20 Agencies to Watch

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They're not the biggest, but creatively, they're among the brightest. Some have been carving out a name for themselves for years; others are still waiting for the ink on their new stationery to dry. So, parched for talent? Creativity finds a bumper crop of regional agencies where the work is always fresh.

Duncan Channon, San Francisco, see page 50

Modernista, Boston, see page 50

G&M Plumbing, El Segundo, CA, see page 52

Lawler Ballard Van Durand, Birmingham, AL

Founded: 1991

Principals: Tinsley Van Durand, President; Gene Taylor, Executive Vice President/Chief Creative Officer

Billings: $14 million

Clients: US Unwired, Smithfield, Expedius

Technically, this shop dates back more than a decade as the Birmingham branch of Lawler Ballard. But when Earl Palmer Brown bought the latter, Tinsley Van Durand bought the branch and added his name. Since then, the firm has been a finalist in the small shop category for 4A's O'Toole Award five out of the last six years and four years straight. This thanks to work like its Stand By Me tribute spot for US Unwired in which kids poke at a non-PCS cellphone as if it were a corpse.

Hoffman York , Milwaukee, WI

Founded: 1933

Principals: Tom Jordan, Executive Creative Director; Mark Catterson, Creative Director; Ken Butts, Creative Director

Billings: $70 million

Clients: Confederate Motorcycles, Rockabilly Hall of Fame, Tetley's English Ale

Formerly Hoffman York & Compton, this decades-old agency turned the creative corner ten years ago under ECD Tom Jordan. A pair of Silver Lions later, the shop is turning out fine work for clients like Confederate Motorcycles, an upstart challenger to Milwaukee's homegrown Harleys, Our favorite? An ad that ran among the "adult services" hootchies in LA Weekly featuring the bike and the come-on: "You know you want me."

Bailey Lauerman & Associates, Lincoln, NE

Founded: 1970

Principals: Richard Bailey, Chairman/CEO; Jim Lauerman/President; Carter Weitz, Chief Creative Officer

Billings: $55 million

Clients: Raytheon Aircraft, General Electric Aircraft Engine Services, Girl Scouts of America

From the heart of the Heartland, Bailey Lauerman spice up a roster of aviation clients with retail, public service, and a few choice assignments like the Girl Scouts of America and the Nebraska Film Office. The shop's promotional postcards for the latter - vintage cornbelt snapshots with self-deprecating riffs on Nebraska's alleged backwardness - are the funniest, and most subtly art-directed, pieces of collateral we've seen in a while. Reads one plea, juxtaposed with a shot of amiable, if dated, heartlanders: "We want you to film in Nebraska so badly, we're even willing to let you capture our souls with your magic boxes."

Huey Paprocki, Atlanta, GA

Founded: 1997

Principals: Ron Huey and Joe Paprocki, co-CDs

Billings: $3 million

Clients: Cartoon Network, American Honda, Nancy Lopez Golf

Every year since it opened its doors in 1997, micro-boutique Huey Paprocki has dominated the Atlanta Addys, bringing home more medals than any other agency. Not bad for a shop with only six employees. It helps that two of them, co-founders Ron Huey and Joe Paprocki, gained experience handling national brands like Lexus and Mercedes at Fallon, Ogilvy/Atlanta, and the Martin Agency. Think small, indeed.

FJCandN, Salt Lake City, UT

Founded: 1974

Principals: Scott Rockwood, CEO/Creative Director; Dave Newbold, President/Creative Director

Billings: $45 million

Clients: Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, Cache Valley Cheese, Utah Worker's Compensation Fund

The current incarnation of FJCandN is the result of its merger, three years ago, with Williams and Rockwood, a marriage between an old guard agency increasingly focused on creative under CD Dave Newbold and a local creative shop, headed by CD Scott Rockwood. The results? A directorial debut for comedian Andy Dick in a series of Utah Transit Authority spots and a hilarious series on the lives of "cheese tasters" for Cache Valley Cheese.

Moses Anshell, Phoenix, AZ

Founded: 1982

Prinicpals: Louie Moses President/Chief Creative Officer, Jos Anshell Chief Executive Officer

Billings: $55 million

Clients: Arizona Department of Tourism, Joe Boxer, Nixon's Restaurants

This almost twenty-year-old shop has been drawing the attention of national brands, like Joe Boxer, in recent years. Add to that majestic work for the Arizona Department of Tourism and political satire on behalf of Nixon's, a projected chain of politically-charged restaurants, and you can understand why Communication Arts has called Moses Anshell "the most creatively awarded agency in the Southwest."

