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Big Thinkers Spotlight – Reef House Media

We sat down with LabR Ronny Herrera to learn more about his business and passion for St. Pete.  

Ronny is the executive producer of his video production company Reef House Media. You can check out his work at

Who you are?

We’re a video marketing agency that creates brilliant original video content for passionate brands.

What do you do?

We work with brands that are extremely customer-focused and mission-driven who want to harness the power of video content to grow. Our clients range from startups all the way to beauty products.


Can you tell us a bit about what Reef House loves about St. Pete?

St. Pete is an incredible place. The entrepreneurship and small business community is vibrant and passionate, making it easy to get the help you need and foster connections that fuel growth. And… you can’t beat those sunsets 🙂


What is Reef House up to? What is your latest and greatest project?

We’re now offering video content packages so brands can jumpstart their video library with several key strategic pieces of video content. These can include sales, service and product overview videos, social media ads, branding pieces, and case studies that empower their customers to get immersed in the brand and moved along their buyer’s journey anytime, anywhere they’re able to watch.


Why did you choose Clear Labs Coworking and how do you like it?

Clear Labs is such a great place to work. The companies at the space are filled with smart, funny people who come in to work on their passions. It’s in a fantastic part of town, making it easy to invite clients out for coffee or lunch. Can’t recommend Clear Labs enough!

Big Thinkers Spotlight – St. Petersburg Pride

We sat down with St. Pete Pride’s Luke Blankenship this week to ask them about what they love about Clear Labs and St. Petersburg.  To learn more about St. Pete Pride visit, or if you have any noble causes that could use some extra funding, please email for more information.

Who you are?

I’m Luke Blankenship, eater of pizza rolls, destroyer at fantasy football and Executive Director of St. Pete Pride.

What you serve? 

I Serve sass and Florida’s largest pride parade.

What does St. Pete Pride loves about St. Pete? 

The diversity of the city and the opportunity to be yourself.

Latest and Greatest- What is going on with your organization, what’s new, what are you most proud of from your organization? 

We are revamping our community grants program which gives back to causes that positively impact the LGBTQ+ Community. I’m most proud of the diversity of people we impact through our organization. We reach 16-year-old gay kids all the way up to 90-year-old trans women.

Why did you choose Clear Labs coworking and how do you like it? 

We chose Clear Labs because of the welcoming space and everyone who works here is extremely friendly.



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Clear Labs Dreams Big with New St. Pete Mural

Looking for the latest Instagram Hotspot? Look no further than Clear Labs.

Origami Dream Boat was designed and painted by Sam E. Hues. The 29- year old artist (painting and music) was hired to complete the mural in St. Pete at 2529 Central Avenue St Pete which is home to Clear Labs and other inspiring businesses including Painting with a Twist St. Pete  and a variety of antique shops in the Grand Central District.


“This is just another great example of how our city and district shines” says Jonathan Tallon, President of the Grand Central District Association which resides inside the building and at Clear Labs. “You can never have too many murals – there is just so much talent in this city.”

For the latest in a complete listing in St. Pete street art or to learn more about the annual SHINE mural festival in St. Petersburg

International Coworking Day!

When we found out International Coworking Day was an actual thing we decided we had to make a video. Check out our Lab, some of our LabRs and why they love Coworking at Clear Labs.



Office Space Available!

Clear Labs has spaces available! If you are a creative freelancer or work remotely in the creative industry, this is the place for you. Don’t work at home alone on your couch, work side by side with other creatives like you!

24/7 access to your desk or office, Wifi, conference room access and all the free coffee you need to keep those creative juices flowing.

Come check us out for the day or grab a desk! Visit to sign-up today or see more info on our membership options at



New and exciting things for Clear Labs


Clear Labs is kicking off the New Year with big Lab benefits!

Starting in 2018 we welcome our new benefits partner, The Creative Group. LabRs will have the opportunity of receiving exclusive benefits from the creative group including Freelance gig placement, W2 pay if desired, health care and other major benefits.

