People of Winston: David Mullen

by Leslie Williams
Get to know David Mullen, president and partner at The Variable, a major ad agency based in Winston.

He seems casually friendly as I am ushered into the The Variable building downtown; he is smiling, wearing a textured thick gray shirt with a black undershirt, styled yet not pretentious. He meets with big clients, big businesses, big deals and yet graciously welcomed me into a newly renovated space with large stone walls, custom designed railings, and leather seating. Across from the building is the green space of Bailey Park, Wake Innovation Quarter, restaurants and brewing companies welcoming in the weekend crowd. The space is perfectly appropriate, a landscape of innovation and growth nestled into the old cobblestone streets and railways of Winston-Salem. 

David Mullen is president and partner at The Variable, an ad agency created by Keith Vest and Joe Parrish ten years ago. Vest and Parrish recognized a need to provide businesses an opportunity to work with small ad companies that give a damn. Look at their website and you’ll see that edgy tone that makes them authentic. You might be familiar with some of their clients, like Lowes Foods, Electrolux, Procter & Gamble, Char-Broil, and Nestlé to name only a few. 

The Variable works with companies on both platforms of innovation and advertising, believing that “the biggest competitor is indifference” and “to cut through indifference, a company has to invent something worthy of advertising.” The Variable is not an idea industry, it’s an innovative industry that brings products to market and advertises it for success. And they do this well.

As we talk over a white tabletop with white swivel chairs, a space designed for visionaries, creators, and achievers, Mullen exudes sincere gratitude for the team of professionals at The Variable, which has been recognized as Forbes America’s Best Startups, Fast Company 100 Best Workplaces for Innovators Winner for two years, and an AdAge Small Agency of the Year Winner not just once, but three times. Yes. Three. Times. 

The Variable plans to stay in Winston-Salem; they love the community and the city and they contribute to our city by attracting talented people and experiences as well as prestigious awards. As we close on our interview, Mullen goes through the building to cut the lights, grab the garland in his office from a local fundraiser, and reminds us that Winston is full of ordinary people bringing extraordinary talent to our city.

December 8, 2021