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Insider Profiles

A Modern-Day Marketing P.T. Barnum

Mark Pettit"Atlanta is more sophisticated than people give it credit for."


"My brain is a three-ring circus," says Mark Pettit. "There has to be activity in all rings at all times."

Please direct your attention to the center ring. There you'll find Creaxion, the Atlanta-based marketing firm Pettit established in 1998. The move into marketing followed earlier professions as a reporter, news anchor and nonfiction writer (he's the author of "A Need to Kill," a true-life thriller about a serial killer in Nebraska).

Through Creaxion, Pettit has assisted dozens of companies in refining their public voice — including Atlanta stalwarts Coca-Cola, AT&T and InterContinental Hotels Group. But Pettit is especially drawn to those in arts and entertainment.

Someone once described Pettit as a "modern P.T. Barnum," and he's embraced that description. He was recently hired to raise the profile of a Salvador Dali exhibit at Atlanta's High Museum of Art. So if you'd been wandering downtown recently, you might have been surprised to spot a man dressed as Dali being chased by a herd of guys wearing white outfits and red sashes. (Although you wouldn't have wondered for long — they were followed by folks passing out information about the exhibit, along with fake mustaches.)

Pettit's energetic, iconoclastic approach has landed his firm work from as far away as Singapore, where he's currently helping to raise the profile of a new $500 million arts and science museum.

In Pettit's second ring, you'll hear strains of country music — he grew up with these sounds during his rural upbringing, and he's always been drawn to writing his own songs. "I love the storytelling," he says, and he's had enough interest in his demos, recorded by established singers in Nashville, to keep him going while he looks to strike a deal.

The third ring? Softball, which he played as a young man and took up again competitively in his late 30s. He's played in seven world series to date, holding down second base. "I love turning a double play — it's my favorite thing in the world," he says. And he loves the constant calculations and mental strategizing on the field. "What's important in softball is that you know what you're going to do before the ball is hit," he says. "I try to think ahead like that in marketing."

Pettit grew up about an hour north of Atlanta, and he says the city is a perfect fit. "It's among the most wired and socially networked cities around," he says. "Atlanta is more sophisticated than people give it credit for." At the same time, he appreciates its lack of pretension compared to other big cities, and that its collegial atmosphere lets people explore their creativity and interests, whatever they may be.

The few times he's not in his own three rings, Pettit is likely out enjoying the city's abundant offerings. "Atlanta has amazingly good food," he says. He especially loves the fact that he can walk from his bungalow to great places for a drink or a bite to eat, or wander to one of the city's large and leafy parks to relax. "What I like about Atlanta is that you can be crazy or calm," he says. "Atlanta is a place where you can be yourself, and be who you want to be."

Check out Mark's Atlanta.