients to truly understand their business and challenges, with the agency team to attack problems from dynamic, creative and interesting ways, and with partners to bring ideas to life across consumer touchpoints. Being the conduit among so many moving pieces to make consumer-centric, strategic, exciting work is what drives her.

Prior to joining Highdive, Sarah earned her degree in Marketing and Psychology at Boston College, then spent several years in Boston where she cut her teeth in the digital and social space on clients including IBM, Reebok and Hasbro. She decided to get back to her Midwestern roots, moving to Chicago and working at Leo Burnett, working on fully integrated campaigns for McDonald’s, Kraft Heinz and Kellogg’s.

Riley Duggan

Account Director

Riley Duggan

Account Director

After college, Riley moved to Chicago with nothing but a duffle bag and summer internship at Leo Burnett. There, she fell in love with the fast-paced culture of the Chicago advertising industry. Riley has spent the last 6+ years navigating complex business problems with a glass-half-full mentality and passion for collaboration. From executing fully integrated campaigns for Fifth Third Bank to developing master brand strategies for Kraft Heinz and State Farm, Riley loves rolling up her sleeves to find hard-working creative solutions for her clients.

Lindsay Vetter

Producer

Lindsay Vetter

Producer

Lindsay has been a Producer and Business Affairs Manager extraordinaire of the Chicago advertising community for 15 years. The time she spent working at big agencies like DDB Chicago, EnergyBBDO, and mcgarrybowen enables her to bring broad expertise to everything she touches. Her client experience is deep and wide on brands like Jeep, Ram, Barilla, State Farm, McDonald’s, Capital One, Wrigley, Marriott, Pizza Hut 
and Cars.com. She loves the challenge of a tight budget 
and even tighter timeline!

Eduardo Vea

Creative Director

Eduardo Vea

Creative Director

Alexa Calabro

Lead Strategist, Brand & Multicultural

Alexa Calabro

Lead Strategist, Brand & Multicultural

Andi Carr

Head Of Finance

Andi Carr

Head Of Finance

Jim Shapankus

Chief fun officer

Jim Shapankus

Chief fun officer

Capabilities


THE REAL FACT OF THE MATTER IS
THAT NOBODY READS ADS. PEOPLE
READ WHAT INTERESTS THEM AND
SOMETIMES IT’S AN AD.
– HOWARD LUCK GOSSAGE

THE BROUDE GROSS STORY

Many years ago, on a bitter cold Chicago morning, Chad and Mark were merrily riding a tandem bicycle along the scenic Lake Shore Drive waterfront. They were both smiling ear to ear and humming their favorite show tune “Honeysuckle Rose” when suddenly a squirrel ran into their path. They swerved to avoid him, struck a large rock, sending them both into the icy waters of Lake Michigan. Mark made it out and pulled a cold and frightened Chad to shore. Blue in the face, scared and barely alive, Chad looked at Mark and said, “It’s over, we’re never going to live our dream and open the perfect ad agency.” Mark looked at the remorseful squirrel then back at Chad and said to him, “Buddy, If you pull through this, I promise, we’ll live that dream and open Highdive.” It will be the agency of our dreams. No political layers, outstanding creative, exciting clients that we love and respect, amazing account service, a workspace that allows dogs and most important of all, bathrooms that have floor to ceiling toilet doors so no one can see your feet when you’re doing your business. The end.