The Evolution of ‘Smart-ass’

Headshot of Tim Nudd

The three-card monte hustler who greeted guests at DeVito/Verdi’s 10th anniversary bash wasn’t an all-out hit.

“One woman got upset,” says creative director Sal DeVito. “She said to him, ‘I can’t even go to a gallery opening without seeing this?’ Somebody had to explain he was with the show.”

An element of the unex pected ran through the entire retro spective exhibit, hosted by The One Club last week and featuring a New York theme recog nizing the shop’s history of creating outdoor adver tising in its hometown. (It also included work that ran outside the city.)

Some of the shop’s best-known work—including ads for Solgar vitamins and herbs—was displayed on three city buses parked outside. “They took up a lot of parking space,” cracks DeVito, but says it was great to see the work in every available inch of ad space on the buses. “I used to have dreams about that when I was a kid,” he says.

“The accounts are getting bigger—Sony, Canon, we have some significant names—but our style hasn’t changed,” says president Ellis Verdi. That core style, which DeVito describes as “smart-ass,” is in evi dence in the image shown here, created for a Daffy’s retail ad and used on the exhibit invites.

Mainly, says DeVito, the work is in “a prettier package now.”

The three-card monte guy has also evolved. “We used him in a [Daffy’s] commercial a few years ago,” says DeVito. “He’s gotten better. He could’ve gotten me for so much.”

@nudd Tim Nudd is a former creative editor of Adweek.