Meet Jillian Schmitt who will be visiting the Lab from TCG Miami office to meet greet, and answer questions!

Want to come and here Jillian tell all about the benefits you could receive? RSVP Today!


Co-working. A trend of the season.


Summer’s here. Sunny days and warm weather craft the perfect recipe for

spending nearly every waking hour outside. This begs the question…


In the world of co-working, which season is better for spaces, Summer or Winter?


On one hand, the Winter is when the kids are in school and business is in full swing.

On the other, Summer is a huge travel season and a great time to for people on the

go to utilize the resources “drop in” co-working provides.


Then there’s the location factor. If you’re lucky enough to be one of those coastal

locations where the local economy is dependent on tourism,You become prisoner

to the tides (pun intended). Maybe you have a ski run or national park out your

back door? Your residency might just be of a transient nature always churning .


“Summer here in Florida is a mixed bag”, says Jenn Greacen, founder and operator

of Clear Labs in St. Petersburg Florida. “The Florida heat is relentless so people

either get out of town and up to the mountains or they are (working) indoors. It

creates a feast or famine attendance ratio not dissimilar to general business and

economics around our area. When people are in town they are working hard

cranking it out and when they are gone- its radio silent. We definitely see a more

consistent traffic pattern September to May and yes, that is when we get more

visitors from the cold weather states.”

Dennis Lankes, Founder of Proximity Space in Telluride Colorado feels the shifts as

well, “Western Colorado is a year round tourist economy. That being said we see

different kind of coworkers at different season in the year. The winter brings all the

skiers and first time visitors so we see quite a few daily drop ins and weekly

warriors. They come and contribute to the vibe but they are only with us for a short

time. It is a nice bump to our financial bottom line but it rarely adds that real spark

of growth. The summers however are when we see our new transplants to the

area. People discover the area in the winter and come to make it their home in the

summer. That is where we see the REAL contribution to our community and our

coworking space.”


Huffington Post reports that 40% of all workers will be co-workers by 2020 and

only 30% of current co-workers will work a “regular business days and hours”.




This combined with the fact that a staggering 78% of co-workers are under the age

of 40, footloose and fancy free, its no wonder co-working spaces see so many

wanderlust travelers walking through the door to use the high speed internet, share

some ideas and mix and mingle with other like minded workers in cities throughout

the country (and world).


From France to Dubai, Russia to Thailand, International coworking spaces abound

and welcome travelers and those living the true freedom based work lifestyle. shared the story of Jay Meistrich, founder of tech to do list and

his work/ travel lifestyle that is becoming more common than unconventional.


Now Working From Home Can Be Working While Seeing the World


Paris co-working spot “Cosy Corner” (one of more than 30) provides free coffee,

tea, freshly squeezed juices and home baked cakes along with personal storage

lockers, high speed internet and even a library. American user Sarah Spicer says

“It’s part of my slice of heaven. I have the best spots marked on my travels around

Europe. It makes staying in touch with my freelance practice practical and

convenient while getting the most of a life of (summer) travel.”

So, the answer to the question is…….There is no season or location, that truly does

better than another. It just flips and flops from coast to coast which is

understandable when you recognize the nature of the co-working space and the

freedom it provides for its user.


And, yes, it’s rising with the tides.





A Sinking Ship… The Old Agency Model

The agency “model” is fading fast.


Lets think clearly here folks:

Would you invest today in a TV repair shop? Would you invest in an Encyclopedia printing company? Probably not. But 50 years ago this may have been a great profit center and a needed service.

Now, think like a consumer.  When you need information do you go to an Encyclopedia? When your TV goes on the fritz what do you do? (assuming you even own a TV)

Now lets say you are on a sinking ship. Do you sit tight and hope the water will stop seeping in and the ship will magically regain its buoyancy?

Do you start bailing water in a panic but do nothing to plug the hole? Do you evaluate the leak and attempt to patch it before the ship (and you) hit rock bottom?

