LEADERSHIP TEAM

NORM BILOW
MANAGING DIRECTOR & FOUNDER

Bolstering our full-service capabilities, The Escape Pod recently invested in digital production company ORA Interactive and experiential marketing agency OutCold, and formed a new entity, The Escape Pod Group. It has always been our dream to start a new kind of advertising holding company, which brings multiple companies together from different disciplines to focus exclusively on the growth of our clients without any politics, money grabs or siloed thinking. Check theescapepodgroup.com for more info.

Norm stewards the growth of The Escape Pod Group, overseeing client relationships, evolving our service offerings, running company operations and having an occasional good creative idea.

Norm is committed to bringing fast, fearless ideas to clients in the most cost-effective manner possible. An industry thought leader, he has spoken at Google on the topic of leveraging technology to “earn an audience” and at DePaul University about entrepreneurial approaches to advertising. His work has been featured in industry publications from The New York Times and Wall Street Journal to Advertising Age and Screen.

VINNY WARREN
EXECUTIVE CREATIVE DIRECTOR & FOUNDER

Vinny was born in Galway, a small but cool town on the Atlantic coast of Ireland.

Vinny learned his craft in New York from Ed McCabe, arguably the best advertising creative of all time.

The very first beer commercial Vinny wrote was voted best beer ad of the year by Advertising Age magazine.

Vinny created the legendary Budweiser Wassup! advertising campaign.

Ricky Gervais liked it.

So did James Corden.

Vinny has two Emmy nominations for best commercial.

Vinny is on wikipedia

Listen to Vinny’s opinions on Super Bowl advertising here. 

Read his opinions on Super Bowl advertising here.

According to the Gunn Report, Vinny created two of the top 20 advertising ideas of the 21st century.  For Budweiser and Volkswagen.

Vinny is married to Susan and has three children – Kirsty, Fiona and Liam.

CELIA JONES
CEO

Celia is charged with stewarding The Escape Pod’s growth, elevating its integrated capabilities, identifying new revenue streams, and attracting top talent to build on the agency’s unique culture of creativity and independence. Under her leadership, The Escape Pod earned recognition as Ad Age’s Midwest Small Agency of the Year and Chicago Inno’s 50 on Fire, recognizing the city’s most innovative companies.

A seasoned writer and marketing professional, Celia brings nearly two decades of strategic marketing and communications experience, with a focus on brand strategy, positioning and fueling the growth trajectory of creative agencies and entrepreneurial companies.

Prior to The Escape Pod, she was Group Brand Director at Havas Worldwide Chicago, where she crafted the agency’s brand narrative as a creative force and culture catalyst in the industry, and led external marketing, PR, events, awards, and internal culture initiatives.

Before Havas, Celia was Global Marketing Director for Critical Mass, where she helped catapult the digital agency from a niche player into a world-class experience design agency. She also served as Director of Content and lead Copywriter at Designkitchen, an interactive marketing and branding agency. There she developed integrated marketing programs for brands across a range of verticals, including Manufacturing, Education, Hospitality, Health & Fitness, Real Estate, Travel and Technology for such clients as Life Fitness, Oprah’s Angel Network, Motorola and Jones Lang LaSalle.

Celia has also managed brand marketing and communications initiatives for a diverse range of organizations, including an international software company and interior design show producer, Merchandise Mart Properties, Inc.

She graduated cum laude with a B.A. in English from the University of Notre Dame and also holds a Juris Doctor from Loyola University School of Law.

Outside of work, Celia is a passionate blogger, photographer, foodie, traveler and culture connoisseur.

MATTHEW JOHNSON
DIRECTOR OF ACCOUNTS

A senior leader at The Escape Pod, Matthew oversees valued client relationships while also heading up the agency’s media department. He acts as a true partner to our clients, ensuring their growth by working closely with the creative team to develop efficient, media agnostic plans that break through the clutter to reach consumers in new and exciting ways, while also delivering business results.

