Eisner Rebrands Itself as Nonbox

Bill Eisner is taking the family name off his agency in an effort to practice the branding innovation he preaches.

William Eisner & Associates, the Hales Corners, Wis., shop founded by Eisner’s father in 1959, is now Nonbox. The name is meant to indicate not that the agency thinks “out of the box,” but that it declines to acknowledge that any such box exists, said Eisner, partner and chief creative officer.

“It reflects the way the company is going,” he said. “As we bring others into the company, it’s not just an Eisner thing anymore.”

Eisner two years ago formed an alliance with KVO Advertising in Portland, Ore., creating Karakas Parmley/Eisner & Associates. That shop, whose top executives are now equity partners with Eisner, took the Nonbox name a little more than a year ago.

The Eisner agency has had its ups and downs since losing its cornerstone Kohl’s account in 1996. The shop had an outpost in Poland for a few years, which had worked for a beer maker in that country. Business from Van de Kamp’s, Golden Books and Union 76 came and went.

Eisner wants the agency, which he said has 35 employees and about $35 million in billings, to more consistently pick up assignments from major national brands, something it has achieved only sporadically over the years. Nonbox, he said, will be offered as a shop that can offer unique perspectives on bigger brands, unhindered by the processes that can bog down work at larger shops.

The Portland arm of Nonbox will continue to concentrate on interactive work, including electronic direct mail, said Steve Karakas, the partner who runs that office. The Hales Corners office will be the agency’s “creative engine.”

To promote its new brand in Wisconsin, the agency produced a series of online videos. One has two men sitting in a garage, using ad terms as they discuss their love of beer. Another shows a focus group that provides an unlikely forum for coming up with the idea for the popular theatrical “Blue Man Group.” Both are intended to show that research and focus groups are not always realistic roads to innovation.