20 Agencies to Watch

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Glenn Miller and Mickey Taylor, the founders of El Segundo, Calif.-based G&M Plumbing, like to refer to themselves as a Reeses Peanut Butter Cup. "We're two good things rolled into one," jokes Taylor, the wise-cracking copywriter of the creative team. "Mickey's the creamy center," elaborates partner Miller. "I'm the chocolate coating." G&M Plumbing isn't just an agency; it's a production company as well. "We were kind of tired of the way traditional agencies work," explains the 37-year-old Miller, who directs all the agency's spots. The two explain the idea behind the G&M dual setup is to eliminate middleman miscommunication, while at the same time offering overall better value by doing away with separate agency and production company fees. "We realized we could kill two birds with one stone doing everything under one roof, taking it from concept through completion," Miller adds. "And for us, creatively, it's better."

Prior to founding G&M, Taylor and Miller had extensive agency experience. The 36-year-old Taylor, G&M's CD/copywriter, worked for TBWA Chiat/Day, BBDO West, and Della Femina, for clients like The Weather Channel, Nissan, and Sony Playstation. Miller had been a producer at Bozell, Deutsch, and Saatchi & Saatchi, and he later worked as a director out of his own Glenn Miller Productions. Taylor and Miller finally joined forces in July 1999, and just last month, the four-person agency transplanted to storefront digs in neighboring El Segundo, where a passerby might easily mistake the outfit for the john servicers the G&M Plumbing monicker suggests. "It was somewhat random with a little bit of thought behind it," says Miller of the name. "We didn't want to pick something that was too pretentious. It sounded straightforward but at the same time we do consider ourselves problem solvers that can come in at the last minute. We do kind of look at ourselves like plumbers," he adds. "We get your pipes clean," laughs Taylor.

From the looks of the G&M reel, their creative plunger has been working overtime. G&M took on the broadcast assignment for fast food chain Del Taco last year, introducing a bumbling spokesman, Dan, who resorts to seemingly futile Don Quixote-like antics to undermine the monolithic influence of number one competitor Taco Bell. In one spot, Dan proudly erects a mini Del Taco Crispy Chicken Taco billboard in front of the Taco Bell headquarters, to serve as a constant reminder that "They don't have my Big Fat Crispy Chicken Taco!" As he stands next to the sign, a huge truck (with a big G&M Plumbing logo) comes to a screeching halt before him, hiding the sign from view. In another spot, Dan taunts a Taco Bell product manager over the speakerphone, asking "Have you come up with a burrito as big as a Del Taco Macho Burrito?" "No," says the manager. Dan joyously teases "My burrito's bigger than yours!" and then tries to hang up, only to find that the product manager is still on the line, instructing him how to operate the phone.

Humor with a Cause

Tim Hackbardt, VP-marketing at Del Taco, says the G&M humor fit perfectly with the sell. "If you look at the reel of Del Taco work, every commercial is focused on something: `My burrito's bigger than yours'. `There's a lot of cheese in our quesadillas.' They go into what the customer wants and they just break it down into the basics. They're great at getting across one simple message. It's funny, and you remember it, but it's not just a funny spot with a big logo stuck on at the end. They don't just do funny commercials. They're all funny in relation to what is being sold."

The G&M style, inspired by the humor of the Farrelly brothers, the Coen brothers and Cliff Freeman, gets the point across for other clients as well. Miller and Taylor filmed a "running and gunning" six spots in one day for the FX Network's testosterone-fueled X Show, with a difficult idea to boot. "It was a very tough concept to sell through because they wanted to be able to explain the show," remembers Taylor. "The client wanted a lot of information about the show in the spots and we decided to couch that in a guy that drives around in a car and funny things happen around him." The message comes through clearly, as the X Show guy drives alongside a pair of women walking their dogs, explaining to them via roof-mounted loudspeakers that besides bodily functions and women kissing, men also enjoy art and culture. He then abruptly puts the car in reverse when a scantily clad jogger babe bounces by from the opposite direction. Other notable work includes commercials for ongoing client THQ videogames. One spot for the Evil Dead II game features a hilarious scene in which a man rejoices over a successful operation to get his arm surgically replaced with a chainsaw, then plunges off his gurney from the massive weight of his add-on.

Currently, Taylor and Miller are preparing Del Taco's Dan for bigger escapades while making a major push to get their name out there. Mind you, they're quite satisfied and busy for now (last year they put out 25 spots and had billings of about $4 million), but they're secretly pining for that dream gig. And what would that be? "A perfume, maybe a shampoo," muses Taylor. "Playboy would also fall into that. Any client that we could shoot beautiful, half-naked women for."

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