Erwin-Penland Passes $100 Mil.

Erwin-Penland has been awarded the estimated $20 million account of Advance America Cash Advance Centers.

The new business positions the Greenville, S.C., agency to top the $100 million mark in 2002 billings.

The incumbent on the account was Brann in Dallas.

“We’ve been fortunate to have clients like Verizon Wireless and Wa-chovia that have weathered the economy well,” said agency president Joe Erwin.

In January, a client decision to resume television advertising after a two-year hiatus led to Erwin-Penland being assigned Advance America’s $5 million media planning and buying account. That business was awarded on the basis of a referral by Deneka Hobby, a former agency client, to Advance America vice president of marketing Wayne Chambers.

Advance America’s existing creative did not test well, sources said, so Chambers and senior director of marketing Laura Fricks commissioned the agency to create a new television, radio, print and direct-mail campaign.

Erwin-Penland creative director Mark Bazil and art director Joe Gilman came up with “Unexpected Bill,” a character (played by local actor Michael Craig) who pursues consumers unable to meet their short-term debt obligations.

“Unexpected Bill is a very nasty guy, a guy you don’t want to see,” said Erwin. “The antidote to Bill is Advance America.”

The TV campaign, which broke in approximately 25 markets, jolted sales, leading to another boost in media spending. When the account consolidation was completed earlier this month, client executives arrived at the agency carrying champagne and balloons.

Erwin-Penland’s billings have soared more than 40 percent in 2002, driven by increased spending by mainstay accounts like Wa-chovia, as well as a number of new-business wins including Maxfli golf balls and Fatz Cafes in Georgia and South Carolina.

Erwin, who now heads what his competitors claim is the state’s first $100 million agency, is expected to hire a half-dozen creative and account staffers.

“We’re results driven and customer-service oriented,” said Er-win. “Today, clients wants agencies that generate business, not awards.”

Advance America Cash Advance Centers, which is based in Spartanburg, S.C., provides payday services in 31 states.