Pagano Schenck & Kay, somewhere between Boston, MA and New York City

Founded: 1986

Principals: Woody Kay, Chairman/Executive Creative Director; Beau Fraser, President

Billings: $25 million

Clients: Revenio, CCCS, Rdental

PSK has just folded its Beantown tents and is moving to New York City. While in Boston, the shop worked for clients like Dexter shoes, Rubbermaid challenger Sterilite, and Mothers Against Drunk Driving. And they showed how Digitial Broadband could be used to ferret out those pesky Vampires. The firm brings clients Revenio, Consumer Credit Counseling Service, and Rdental with it to the Big Apple.

Razor, Salt Lake City, UT

Founded: 1997

Billings: $1.75 million

Principals: Richard Oliver and Bryant Marcum, Creative Directors; David Morring, President

Clients: Ingenix, Howa Construction, Sports Illustrated, People Magazine, Park City Mountain Resort

Last year, Razor's unhygienic spots for radio station KZHT 94.9, featuring a sweaty and corpulent Italian chef and skeevy teen water-bottlers made us squirm with pleasure. Razor's stash also included sharp radio spots for Park City Mountain Resort and Sports Illustrated, as well as an eye-catching B-to-B gem: a solid yellow Rubik's cube that demonstrates the simplicity of anti-fraud services from health data provider Ingenix.

DGWB, Santa Ana, CA

Founded:1988

Billings: $100 million

Principals: Jon Gothold, ECD;: Jeff Payne; Enzo Cesario; Dave Swartz, Creative Directors;, Jonathan Brown, Design Director

Clients: Toshiba, Wienerschnitzel, O.C. Ad Show

This SoCal agency made advertising waves earlier this year with its unique approach to selling copy machines for Toshiba in its Noam Murro-directed "Flatline" spot. As a heart attack victim on a hospital bed gets shocked with defibrulator paddles, scenes of his life flash on the screen. A first kiss, children's births, and a graduation are interspersed with shots of the man standing in front of a copy machine, growing older. The shop has its lighter side as well, with hilarious spots and print for fast-food chain Wienerschnitzel.

Bayless Cronin, Atlanta, GA

Founded: 1993

Billings: $47 million

Principals: Tim Bayless, President; Jerry Cronin, ECD

Clients: ESPN, The Atlanta Hawks, BellSouth, Cartoon Network

This Atlanta shop did ESPN's Great Outdoor Games campaign justice with heartfelt scenes of a mother who preps her son for big-time logrolling in the family bathtub. The agency also gives radio a joyously bizarre soundlift, as in one spot for Atlanta's High Museum of Art, in which a booming voice and trumpet-blaring fanfare announces a feature exhibit: "Norman Rockwell is Norman Rockwell in Norman Rockwell, Pictures for the American People!"

Matthews Mark, San Diego CA

Founded: 1977

Billings: $48 million

Michael Mark, President/CD; James Matthews, Chairman/CEO

Clients: Callaway Golf Ball Company, Siemens, San Diego Union Tribune

Creativity blames Matthews/Mark for injecting life into one of the most fuddy-duddy sports advertising categories. The agency's gut-busting docu-comedic campaign for Callaway golf balls, where random putters rattle off pseudo-technical, sci-fi explanations for the ball's superb performance, was enough to put it on the map, but the revolutionizing continued in a new branding campaign for the Odyssey putter, featuring a sinister greenkeeper. Public service also got a lift in print for San Diego Food Drives. The agency designed a nutrition label that was stuck onto local trash cans.

Black Rocket, San Francisco

Founded: January 1996

Billings: $100 million

Principals: Steve Stone, Bob Kerstetter; CDs; John Yost, General Manager/New Business Director

Clients: Yahoo!, Conde Nast, Musco Olives, MTV International

This South Bay shop's work for Morgan Stanley Dean Witter was particularly memorable. One spot has a neophyte online investor trolling for stock advice in a chat room. He takes a repeated "VBNM" on his screen for a hot tip, but unbeknownst to him, they're the result of a rotund woman parking her behind on a keyboard during an office shindig. The agency also did fine work for MS's Discover Brokerage (featuring a tow-truck driver/island proprietor and a teenage helicopter owner) and continues duties for first client Yahoo!. The shop also just nabbed Conde Nast's biggest consumer ad push ever, a $10 million gig for new shopping mag Lucky.

