Albany native makes mayhem in Chicago

Photo by Casey Dixon

Photo by Casey Dixon

ALBANY -- Greg Nobles lived in Albany for all his early years. After graduating Albany High School, he attended Darton College for a short while, "trying figure out what to do," he said.

Nobles has got it figured out.

Now he's senior art director with the Leo Burnett Agency in Chicago, one of the largest and most prestigious advertising agencies in America.

A current and well known television ad produced by the Burnett agency is the "Mr. Mayhem" series, created for Allstate Insurance Co. The popular commercials feature actor Dean Winters portraying various "risks," such as a "hot babe," who takes your eyes from the road, or a satellite dish on the roof that falls over when you're fixing it.

At various times, his mother, Marilyn, served as media director for Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital or owned her own ad agency.

"Greg grew up in the middle of it," Marilyn Nobles said. "Maybe under a desk."

He liked to paint and to make pictures, but it took a two-year move to Birmingham, and a job with a big offset print shop to shift his mind toward graphics and advertising.

"He moved to Birmingham chasing a girl," his mother said, smiling.

Nobles didn't disagree, but said the time he spent as a printer was good for him. He'd always liked creative things, then one day, as he and his boss pulled a massive color sheet from the press, he made a decision.

"I just told him (the boss) right there -- 'You know what? I'm gonna go back to school and study this.' " Nobles turned in his notice two weeks later, he said.

According to his mother, they discovered that the University of Delaware has an outstanding school of advertising, and Nobles was able to live there with his uncle and his family until he could get "set up."

It was during his junior year at the university that Nobles had the opportunity to work for a semester at the Leo Burnett Agency as an unpaid intern. When the internship had ended, Nobles returned to school and earned his undergraduate degree in advertising. He didn't have a job, but he was sending out resumes and portfolios.

With no big offers coming in, Nobles was finally able to work for Leo Burnett again -- still as an unpaid intern. Because of the experience, and the "weight" it would lend his portfolio, Nobles accepted the offer.

"He packed his stuff up in his car and took off for Chicago," Marilyn Nobles said. "He was living up there in an apartment the size of my bathroom."

That was in 2003. Nobles has been getting paid for a few years now, and he's risen to the title of senior art director. Art directors are responsible "for just about everything visual," he said.

Nobles loves the ad business, he says, though it can be "cutthroat at times." He enjoys the creativity and the challenge of bringing a project in on time, and doesn't mind the Chicago winters. He's not always cold, since he spends a portion of his time filming in Hollywood, or back in south Georgia with his family.

Recently, he was able to unwind a little, rafting on the Chattooga River with mother, Marilyn, and her longtime companion, Ed Lightsey. Nobles visits his dad, Jim Nobles, in Georgetown when he comes to the area as well.