Or, do you set your emotions aside and make a decision to even abandon ship with the intention of building a new, better equipped, more modern ship ready to evolve and meet the demands of a changing environment?

I choose the latter and I am thankfully (now) not alone.  Others are seeing this necessity and choosing to specialize, collaborate, and perform in a more product- centric service market.

If you are sailing on a traditional advertising agency and have yet to hit the hurricane, you are lucky (or oblivious) but it’s truly only a matter of time.

I saw this storm coming 10 years ago. And my clothes have already thankfully dried.

I’m rebuilt in a collaborative model and Clear Labs is successfully taking on the high seas.


The pop up storm

It shouldn’t really be a surprise when we think about it. Its been happening for years, all around us and we just chose to put our heads in the sand like ostriches rather than fearlessly enter it to take it on.

The biggest threat to the agency model is to think it’s actually “a model” at all.

We are (supposed to be) within an innovative industry. So, to see change as a threat is fatal. Instead, as an industry, we should welcome every curve in the road and seize the unending possibilities to create new systems, services, and ways to create a new sense of value for our clients.

                   So I said, lets put a big fat grenade up the ass of the “model” and just…. blow it up.

Let’s let her sink to the bottom of the deep blue sea to be evaluated by anthropologists in years to come who will marvel how an entire industry somehow managed to conduct business the way we do all the way into the 21st century.

Here are some things to consider in why the agency model ( while cool and nostalgic) is as antiquated and not worth fixing as an 8-track player in your dads conversion van:


1) Changing Relationship With Clients and Client with Customers

Clients used to want three martini lunches and fancy secretaries. At least that is was Don Draper depicts and New York City agencies still emulate. Now most clients just want fast service, a production shop to do what they are told to do, a quick conference call and they really hope you have low enough overhead to do it on their budget.

Combine that with the brand speaking to the customer and you have cut out the middle-madness-man.

Agencies once were an important intermediary to ensure the right message was crafted (and then broadcasted).

We now live in the age of real-time dialogue where consumer reviews and social opinions are more a more important pull than the big ad push. Because of this shift brands (your clients) are simply taking more ownership of that communication. And with the tools easily available for use by a talented but fresh out of college communications major who will work for cheap in a super tough job market- why not?   


2) Creative Sophistication vs. “I got a guy”

Everyone is a creative today. The coffee shop barista down the street who does cute chalk board drawings. Your neighbor selling feathered lamps on Etsy. The guy who sends you linked in requests to make a white board video for you for a hundred bucks (we hate that guy right?)

Access to technology, social media, and on the go apps offering design tools have given everyone the tools to go into the business of creativity.

Problem is, agency clients have been enveloped in this culture. And they always have a guy who can do it for less. And really, between the offer to work for a thousand bucks or 100,000 bucks- the client just doesn’t know the difference.

                           Few clients recognize the difference between GOOD and GREAT.


3) Automation and Artificial Intelligence

Automation is by far a major threat that will continue to take down the traditional model. Natural language processing and algorithm-powered cloud technology platforms are super charging that threat. Ads that write, place, design, and optimize themselves according to predictive behaviors of consumers are making agencies absolutely ancient by comparison.

This makes me think of one of my favorite episodes on the TV show “The Office”. A show about (ironically) an antiquated business concept that sells paper and supplies directly to consumers, competing against big box stores and website ordering platforms.  When Dunder Mifflin brings in an E-commerce platform, Dwight aims to prove he can outsell “the machine”. Of course, he fails.

While the premise is hilarious, those of us in the industry who are continuing to create ads the same way we did 5 or 10 years ago are just little Dwight’s trying to plug our creativity and convince the client its better because…..(sorry, I cant come up with a reason)

This isn’t just happening in ads. It’s happening in cross platform campaigns from emails to customer service technology. Virtually the entire presence of the brand.


4) Client access to data

Clients have more access to data but actually share less of it with agency partners than ever before. It’s like they are testing us to see what we know- or challenge us to challenge them rather than work as partners. Because we aren’t partners. We are their overpaid agency.