Riester-Robb

Phoenix, AZ

Founded: 1989

Billings: $38 million

Principals: Tim Riester, President; David Robb, Vice President/CD

Riester-Robb's reel is dominated by high-quality PSA work for anti-tobacco and Indian gaming interests. The most affecting anti-tobacco work is also the simplest; a Steve Buscemi-type guy sits in a chair and explains, in a charming, self-deprecating way, why he can't quit smoking - meanwhile listing all of tobacco's nasty side effects. The reel also includes work for KidsCare, a low-cost health insurance program, featuring a nervous kid with an apple on his head and an unseen would-be sharpshooter; the kid ends up, inevitably, with a bandage on his forehead, but he's also happily munching on the apple.

Elvis & Bonaparte, Portland, OR

Founded: 1996

Billings: $44 million

Principals: Cheryl Vandemore, CEO; David Helfrey, CD; Kim Heiney, COO

Clients: Oregon Public Broadcasting, Driveway.com, Digital Planet, Lightware, Portland Business Journal

This Portland shop's "Reach & Frequency" short, a 70s porn/ad industry spoof, got famously yanked from Oregon's 1999 Rosey Awards, but the shop can boast other gutsy projects. Commercials featuring characters like the affable world dominator "Lord Insidious" and lycanthropy-sufferer (wolfman) Jeff Talbot illustrate the conveniences of online file management site Driveway.com. Also, print and broadcast for Oregon Public Broadcasting show the repurcussions of insufficiently feeding your mind - you try to kill yourself with pop rocks or you flunk out of carny school.

Lunch, Santa Monica, CA

Founded: November 2000

Billings: $66 million

Principals: Steve Levit, CD; Greg Hill, President; Alexander Ouveroff, Managing Director

Clients: Red Bull, Angel City Brewery

A startup with 66 million in billings and satellite offices in New York, Miami and Chicago? Not bad. A full 65 million comes from Red Bull, a European "energy drink" that sells over a billion cans worldwide. Red Bull finances Lunch based in part on Levit's reputation: he was at Team One before and has a reel full of great Lexus work, and that's no bull. The proposed creative work for the beverage builds on the charming line animation that the brand is known for in Europe, courtesy of German shop Kastner & Partners.

Bill Brokaw, Cleveland, OH

Founded: 1992

Billings: 28 million

Principals: Bill Brokaw, President; Greg Thomas, EVP/CD; Robin Segbers, Director of Brandbuilding

Clients: TimberTech, Second National Bank, Parker Hannifin, United Wireless

This Cleveland shop produces solid, mostly likable work. The Crooked River Beer print campaign manages to be straightforward and clever at once, with the print placed over a shot of the label, and the recommendation: "Suggested storage temperature: 98.6 degrees." The same approach works for WCPN Radio, a news and talk station, whose message reads: "Consumer Privacy. You heard it on WCPN. We know you did." A spot for Bryant & Stratton Career College features a female applicant who asks an exasperated admissions officer the wrong kinds of questions: "Like, when are the homecoming queen elections?" The college is clearly "not for everyone."

TDA Advertising and Design, Boulder CO

Founded: 1989

Billings: 15 million

Principals: Thomas Dooley, President; Jonathan Schoenberg, CD and Partner

Clients: Thule, Corporate Express, Cannondale, Donor Awareness Council

The latest print work for Cannondale high-end bikes is particularly strong, showing dirt-encrusted personal hygiene items like a cotton swab and a tootbrush against a stark white background; the dirt is there because it gets into the bike owner's every orifice of (hey, thanks for not sending us the execution with the bathroom wipes). Spots for the Gotham Comedy Club show what happens during auditions there: the talent scouts deride a candidate who slips on a banana peel, but applaud the performer who substitutes an avocado. "Much funnier," they conclude. "It's edgy. It feels new." So does most of TDA's work, which is amazingly devoid of stinkers. Hold up your head, Tom Dooley.

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