By Published on .

Freelance writer Cheryl Van Ooyen jokes that when she found art director Matt Myers as a partner she found her "partner in the bizarre. I realized when I met Matt, I would never have to explain why something was funny again," Van Ooyen says.

The pair, who met at Seattle's Elgin DDB Needham two years ago, and recently began testing the New York freelance waters, has an uncanny sense of humor, reminiscent of the skewed fiction of John Irving. Besides a painfully warped spot for Washington Energy Services in which a basset hound's tongue gets stuck in a bowl of nearly frozen water and a spot for Top Food & Drug in which a demented stock boy can't bear to part with a freshly iced fish, consider their JanSport campaign: through the perspective of a ViewMaster, fables unfold about people who would have been better off with a JanSport. In one spot, poor Tim falls asleep naked in biology class on cadaver dissection day, the unsympathetic narrator tells us. If only he'd remembered to wear his JanSport clothes he would have lived to finish medical school. In another, a chap learns that delivering a spleen in a paper bag to a transplant recipient is a mistake: the bloody organ soaks through the bag en route and is eaten by a pack of cats.

"We wanted to make them twisted stories, like old fables for kids," Myers, 35, says."

"There's a weird line of logic that only Matt and I understand," adds Van Ooyen, 31. "People would tell us to change the spleen to a brain, but that's not funny, you don't transplant brains. It has to be grounded in reality."

In reality, their brand of humor has carried them pretty far. After meeting in '94 and working together at Elgin, they began to look around and landed a job early this year at Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners as a senior team on Snapple. But two months later, before they could produce anything, they left to pursue freelance work, developing an image campaign for HBO at BBDO and helping out at Cliff Freeman & Partners.

Certainly, understanding the dynamics of Van Ooyen and Myers illuminates their work. Van Ooyen, who's married, lives in the same Brooklyn apartment building as Myers. A native Californian, Van Ooyen got into advertising with a sociology degree from UCLA. After moving to Washington with her husband, she took classes at the School of Visual Concepts in Seattle and worked at local agency Sharp Hartwig before coming over to Elgin in '94.

Meanwhile, Myers, who grew up near Portland, attended the Pacific Northwest College of Art and the Museum Art school with the intention of being an illustrator. But after working at Borders Perrin & Norrander, he was soon persuaded to join the ranks of art directors. He stayed at BP&N for six years, and worked at Livingston & Co. before landing at Elgin in '91, seasoned with awards campaigns such as one for the Museum of Flight in Seattle.

Myers' awards cache intimidated Van Ooyen, who recalls the first time she worked with him she stayed up the night before prepping. "I'd heard he was real eccentric. I was thinking Howard Hughes."

Myers, who confesses to owning a G.I. Joe collection, seems in sync with Van Ooyen, whose overactive imagination helped spark a few JanSport storylines that even the client couldn't stomach: In a radio spot a fellow is on a safari wearing a suit of steaks-his mother was a seamstress and his father a butcher-and in the hot African sun the smell attracts birds and lions who lunch on him like a man-in-a-blanket. "In every one of these spots," Van Ooyen says with a

Most Popular
In this article: