WHEN MICHAEL MIGLIOZZI AND KENDALL JOHNSON, otherwise known as the New York-based freelancers called Two Guys Who Do Ads, created a PSA for the Ryan White Foundation last year, they had little idea that it would change their lives. The ad took the form of a fax soliciting money for the AIDS teen educational agency, sent out at random. "This fax is a demonstration of having no choice in receiving something you weren't even aware you'd get," it read. "Think of how children with AIDS feel."
The Foundation liked it so much that they're re-using it in a celebrity fund-raiser in April. But when it started popping up in the trade press, including Creativity's Upfront section, the Two Guys themselves were receiving things they weren't aware they'd get, like calls from Old World Brewing Co., which makes New York Harbor Ale, and ESPN, which forced the pair to turn a part-time gig into a full-time business. They moved into, of all places, some renovated offices in a Brooklyn church (denomination unknown) and dropped some smaller trade account clients, including a company that makes educational aids. "We didn't want to be stuck in Highlights magazine forever," says Johnson. "This just took on a life of its own."
Part of Two Guys' appeal, as its name implies, is its outer-borough lack of pretension, which reflects the style of creative a client is likely to find there: no-nonsense, street-smart ads without frilly type garnishes. While they're fans of classic British advertising and the retro-kitsch of Charles S. Anderson, Migliozzi and Johnson have no formal design training. They rely on simple images and short copy and headlines to get their point across: an American Psychological Center poster, for instance, is nothing more than a fallout shelter sign with the walk-in college clinic's name and logo at the bottom.
While they've freelanced regularly together for the past few years, Migliozzi and Johnson, both 29 and native New Yorkers, met in 1987 while attending the College of Staten Island. After graduating with a marketing degree, Migliozzi enrolled in copywriting classes at SVA while freelancing, eventually getting a chance to work for Mad Dogs & Englishmen, Crispin & Porter and, most recently, Wieden & Kennedy. Johnson, who graduated with a psychology degree, worked in the MTV publicity department before she went out on her own, getting drawn into more and more projects with Migliozzi. As a team they're emotional counterweights-the soft-spoken Johnson being the rational one (she's more likely to point out when an ad just isn't cutting it) to Migliozzi's self-admitted emotional side. "She keeps me honest," he says. So honest, they were just able to persuade a jittery Old World Brewing client to run an ad for New York Harbor Ale Dark, which reads, "New York Harbor Ale Dark. Real Dark" underneath the braille translations of the words "real dark."
"He was worried that 15 blind people would be picketing outside his office," Migliozzi says of the client. "I told him if they're going to be out there so are all the TV news cameras."-Patricia A. Riedman
Jenny Berry & Kathy Salomon
FREELANCE ART DIRECTOR JENNY BERRY AND COPY-writer Kathy Salomon named their Atlanta operation Clockworks, and even styled their stationery after time cards, though punctuality really wasn't what they had in mind. The name refers to a philosophy expressed in Tom Robbins' "Even Cowgirls get the Blues"-freedom is more important than joy. "If you have freedom," Berry explains, "it's amazing how much happiness comes naturally." Clockworks, she says, "is totally out of happiness that we don't have to punch a time clock. We're the Sissy Hankshaws of Generation X, except we use our books to hitchhike around instead of our thumbs."
And they've already had more success than the "Cowgirls" movie. Since opening in October, headquartered in the apartment they share, Salomon and Berry are working with W.T. Quinn, a small New Jersey agency, via computer linkup, as well as the Guitar Center, a Los Angeles-based chain of instrument stores, and Creative Loafing, an alternative newspaper chain and online service that offers entertainment information for cities around the country. Ads for the classified section feature typical outrageous Personals listings, covered with scrawling type headlines: "So, you're reading the Personals just for the amusement? No doubt, Friday night you'll be enjoying Penthouse just for the articles," or "Get a real reason to call in late for work."
"Our work isn't visually 'feminine' or delicate," says Berry. "We just want to hit 'em hard," adds Salomon.
Salomon, 26, and Berry, 32, met just over a year ago at the Zimmer-