Anders Carlson and Rick Streed, the liquor store employees whose off-the-wall wit and wisdom launched an ad campaign for Schieffelin & Somerset Co.'s J&B scotch, have joined with J&B Brand Manager Michael Kramer to form Hayseed House. The Madison, Wis., agency opens its doors this week.
Messrs. Carlson and Streed became unlikely advisers for the country's No. 4 selling scotch in fall 1998, when a J&B team from J. Walter Thompson USA, New York, hit the university town trying to figure how to position the scotch for twentysomething beer drinkers.
One Thompsonite saw a sign created by the duo in the window of the Badger Liquor Store-the poster compared the drinking habits and national obsessions of Ireland and Wisconsin, and hawked a Wisconsin-brewed stout.
About a month later, Messrs. Streed and Carlson were free-lancing for JWT.
One of their recent J&B ads was a '50s-looking holiday shot that read: "Jingle bells. Singles hell. Alone for the holidays? Play third wheel to a J&B and cola." In small print, it carried the warning to "Never ever drink and drive."
CAMPAIGN IN TEST
The J&B print campaign is still testing Colorado, Rhode Island, Wisconsin and southern California, and the Hayseeders will continue to supply creative.
Not all of Messrs. Streed and Carlson's pre-J&B posters plugged product-some were just musings on local politics, pop culture and other topics. "We kind of neglected to actually promote the product with a lot of them," Mr. Carlson said. Added Mr. Streed: "It's kind of ranting about stuff-like a personal soapbox."
Mr. Streed, 28, has worked at the liquor store since graduating from Minnesota's Concordia College five years ago. Mr. Carlson, 25, works there as he finishes the last semester of his eight years at the University of Wisconsin, studying comparative literature.
NO EXPERIENCE? NO PROBLEM
Neither sees his lack of agency experience as an impediment. It's actually a plus, they assert, as is a Midwestern locale that keeps them in tune with Middle America.
"It's much more like we'll meet clients at greasy spoons than in boardrooms," Mr. Carlson said.
Maybe that's because they don't have a boardroom yet.
"We're not part of the ad culture," Mr. Carlson assured.
The ad veteran of the trio is 30-year-old Mr. Kramer. This week is his last as a J&B brand manager, a post he's held 16 months. Before that, he worked at Miller Brewing Co. (on Lite, Genuine Draft and High Life) and, prior to that, spent three years at Bates USA, New York.
At his new shop, Mr. Kramer will be the "suit"-if a shop called Hayseed would need a suit-pitching business, arranging production and handling internal administrative tasks.
"I'm not concerned on the production process. That's the easiest obstacle," he said. "The challenge for an agency is to have a unique idea and perspective. We're confident we can provide a fresh insight to the client-whether on a beer or spirits brand or a fashion client or sportswear client. I think it's that insight that sets us apart."
Mr. Kramer said Hayseed is negotiating with several prospective clients, but he wouldn't name them. Although none has signed on (not even J&B), he's not concerned.
"It's not from Madison Avenue. It's from Madison, Wisconsin," Mr. Kramer said in his best pitchman's voice.
"Agencies are always starting up," he said, "I've just not heard of any agencies starting up in this sort of way."
Contributing: Laura Petrecca.