Or maybe they just don’t know what to share. Whatever it is, the landscape of the outsource agency (outsiders) vs. the in-house (living and breathing product knowledge team) affects the strategic product, which in turn affects the quality of a brief, which can lead to creative products that miss the mark. It’s a snowball effect that starts with a lack of meaningful insight.

Agencies that are evolving with the development of robust business intelligence units that can obtain data and analyze it in a way that aids strategic decision-making and planning may survive. If they can overcome the rest of the issues in this



5) Client expectations AKA “Oh look, a Unicorn!”

As a result of tools and data and the way they view the overall creative process today, clients have a rather unrealistic expectation of what we can do.

Have you ever had a client ask you to create a “viral video”?

Essentially this is just them asking you to create a successful campaign concept right- I mean, that is what we all strive for. But the fact they are now asking for agencies to craft these experiences with a true expectation of these guaranteed social results says a lot about the client mentality and their perspective on the advertising to consumer landscape.

They want more, for less, quicker, and better. And if you can’t or wont do it for them, they will ask the intern down the hall with a Go Pro.

6) Full service (for most shops) is just a lie

At the risk of sounding like my grandfather, back in the day, there were maybe 30 agencies that ran the world of commerce.

And yes, in some ways those 30 still exist, some with more initials, some with merged initials, but ultimately they all are owned by only a couple of major companies. This powerful conglomerate is the last major dinosaur of the industry.

But today, we have what was unthinkable in 1950. We have millions of tiny shops. 1 head, 10 heads, even 100 head shops that call themselves an agency.

Whatever they call themselves, the biggest crusher of all is the “full service” lie.

Sure you may get digital tools and know how to design a WordPress site or craft a logo or even run an experiential promotion. But the reality of it is, if we are all willing to be honest, none of us are really “full service”.

When you go to a full service gas station (yes those still exist) you get what you expect. A full tank of gas, a check of your oil, a wipe down of your windshield and a smile. Simple to deliver and most of the time- expectation met.

When you walk into to a full service agency these days, you would literally have to meet a team capable of fulfilling hundreds of services with proficient and up to date knowledge of thousands of systems, data platforms, technologies, media delivery systems, AND be creatively talented with a strong business acumen to boot.

It’s not that there aren’t very talented small shops out there- its just that it’s impossible for them to truly be “full service” while delivering the best to the client.

And so, clients who know this are hiring dozens of micro agencies (agency partners) with specialty skills to work together in collaborative form. They are also turning to freelancers and outsource contract-based teams more than ever before requiring less literal face time and more use of Facetime technology to get business done.

That makes the once considered necessary brick and mortar investments border on extravagant for some small shops and it puts full service agencies up against a hard game of chess competing against the honest players who admit their weaknesses and invest in their strengths.


The culture needs of your team

Millennials ask questions. They want more. And they believe they can get it elsewhere if you wont give it to them.


How dare they think for themselves….right?

Actually, this is the good stuff that is leading to awesome innovation that we are faced to compete with but this article is about that being good and our need to figure it out so I’ll leave it at that.

But here is something you should know. The average Millennial will stay with you for less than 2 years and have over 20 different jobs (employers) in their lifetime, that is unless they open the next big thing themselves.

Millennial overwhelmingly consider themselves “entrepreneurs” even those who have never started or failed a real business. They are just waiting for the right opportunity.

But with this, they don’t want the 9-5 that mucks up their creative inspiration. They don’t even necessarily want to come to the office- even sometimes- ever.

They want to colabr8 and create in a free environment.

And frankly, this is where you get the most from your paid talent anyways. The thinking. Because everything else, is probably readily available in data or an app.


What are you really selling?

At the end of the day, an agency today needs to stop and think.

What are you really selling that clients and brands are willing to buy and need to buy so much so that they can’t do it without you.

Service still matters. No one can dispute the value of a trusted relationship, friendship and “go to” partner. But that is rarely enough to sustain the paycheck.

