Photos by Nicole Midwest Photography
Located in the McCormick building on 5th Street is the office of the vibrant creative marketing agency, H2M. The downtown building where this fun-loving business is located boasts a 1949 mural for Sunny Brook whiskey, featuring a smiling, campy cowboy.
Anyone in Fargo knows this sign, and having such a cheeky mural guiding the way to this business is downright fitting. Companies far and wide have long tried to inject the tried-and-true office cubicle layout with a splash of energy to entertain potential clients, infuse energy into the team culture and drive forward innovation. And having our smiling cowboy leading the way, clients and staff members alike know what they are stepping into.
H2M is an advertising agency with one major focus: To create great advertising. Fearlessly led by Managing Partners Dan Altenbernd and Nancy Mansouri, the team operates off of just over a dozen creative and hard-working visionaries. While they say that great advertising is the base of what they do, the second pillar to their success is their fun-loving spirit and desire to create real, human connections. So it only makes sense that their office is just as full of life.
COME ON IN
Off the elevator, visitors are greeted with a screen showing the latest video projects, a fully stocked bar (that is, if you only prefer Jameson and vodka) and a floor-to-ceiling banner spelling out to H2M’s mission: “Advertising deserves its reputation. We’re trying to change it.”
To some, “advertising” is a dirty word. It’s become synonymous with sneaky tactics and covert messaging, leaving people begging for silence and to be left alone. But what if we could change that? H2M aims to do this, and having a bold orange banner as a reminder of this mission inspires the team to stay true to this tenent.
The way this team achieves this goal? Simply by acting human and building connections and personality via the most authentic means. This method of “being human” is especially humorous, as proudly displayed in the lobby are a set of colorful, upcycled frames, each holding a portrait of each staff member. However, you might be puzzled but charmed to find that at a closer look, the company’s “family portrait” is really a collection of Photoshopped images, showing each respective staff member’s body, but with the face of their favorite animal.
In addition to the animal-themed “family portraits” sits a meerkat stuffed animal, watching over the office with a careful eye. It’s no accident that this office overseer is the same animal as is in Managing Partner Dan Altenbernd’s portrait. “It’s another element of playfulness we wanted to add into the office,” he said.
By design, there is no reception area or traditional lobby seating at H2M. Altenbernd said that this assures there’s no pretense for visitors. “The first office is mine, and more often than not, the door is wide open.” Altenbernd works to keep his office comfortable, welcoming and a bit “groovy” to ensure visiting guests feel right at home.
ALIVE IN DOWNTOWN FARGO
Leaving the entryway, visitors see a long hallway washed in natural light leading to work stations. Signature Downtown Fargo untreated brick adds character and exposed, industrial ceilings give it that down-to-earth vibe. Natural light makes for a great, even if unintentional, addition to any office, especially one working on computers all day. The sunbeams give the eyes a break from harsh fluorescents and screens while adding some creativity that only Mother Nature herself can provide.
Further adding to that authenticity, it’s easy to hear the construction of two large downtown buildings on either side of the office. When asked about the noise, Altenbernd said, “That’s the great thing about downtown. It’s alive. It’s flourishing. There’s nowhere else we’d rather call home.” Audible reminders of the city’s growth only fuel what H2M is already doing.
Break-out conference rooms are painted a vibrant lime green. The second of the two conference rooms has enough space to fit H2M’s entire team, making it ideal for company-wide gatherings. While the team members have their own space, it’s important that they also have communal spaces to add to the community feel that their downtown surroundings enforce.
The crown jewel of H2M’s beautiful office sits proudly in the office area. Spanning an entire wall is a sugary sweet rendition of their logo, dripping with pink and purple icing and topped with sprinkles. H2M’s creative team conceptualized the design of this 12’ x 8’ hand-painted mural and it was executed by staff designer Adam Wiedman. Wiedman isn’t new to the mural game, as he’s executed some other iconic visual throughout town, like the orange and blue campfire mural at Tellwell’s office, the branding of Jade Presents and their festival Sister Cities Smokeout and the recent “Save Summer” campaign.
“We took inspiration from early MTV logo treatments, back when they first took the world by storm and actually played music. We tried to make something approachable and yet a little rebellious, a little grotesque,” Wiedman said, “It’s dripping. It’s oozing. But that’s what makes a doughnut and desserts so appetizing.”