Creative Focus: MINNEAPOLIS

This month, Adweek’s CREATIVE FOCUS arrives in the Twin Cities. Featured campaigns include TV commercials from Campbell Mithun Esty, Clarity Coverdale Fury and Hunt Adkins, along with print work from Carmichael Lynch and Fallon McElligott. Also, meet two guys with a sense of humor, Steve Mitchell and Doug Adkins, the lead creative team at Hunt Adkins, a spunky, up-and-coming boutique.

Asked to create a campaign for Motorola walkie-talkies, Carmichael Lynch had to overcome consumers’ misconceptions of the radios as mere toys. “Unaided, people couldn’t find many uses for them,” says copywriter Tom Camp, who, with art director Paul Asao, set out to find as many uses as possible for the two-way radios. One ad shows children waving from a boat with the headline, “Are these kids saying ‘Hey everybody, we feel great!’ or ‘Grandpa fell and his head is wedged in the bilge pump!'” Winner of a silver Push Pin at The Show in Minneapolis, the ad illustrates how easily a message can be misinterpreted. With a Motorola radio, clear communication is assured, and, the copy continues, “you have a great family story, instead of something more serious.” “There are times when it can be convenient to have a walkie-talkie,” Asao says. “But there are times when it can save your life.”
Art director PAUL ASAO
Copywriter TOM CAMP –Aaron Baar

Campbell Mithun Esty’s “Four Feet High” TV spot takes a lighthearted look at a testimonial to Andersen Windows. Copywriter Kelly Trewartha and art director Brian Kroening dramatized a true story told in an unsolicited letter to demonstrate how Andersen windows and doors held up against a rising tide. With Johnny Cash singing “Five Feet High and Rising,” a cat watches lawn furniture, lawn ornaments and fish float by the glass doors. The voiceover tells the story of the ocean eventually receding; the final statement reads: “We think it just gave up.” “We needed to get more specific about the end product benefits,” says creative director David Duncan. Johnny Cash’s tune adds a “down-home” feel, but Duncan says using it presented some hurdles. The original song changes key and tempo as the water rises, and “the ‘Four Feet High’ key wasn’t quite right,” Duncan says. So, Cash headed into the studio to rerecord the song to fit the ad.

When this campaign first ran, in January 1997, McDonald’s, Burger King and Hardee’s were all running “two-for-two” promotions, which allowed customers to purchase two burgers for $2. With the added competition, Clarity Coverdale Fury needed to distinguish Hardee’s campaign from the other two fast-food chains. “Rather than talk about the money offer,” says art director Jac Coverdale, “we wanted to put the offer in context of when you would need it the most.” In one spot, a man agrees to sponsor a neighboring child’s walk-a-thon at $1 a mile. Three months later, the unwitting good samaritan is hit with unexpected expenses–when the kid completes a 4,000-mile cross-country trek. Copywriter Jerry Fury says the idea was born from watching his daughter knock on doors for her school fundraisers. Other ads feature a hapless shopper playing with a destructive ray gun in a toy store and a fender-bender traffic-court case in which everyone from judge to jury is wearing neck braces.
Art director JAC COVERDALE
Copywriter JERRY FURY –A.B.

VH-1 wasn’t looking to sell anything with its animated Johnny Amsterdamn ads from Hunt Adkins–the cable music network just wanted a little attitude. The vignettes of Johnny, a washed-up rocker who plays birthday parties and can only find a bar of soap to trash in a hotel room, were intended to reach VH-1’s older-yet-still-hip audience. “It was a personality thing,” says copywriter Doug Adkins. The original idea of a burned-out rocker as company spokesman came from VH-1, says Steve Mitchell, art director. But creating the stories for Johnny and his cohorts was left to the Hunt Adkins team. In one spot, which won a bronze at The Show in Minneapolis, Johnny’s girlfriend chastises him for “dying” whenever she tries to have serious discussion. “Tuesday, dead. Wednesday, dead. Thursday, dead,” she intones to end the ad. The rough animation style of the ads evolved as the team developed the stories of Johnny’s life. Originally, Mitchell and Adkins thought about creating an arty combo of live action and animation. But as the stories developed, the team realized such a style would detract from the ‘tude they were trying to convey. “It cried out for being not polished and not so slick,” Adkins says.
Copywriter DOUG ADKINS –A.B.

A recent Fallon mcelligott ad, featuring Evander Holyfield’s mangled ear framed by a red border, signifies a shift in Time magazine’s ad strategy. When the campaign of striking photos and sparse copy originated in 1993, Time’s border framed the faces of politicians and world leaders. But photos of cultural icons, such as Holyfield, Ellen DeGeneres and Marilyn Manson, were added to illustrate the range of topics in every Time issue. “The campaign is intended to make [reading Time] a more enjoyable experience. It’s not like doing homework,” says art director Bob Barrie. Another twist: The red box has been moved from surrounding merely the faces of world leaders to other areas in the photo–surrounding President Clinton’s shoulder, for instance–to demonstrate the perspective of Time’s editorial. Although these changes have helped keep the campaign fresh over the years, Barrie says he and copywriter Dean Buckhorn also scan advance copies for pictures and ideas.
Art director BOB BARRIE
Copywriter DEAN BUCKHORN –A.B.