'Avenging Angels': Issues agency takes left turn

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Call it a Case study.

In 1964, while working for Doyle Dane Bernbach, Gene Case spent six months on the re-election campaign of President Lyndon B. Johnson.

"Actually," Mr. Case said, "it was less a campaign for Johnson than it was a campaign against [Barry] Goldwater. But it was one of the most thrilling and exciting six months I ever spent in my life. I caught the bug and I've always had the disease."

The bug is what led Mr. Case to create what he calls an "instrument of mass instruction"-Avenging Angels, a for-profit advertising firm based in New York that the former partner in Jordan McGrath Case & Partners opened last year with Peter Cohen, who was exec VP-TV production, Jordan McGrath. (Havas' Arnold Worldwide, now known as Arnold McGrath, absorbed Mr. Case's agency.)

Avenging Angels is best described as an issues-oriented shop, referred to as "an alliance of talents in the arts of persuasion," according to one brochure. And Avenging Angels is a firm decidedly dedicated to those whose causes swing unequivocally to the left. Conservatives need not apply.


"People who work with us know us," Mr. Cohen said. "If they have a right-wing approach to something, we won't do it."

Messrs. Case and Cohen aren't the first creatives to open a shop dedicated to one vision-particularly this one-but they are gaining notoriety.

"Normally, you might not care about a niche shop, but because it's Gene Case, you do," said North Carolina-based agency consultant Hasan Ramusevic of Hasan & Co. "Gene is passionate about this and he doesn't need to go out and create a general-practice kind of shop. He's doing what he feels like. It isn't stuff with a lot of media weight and it's stuff that, by and large, the general public isn't going to see. They're going after specific targets."

So far, Avenging Angels has worked for, among others, Business Leaders for Sensible Priorities; The Nation magazine; National Council of Churches; Nuclear Information and Resource Service; Peace Action; Maine's Sunrise Alliance; 20/20 Vision; and United for a Fair Economy.

The shop's most recent campaign was a series of 60-second radio spots for Riverkeeper, a non-profit environmental group calling for the closure of the Indian Point nuclear power plant in the wake of Sept. 11. The plant is located near Peekskill, N.Y., less than 50 miles from New York City. The advertising uses excerpts from President George W. Bush's State of the Union Address in January, including "Our discoveries in Afghanistan confirmed our worst fears. . . . We have found diagrams of nuclear power plants."

After speaking with Ben Cohen, co-founder of the successful Ben and Jerry's ice cream franchise and a political activist, Mr. Case was more convinced than ever that he should start Avenging Angels.

"Look, after 30, 40 years, Peter and I think we may have learned a thing or two," Mr. Case said. "You can never predict how your work is going to be perceived. But we think we're good at it and we think we can create succinct verbal messages and powerful images that do get the stories of these advocacy groups across."

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