The ability for any agency, small shop, or specialty marketer to differentiate themselves and plug themselves into a niche is more important than ever before. And further more, their ability and resources to pull that together in a collaborative group to form the ultimate powerhouse of service for a clients needs is critical for the successful navigation of an otherwise sinking ship.

Simplifying Project Management- Why too many captains can sink the ship

Project Management
You just landed an exciting new client or project. Congratulations. Your ideas, experience, and dynamic team closed the deal but now the real work begins.

We all go into a new project with a fresh slate. You are full of ideas and inspired by opportunities. The team is excited to get started. And someone (you?) need to lead them.

Despite the fact you have probably done this before, you may forget the problems you undoubtedly discovered on past projects. For some reason, creative projects are like child-birth, most forget the pain eventually and just go for it again. And it’s a good thing, or there would be a shortage of creative (and people) in the world.

But here are a few CLEAR reminders before you plan that first team meeting to help keep things orderly. In fact, it may be helpful to keep these printed, front and center and review them with your team ahead of time.


And that leads me to our first tip:

1. Clear the Air.  Some of you may have worked on projects together before. Talk about those. What went right and what went wrong. This gives the entire team who may not be privy to those inside moments a better understanding from where you are coming from. It may also allow you to bury the old hatchet in case someone is still reeling over their concept being selected to present. During the Clear the air process, be sure to discuss a clear set of rules upfront. This ensures no ones feelings get hurt and eliminates misinterpreting a scolding for process management when things get heated in the middle of project chaos (bound to happen at some point). If you have clearly identified the rules, it’s easy to issue a simple reminder.


2. Clearly identify the scope, timeline and budget. I can’t tell you how many projects I’ve led and/or worked on where this wasn’t somehow clear to the team. There is nothing like your creative director delivering that great idea you’ve been waiting weeks for to discover it can’t be executed due to scope limitations. How does this happen? I don’t know but it does with the best of teams so talk openly about the contract, terms, and make sure all questions are answered upfront. Trust me, even after you do this, someone will come out with a “when is this due” and you will want to clobber them. At least you will have company from the rest of the team.


3. Clearly communicate. With each other, with the client and with outside vendors. Upfront from day one, have a communications plan. Where will documents reside. What is the file storage and naming procedure. What tools, blogs, apps will you use and does everyone understand how to use them. Simulate a test run if you have doubts. I once led a project for 4 months that tracked time using a specific piece of software and realized a critical billing team member didn’t understand how to use the app and was faking it. Not a great scenario. Even if you have done this before with the same team, make no assumptions. Your client may have unique requests to integrate with their team. Be sure you discuss all of this upfront and layout a written strategy for how to manage day-to-day communications and you will be leaps ahead of every corner. 


4. Clear the path. As a leader, you need to keep the path clear for your team. Ensure they have everything they need upfront. By following #2 and clearly identifying the scope, you should have few surprises when it comes to tools of the trade your team may need access to. Ready those as soon as you can so your team can keep working and strike when the creative energy is hot. Clearing the path applies to keeping account or client drama away from the team as much as possible. Be selective with your feedback to convey what is needed while keeping them inspired. Control changes to scope that wont benefit the account but will moreover send your team into a whirlwind of frustration. And whatever you do, don’t feel the need to share your clients personal stories he  confided in you after a few too many cocktails with the project team. It may feel like good harmless fun but it doesn’t build good trust in leadership.


5. Clearly state your role – For goodness sake, be a leader. That does not mean being bossy by the way. It means, making sure everyone knows why you are there. If you do the 4 items above this  is a pretty good “I’m the leader” indicator. Being a good leader also means selecting the right people for the team and owning the responsibility for (most of) their actions. If you put someone on the copy team because you think they are going to have a great experience remember, that is what you will get….them having an experience. But not necessarily you getting what you need for copy. Team failures are on the shoulders of the coach and your team needs to know you accept these and want to lead them to victory. Watch for apathy which can come from being over tired,  feeling left out or frankly an overbearing client. As the leader you need to pick up on these cues within your team and take action to make the project fun and inspiring again.


