Adages

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Requiem for a super flyweight

One of Michael Dweck's last big ideas, which he shared in confidence with Adages just days before he decided to close his agency Dweck, was to launch an urban youth and multicultural marketing division. "Forget about D-rush," Michael said, referring to adman Donny Deutsch's multicultural venture with music impresario Russell Simmons. "We're talking D-Weck here."

Dweck could have been a contender. Unlike Deutsch, which was handed over to Donny by his daddy, Dweck had street cred. It started out as Dweck & Campbell in 1992, with Lori Campbell, a copywriter with Lowe, Margeotes and BBDO on her resume. Michael was a Pratt Institute grad who stopped briefly at Y&R and DDB. Their first clients were strictly bridge-and-tunnel, such as Giant Carpet in Mahwah, N.J., and Oak Tree Dairies on Long Island. For Oak Tree, the shop created print ads with oddities like a three-eyed heifer grazing in front of Three Mile Island with the following copy: "What is it about milk from Pennsylvania that makes us feel funny?"

"Our strategy was to beat the system," Michael says. "That's why we went to entrepreneurial clients who we thought would buy really good work, and we thought we'd be able to trade up."

By 1995, they were doing work for Swatch, Sun Line Cruises, Gordon's vodka and gin, New York magazine, Showtime Networks, Bob's Stores, Best Health Beverages and Pepsi-Cola Co. By 1999 they also picked up Top Driver driving schools, Comedy Central and Fresh Samantha, well before that brand got big. After Michael and Lori split up in 1998, the agency soldiered on, winning UPN in a review against 250 agencies and copped plenty of awards, including the 4A's Small Advertising Agency of the Year. But recently, times got tough.

"The small creative agencies are getting pushed out through consolidation," Michael says. "Or they're getting absorbed. You would think when a larger agency buys a smaller one that the larger company would become more creative but they're not. Advertising is becoming much more conservative. All the agencies are the same now."

And now Michael's hanging up his gloves, for the time being.

And in this corner

Those feisty pugilists over at DeVito Verdi will be feted this Wednesday with a 10-year retrospective at the One Club's East 21st Street gallery. Their first big campaign was for discount clothing chain Daffy's; one ad featured the headline "If you're paying more than $100 for a dress shirt, may we suggest a jacket to go with it?" above a photo of a straitjacket. "We went to the Addy awards that year and people were picketing out front," recalls Sal DeVito. A campaign for New York magazine was booted off city buses by an offended Mayor Rudy Guiliani. The One Club plans to serve Sabrett hot dogs and Brooklyn Lager. And to make the evening complete, everyone will be issued summonses on the way out the door.

Contributing: Anthony Vagnoni

Fighting words? rlinnett@crain.com

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