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Author's Note:
The thinker

david altschul

David is president and founder of Character. He has been running the business for almost two decades during which he has presided over nearly 200 story framework explorations for some of the world’s largest brands and companies. David has a degree in history and economics from the University of Chicago but started his professional career as a filmmaker. 

He gaffed, shot, edited and produced on everything from feature films (like Scorchy with Connie Stevens) to rock and roll documentaries (he toured with Heart through West Texas and New Mexico) to television commercials (he produced the blockbuster Nissan “Toys” spot starring Barbie, Ken and G.I. Joe) and even an animated feature (The Adventures of Mark Twain). 

David joined Will Vinton Studios in 1982 and built their commercial production business into the longest running and most successful animation company in commercial production by focusing on superb character animation. The California Raisins and the animated M&M’s are just a few of the wildly popular characters that came to life during David’s stint at Vinton. In 1998, as part of the continuing effort to bring unique value to the studio’s clients, David began the focused synthesis and exploration of his experiences with successful characters that eventually resulted in his invention of this business.

David is a frequent speaker at corporate and industry events, has taught a popular class on Story as the Key to Engagement at Procter & Gamble’s Brand Manager College and has been a repeat speaker at the TED Conference in the TED University forum. 

In his spare time, he climbs mountains.

“Character gets to the heart of what good storytelling is all about. They’ve helped Wendy’s focus on what makes us unique, different and special and that’s helped us to get people’s attention, keep their interest and keep the business growing. We compete with much larger brands, but by being overt about how we want to attack those differences, we’ve been able to have a lot of tension and conflict in the story that we are telling. That allows us to keep the story fresh and to fuel it. The more we do that the more positive attention we get as a brand and the more the brand continues to grow, which, in turn, builds our confidence in our storytelling and keeps the courage level high.”

—Kurt  Kane, President U.S. & Chief Commercial Officer, Wendy’s Corporation

“I’ve been through Character’s story framework process four times in my career, and it has always added extraordinary value. It was a central piece of Walmart’s rebranding effort in 2006, as we sought a new articulation of our brand narrative and our purpose. It’s an equally powerful tool for us now, as Walmart defines its place in a rapidly transforming retail environment. And we are currently using it to do the same for Sam’s Club.”

—Tony Rogers, Chief Marketing Officer, Walmart

“Since articulating our story framework, Gallo has had its best year. We’re up 10% and we’re outpacing the category. From a creative standpoint it’s been great because we’re all in alignment. Now that we have the articulation of our story, our social media, our partnerships, our programs, our packaging—it all makes sense.”

—Stephanie Gallo, Chief Marketing Officer, E&J Gallo Winery