And lets add a bonus tip here: 

6. Clearly define the end When is this thing over? What constitutes the end? It isn’t always clear with creative or campaign projects. Is it deadline driven, when the media schedules ends, when the event is over, when the client achieves their goal or even when the checks stop coming?  And when the end comes what do you need to do? I have seen so many wonderful projects end unceremoniously only to a few months later hear “Hey what ever happened with that project” from a team member who was just moved on to another task. Not only should you have an upfront plan on how you will consider the project complete but you should have a plan and task team members with documenting the project along the way for awards submissions and portfolios, as well as celebrate a job well done (or just a project that is finally done).

American Advertising Federation awards Silver Medal

TAMPA, Fla. (Feb. 17, 2017) Last night at the Addys Live Gala Night at Baystage LIVE, the American Advertising Federation—Tampa Bay (AAF-TB) presented its Silver Medal Award, the organization’s highest honor, to local advertising executive Eric Polins in recognition of his contributions to advertising and commitment to actively furthering the industry.



The Silver Medal Award is bestowed annually by American Advertising Federation (AAF) clubs throughout the country to outstanding members of their local advertising community. The award was presented to Polins by last year’s winner, Barry Wallace at the 2016 American Advertising Federation—Tampa Bay ADDY Awards Gala.

“It makes me feel old,” Polins joked. “I’m honored to win such a prestigious award doing what I love. It feels good to live your passion…and it’s a pretty cool job too!”

“The Silver Medal represents a strong commitment to our industry and a significant contribution to the community. As a professional organization supporting and protecting the advertising industry, AAF Tampa Bay is dedicated to recognizing the achievements of those within our market,” said Jenn Greacen, Founder of and President, AAF Tampa Bay. “I understand the importance of ensuring that message is heard far outside our market. Tampa Bay is a major contributing force in the Advertising industry and should be on the advertising radar nationally as a resource. It’s the real deal here. Eric Polins and his leadership at HCP Associates are on a tremendous track and emulate that model of pride in Tampa Bay advertising.”

Polins has more than 23 years of marketing and advertising experience with an emphasis on creative direction, writing, broadcast production and technology. Polins is a Senior Brand Strategist/Partner at HCP Associates. He is also the co-founder of Gulf+Atlantic Films and remains in the indie film industry.

Prior to HCP, Polins served with Amherst Marketing, the Lipphardt Agency and Inteledigm Communications.

He has written and directed over 100 commercials, films and videos with awards ranging from Tellys to Addys. He executive produced his first SAG motion picture film in 2006 starring Gary Busey and Charles Durning. In 2010, Polins achieved second place in the industry ad giant Ogilvy’s “Greatest Sales Person in the World” competition. He was the only American finalist out of 18 competing countries.

Polins is a graduate of Leadership Florida XXVIII and Leadership Tampa 05; he serves on the Board of Directors at the Tampa Theatre and is an advisory board member and past president of the Gasparilla International Film Festival. He’s an active member of the Penn State Alumni Association (Tampa Bay) and a member of the Marine Corps Association.

Polins is also a published author, professional artist, husband to Maria and father of two boys, Zane and Lacher.

About AAF – Tampa Bay
The American Advertising Federation—Tampa Bay exists to support its members, the community and the advertising industry. Its mission is to promote fellowship, education and career enhancement among members of the advertising community; foster and recognize excellence in advertising; champion public service causes; build an understanding of the role and benefits of advertising at all levels; and encourage advertising self-regulation and continuous improvement to raise industry benchmarks. For additional information on the American Advertising Federation—Tampa Bay, The Silver Medal Award or the ADDY Awards, please visit

About The Silver Medal Award
Silver Medal recipients are selected by a panel of judges consisting of past Silver Medal winners and past presidents from each local club of the American Advertising Federation. Judges use the following criteria when making their selections: contribution to the community, creative ability, contribution to the advancement of advertising, betterment of his/her own company. More information on the Silver Medal award is available at