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Small Agency of the Year 2014, Silver: Proof Advertising

Austin Agency Delivers Work and Results That Are Anything but Watered Down

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From left: Sparky Witte, group account director; Carolyn Fisher, group media director; Jocelyn Friedman (front row), group account director; Jane Byram (back row), group media eirector; Craig Mikes, exec creative director-owner; Bryan Christian, president-owner; George Ellis, creative director; Ly Tran, director-digital strategy and architecture; Elissa von Czoernig, account director.
From left: Sparky Witte, group account director; Carolyn Fisher, group media director; Jocelyn Friedman (front row), group account director; Jane Byram (back row), group media eirector; Craig Mikes, exec creative director-owner; Bryan Christian, president-owner; George Ellis, creative director; Ly Tran, director-digital strategy and architecture; Elissa von Czoernig, account director.
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Proof Advertising goes by the motto "Nothing Watered Down," which means, according to President Bryan Christian, "climbing out on a limb, charting a new course," among other things.

That's what the Austin-based agency did for Schweigert Meats. Taking the piss out of an industry overrun with chi-chi-fied gourmet products and messaging, Proof brought the 100-year-old Minnesota brand back to the basics with the "Overly Uncomplicated" campaign, featuring no-B.S. ads promoting its hot dogs and sausages. One spot, for example, showed how to turn a weiner into a four-course meal (add three cans of beer), and a print execution simply stated, "It's a sausage, we don't know what else to tell you." Proof topped those off with some delicious promotional pieces, like a hot dog air freshener. The campaign led to a 10% increase in sales year-over-year for Schweigert.

The 115-person shop brought in $11.5 million in gross revenue in 2013, reflecting a 40% jump in two years, and serves other clients like 3M, Subway, Baylor University and the San Antonio Convention and Advertisers Bureau. To them, Mr. Christian said, Proof owes "more than just ads, we owe them a point of view." That thinking translates to work that doesn't necessarily entail TV or traditional media, but online, social and even new product extensions.

Beyond Schweigert, that approach was evident in the agency's "Turkify" campaign for Cargill, which used social media to change young, educated mothers' impressions about boring old turkey, and the "Unforgettable" tourism campaign for San Antonio that reminded potential visitors of all things great about the city -- outside of the Alamo. "Turkify" led to an 11.5% jump in sales of Cargill turkey products during the campaign's run, while the San Antonio campaign spurred a 7% increase in the city's hotel-room demand as well as a jump in Facebook fans from 21,000 to over 300,000.

"Instead of just an ad agency, we'd rather be seen as creative business people who solve business challenges," Mr. Christian said.

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