Former Leo Burnett creative partners Jim Ferguson and Bob Shallcross have reunited to relaunch Dallas agency Krause Advertising as jimbobkrause.
The independent shop, whose other principals are Jim and Candace Krause, starts with a staff of about 10, an online project from Nike and a handful of clients from its days as Krause, including Alon USA. Their goal, simply put, is to hatch big ideas that prove to be effective.
Ferguson, a Texas native and former CCO at Young & Rubicam in New York, and Shallcross, a screenwriter and director of feature films who grew up in Chicago, talked to senior reporter Andrew McMains about starting up in an economic downturn, the best and worst parts of running a small independent shop, and why Cannes isn’t what it used to be. The following are excerpts from the conversation.
What are you doing for Nike?
Ferguson: We’re going to do some online stuff. It hasn’t come to fruition yet. We were going to follow a six-man football team to a state championship. What we’re going to do now is go visit the two towns [they represent] the week before the state championship game and do some video for Nikefootball.com.
What are you going for with the name of the agency?
Shallcross: To me, it just felt fresh or approachable; friendly.
Ferguson: Also, Krause has been a fixture in Dallas for 29 years. We’re joining up with Jimmy and it’s not right for him to drop his 29 years in this business. … I’ve always wanted my name on the door, so at least I’ve got my first name.
How did you hook up with Krause?
Ferguson: I’ve known Jimmy off and on — not professionally, but socially. He’s had Krause & Young [in Dallas] for a long time — it’s a very well-respected creative agency — with Bob Young. I’d always thought, “Man, they did nice work over there.” And then a friend of ours, Mike Rawlings, a former CEO of Tracey Locke when I was at DDB Dallas and [ex-] president of Pizza Hut, he said, “You know what? You and Jimmy would be a good team. He’s an incredible account guy, local businessman, very well respected in Dallas, knows everything in town. You guys should really hook up.”
Shallcross: When we started talking, I didn’t really think about Dallas much. But as things progressed, and when I met Jim Krause and started talking to him, [I began to think] there’s a lot of opportunity here. … It’s a nice place to work. It’s a nice place to live.
Jim, why not stay a freelance writer, which you’ve been the last couple of years?
Ferguson: I want to build something that will last … something that could eventually be a big entity that I can leave behind. I’m not getting greedy and saying, “Yeah, so we can build it and sell,” because I’ve worked at a public company. The last thing I’d want to do is saddle someone with something like that. I love Stan Richards’ thing of being independent. … The man has made some great choices.
What’s your elevator pitch?
Ferguson: There was a great ad done a few years ago for Bud Lite. It [features] a baseball pitcher who looks up in the stands and says, “You know what? At the beginning of the season, they were looking at the kids. Now they’re looking for help.” And I really believe that. There are people out there right now in this financial situation who are looking for help. We call our philosophy market-driven creative. Our creative has worked. We can show you 20, 30, 40 different ads and ideas that have built business and have worked. Bob and I and Krause can look at an idea and really know if it’s going to work.
How long have you two known each other and when was the last time you worked together?
Ferguson: We worked together from ’85 to ’93 at Leo Burnett [in Chicago]. Then we took a leave to work on screenplays. We worked together in ’93 and ’94 on [writing] the movie [Little Giants].
Bob, what have you been doing since Burnett?
Shallcross: I had a commercial production company where I was directing commercials. I was really interested in writing a screenplay and then in directing a feature. I was able to raise some funds and direct a couple of small independent films. It was great on lots of levels because I like telling stories. But I’ve always liked advertising and marketing. Jim and I are both strategic thinkers; we like to think about the big picture. And we definitely try to keep up with what’s going on in the world, how it’s changing. We learn from our kids. I have four, ranging in age from 27 to 18. I know it sounds clich