Profile: L.A. Story

Crispin Porter + Bogusky’s Tim Roper is importing a Miami flavor to the West Coast.

Tim Roper is in a mom-and-pop store, trying to get up to the $10 minimum he needs to use his credit card. First came two cups of coffee, a croissant, a bottle of water and a scone, followed by a Luna bar and a pack of gum. The cash register totals $9.99. “It’s like a scene from a movie, isn’t it?” asks Roper, who once dreamed of being a screenwriter but says he now finds the business “nauseating.”

A radio, TV and film major at the University of Texas at Austin, Roper moved to Los Angeles after graduation to try to break into showbiz. Almost 20 years later, Roper, 41, is back in California, as creative director at Crispin Porter + Bogusky in Venice. Though he long ago abandoned his Hollywood ambitions, Roper’s reel is filled with spots modeled after movie trailers, reality shows and sitcoms for clients such as the Florida Tobacco Pilot Program and the American Legacy Foundation.

With his wife and five kids in tow, Roper moved to the 2-year-old office from Boston shop Mullen in March, assuming creative duties from founding exec Sally Hogshead. It’s his second tour of duty at CP+B—from 1996-2000, Roper was a senior writer at the agency’s Miami headquarters.

The outpost, now led by managing director Mark Simmons, got off to a slow start but has picked up $25-30 million in new business this year, winning AeroMexico in March and, with Roper’s help, Pony International in May and Borders last month. “It was like walking into a blizzard when I got here,” says Roper, who had to present to clients including Buca di Beppo, the FX network and Rock the Vote his first week. “There were six or eight jobs open, and we seemed to be producing and presenting all at the same time.”

Agency chairman Chuck Porter says that after Hogshead left—the pregnant exec decided she couldn’t devote enough attention to her duties, the agency says—”we had a very strong feeling that it would be a good thing to replace her with someone who grew up here [at Crispin].” Adds Simmons of Roper: “He’s a very stable, thoughtful guy, and that has really helped in terms of what we need to do.”

Roper says he’s bent on instilling what he sees as the “passionate, relentless and team-focused” approach that Miami has fostered. Since he arrived, the 20-person shop has broken campaigns for AeroMexico and FX: AeroMexico inserts in magazines at airports included packets of beef jerky and peel-and-lick salt-, tequila- and lime- flavored stickers; transparent stickers on restroom mirrors and store windows touted FX’s plastic-surgery drama, Nip/Tuck, with messages such as, “You could use a little Nip/Tuck.”

The agency is at work on an early-2004 print campaign for Pony and fourth-quarter outdoor and print ads for Borders that Roper says will position the chain as more “substantive” and “in touch with content” than competitor Barnes & Noble. “He was serious and strategic from the very beginning,” says Marilyn Slankard, client vp of marketing. “He presented a lot of ideas that were smart and unusual.”

Roper, whose mother smokes four packs a day, says he’s most proud of the anti-smoking ads he did at CP+B, which won several One Show pencils and Cannes lions. The work includes spots in which a laugh track runs over footage from congressional hearings where tobacco execs denied smoking causes cancer. “It was so obvious they were lying,” Roper says.

“His humor always comes out in a very funny, wicked way,” says McKinney + Silver ecd David Baldwin, citing the faux-movie-trailer “Truth” spots showing tobacco execs as conspiracists and murderers. Baldwin met Roper in junior high school in El Paso, Texas, and the two were roommates in college. It was after poring over a One Show annual with Baldwin that Roper decided to pursue an ad career.

He returned to Austin, took a few ad classes and landed a job at the first place he interviewed, The Richards Group in Dallas. Three years later he moved on to now-defunct Harris Drury Cohen in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Then an ex-HDC co-worker recommended Roper to CP+B’s ecd, Alex Bogusky.

As Bogusky remembers it, he liked Roper’s book but continued interviewing. When the HDC receptionist got an unlabeled portfolio in the mail, she announced over the PA system that whoever had sent a book to CP+B should come pick it up. The whole shop turned up in the lobby to see Roper sheepishly collect his package. “I felt so bad we ruined his life there, I said, ‘We have to hire him,’ ” Bogusky says.

CP+B chairman Chuck Porter says that what has made the down-to-earth Roper distinct at the shop is “his lack of outrageousness.” But, Porter adds, “in his work, there is no holding back. In his work, he is not conservative.”

Former Mullen colleague Jim Garaventi, svp and creative director, describes Roper as hard-working and “the kind of guy who is as smart and enthusiastic about a TV campaign as he is about a cold-call mailer for new-business.”

Roper landed at Mullen in 2000, lured to the Wenham, Mass., agency with a vp, gcd title. Teaming with art director Rob Rich, he led creative for almost $200 million in business from clients including, Oxygen Media, and Northern Light Technologies—all three of which soon left. “I came in with a lot of accounts and they went away,” he says. “It was a hard two and a half years.”

Now, Roper boldly says he’s not daunted by the task ahead. “My personal mission here is to make our clients famous, do ourselves proud and make Miami jealous,” he declares.