For more than two decades Matthew has carved out a reputation as a proven problem-solver who thrives on bringing creative ideas to life in the most interesting—and efficient—ways possible.

He is a champion of challenger brands and takes pride in his success fueling the growth of such brands as Corona and CareerBuilder by making their smaller budgets punch heavier than heavily funded market leaders. He believes breakthrough work happens when brands take a holistic view on their marketing spend, and creative ideas are fused with media from Day 1.

Prior to joining The Escape Pod, Matthew served in senior Media roles at Cramer-Krasselt and PHD, creating award-winning work for OfficeMax, LaSalle Bank, Hyatt Hotels, and Kentucky Fried Chicken.

He is a native of Joliet, Illinois.

DAN FUNK
DIRECTOR OF STRATEGY

Dan leads The Escape Pod’s Research and Strategy group, stewarding brand and communication strategies for clients and evolving the agency’s strategic offerings.

Dan has served in strategy leadership roles for some of the world’s most creative brand and communication agencies such as Ogilvy & Mather, TBWA/Chiat/Day and Leo Burnett. He has developed high growth strategies for iconic brands across a broad range of categories, including finance, packaged goods, retail, spirits, IT, consumer electronics and the military.

He has been recognized with multiple effectiveness awards, including a Grand Effie in 2008 for the launch of the Nintendo Wii, voted the year’s most effective marketing campaign by the American Marketing Association.

Beyond advertising, Dan is also a serial entrepreneur, launching a number of innovative ventures in the food and agribusiness sector. He holds an MFA from Carnegie Mellon University and an MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

BLAGICA BOTTIGLIERO
DIRECTOR OF SOCIAL STRATEGY

Blagica is charged with overseeing all social media work for the agency’s roster of clients, building out its social capabilities, and bolstering our ability to deliver a fully integrated suite of services for fast-growing brands.

Blagica brings a unique blend of strategic chops and deep experience as a true social practitioner. She has been an avid thought leader since the early days of digital and has always advocated for brands to embrace social, not just as a marketing channel or set of tools, but a vital connection to the real people who shop for and buy their products. She is equally passionate about launching campaigns to geeking out on new gadgets to managing the daily grind of community moderation.

She has stewarded numerous brands into the digital space, from creating websites for Maytag and Purina, to being a founding member of the eMarketing team at Orbitz, to leading social media at Target and Motorola. On the agency side, she led Edelman Digital’s Strategy division, as well as Co-Chairing the Cook County New Media Council and serving as VP of Digital Media at ModSquad, a global outsourcing and customer service company.

True to her entrepreneurial roots, Blagica also founded and led her own startups and consultancies before joining The Escape Pod, working with such clients as Choose Chicago, The Chicago French Pastry School, Fashion Fair Cosmetics and Kennedy for Illinois. She is an established thought leader, serving as advisor to tech startup, Jiobit and speaking at numerous global conferences including TED and SxSW.

HEATHER HAYDEN
DIRECTOR OF TALENT

As HR lead for The Escape Pod, Heather is a talent scout, connector, mentor and champion of our creatively driven culture. Her multifaceted experience prior to recruiting on both the account and production sides of the business, coupled with her sharp instincts and empathetic approach to hiring, has fueled her unique ability to spot raw talent and see potential where others don’t. Heather strives to uncover dimension beyond a portfolio or resume, taking a wholistic casting approach for building teams, not just filling seats—all in support of producing a supreme creative output.

In Account Management for more than 10 years at such agencies as Element 79, FCB and JWT, Heather learned the invaluable skills of brand building, strategic thinking and creative problem-solving. Most importantly, she honed her passion for championing and protecting curiosity, creativity and ideas, as well as fostering collaboration.

With five years on the production side, Heather built a huge network of advertising/production talent and gained incredible knowledge about the craft of production. She believes that the idea will always be king. And no matter what new or emerging channel or platform, an idea goes nowhere without flawless execution.

Heather values integrity, authenticity, hard work, entrepreneurship and a sense of humor.