Creative Focus: D.C./Baltimore

This month, Adweek’s CREATIVE FOCUS travels the I-95 corridor from Washington to Baltimore. Featured campaigns include print work from Earle Palmer Brown, Adworks, and Eisner & Associates, along with television spots from Trahan, Burden & Charles and W.B. Doner. Also, meet Allan Charles and Steve Bleinberger, the longtime TBC creative team that has put its signature on a generation of D.C./Baltimore advertising.

Steven Spielberg took a risk and used the color red to underscore a little girl’s coat in his epic black-and-white film on the Holocaust, Schindler’s List. Earle Palmer Brown of Bethesda, Md., uses a similar technique with the color blue to create surprisingly memorable print advertising for an unlikely client-the Blue Cross & Blue Shield federal employee healthcare program. One recent execution follows a woman in a baseball cap traversing a lonely New Mexico road in her blue Mustang to the text, “Blue means freedom.” Another ad shows a sepia-toned photo of a woman hanging clothes in an Andrew Wyeth-like setting. She is placing her whites next to a pair of blue jeans-the only color in the ad. The text reads, “Nothing fits you like Blue.” “What we wanted to do with this campaign is create a visual metaphor for the uniqueness of Blue Cross & Blue Shield service-a feeling of relaxed freedom, a visual sigh of relief,” says Tom DiJulio, creative director at EPB. “At the same time, we wanted to avoid falling into the trap of shining, happy people.” Photographer Peter Lavery helped evoke that expansive feeling with shots of big-sky country.
Art director BRONWEN KENNEDY
Copywriter DAWN CORRIGAN
-Nora FitzGerald

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What better way to showcase Baltimore’s National Aquarium than to follow a hungry cat around its Guggenheim-like tank? Baltimore’s Trahan, Burden & Charles developed the 30-second spot “Cat Tales” to increase traffic at the famed facility. “The aquarium had to take the spot off the air because the lines were too long,” says Allan Charles, the “C” in TBC. The cat wends its way around the glorious-looking fish until it gets to the shark tank, where it puts its paws out to the side to indicate the sheer size of the fish. “How do you show off the aquarium in an interesting way? We thought it would be cute to have a cat winding its way through, licking its chops,” Charles explains. The kicker: The cat regales its alley cohorts with news of the big one that got away. A sad footnote: After 17 years at TBC, the aquarium account is going into review, and TBC has declined to participate. The agency does not want to spend the resources on a restless client. “If they’re not happy with this spot, which brought more traffic than they could handle, then we don’t know what they want,” Charles says.
Art director STEVE BLEINBERGER
Copywriter ALLAN CHARLES
-N.F.

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Edgy creative for the Baltimore-Washington International airport created by Eisner & Associates has really taken off, bringing record numbers of passengers to the sleepy, underused Beltway airport. Since winning the $3 million business last year, the Baltimore agency has produced print work showing zany illustrations of passengers in various states of apoplexy at other area airports. The black-and-white line drawings by Greg Houston look like they were penned during a minor earthquake, with Houston’s signature frenzied style of eyes popping out of sockets and hair standing on end. “Often, when you advertise for a state agency, you don’t have a lot of freedom,” says Jim Nealey, associate creative director. “We made a conscious effort to do something startling.” Copywriter Hugh Carson created text that meshes well with the peripatetic illustrations. One ad states, “You can get from any Washington airport to downtown D.C. in well under an hour. How you arrive is another matter entirely.” Interestingly, the ads crucify the idea of air travel, making BWI a one-of-a-kind respite. Of course, if the ads continue to generate traffic, BWI will become just as much of an ordeal as its competitors, National and Dulles airports.
Art director JIM NEALEY
Copywriter HUGH CARSON
-N.F.

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More handmaiden than ad shop, Adworks helped the Library of Congress reach a larger audience for its urbane, even intimidating, exhibits. Through an elegant print campaign, the D.C. agency revealed the sensational within the academic, and “Dresden: Treasures from the Saxon State Library” became one of the sexiest shows in town. Not only did the campaign increase traffic, the print work, splashed on full pages of The Washington Post, won two Pencils at the One Show. For one execution, Adworks pulled out the most remarkable elements in the life of Augustus the Strong, a flamboyant but little-known German monarch. The copy reads, “Augustus the Strong had innumerable illegitimate children, changed his religion just to become King, and locked a man in a cellar for 14 years until he perfected porcelain. In his defense, he did open the first library.” Says creative director Mark Greenspun, “There’s this whole other audience in Washington that’s educated but still feels the Library might be too esoteric for them. We wanted to interest them.”
Copywriter MARK GREENSPUN
Freelance art director TIM RYAN
-N.F.

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The powerful clamor of a Soviet dirge is overpowered by a Lenin statue crashing to the ground, where it shatters into small shards. The kicker: “Second place, cold war.” The dramatic television spot, created by W.B. Doner in Baltimore for Ikon Office Solutions, reminds viewers that nobody wants to finish second-especially a former superpower. But it happens. Of course, copier systems and integrated computer networking solutions wouldn’t have helped the USSR, but that’s besides the point. “We were throwing out ideas for second place and I came up with the Lenin image,” says John Parlato, executive creative director and copywriter on the campaign. “We kept pushing till we found the most immediately compelling idea.” Instead of using actual footage of one of the Lenin statues being destroyed in Moscow, director Rick Dublin built a 5-foot-tall model for the ad. Another Ikon spot shows a documentary-style image of a fly caught in a spider’s web with the tagline, “Second place, food chain.” The music for both spots, provocative enough to get the average head out of the refrigerator, was created by Baltimore’s Clean Cuts and Elias Associates, New York.
Art directors ANN SUH, LYNN FREDERICKSON
Copywriter JOHN PARLATO
-N.F.