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Are these guys the team of the moment or what? Art director Chuck Bennett and copywriter Clay Williams just helped win not only the Samsonite business for TBWA Chiat/Day in Venice but the humongous Taco Bell creative assignment as well.

In addition, they've been promoted to group CDs to help fill the void left by the recent departure of Steve Rabosky (who leapt to The Leap Partnership), and they're still basking in the glow of Nissan's "Enjoy the Ride" campaign, which has managed to turn around not only perceptions about the creative capabilities of Chiat/Day but the agency's new-business prospects as well.

Says Lee Clow, with a degree of understatement, "They go beyond the traditional definition of a good team."

As Williams and Bennett have watched their stock rise, they've maintained what appears to be a kind of business as usual outlook, which is probably due to the fact that these are two relatively down to earth guys who are quite grounded, in both their personal and professional lives. Both are well-settled-Bennett has been married for a decade, Williams involved in a similarly lengthy relationship-and they both dote over their homes, although Bennett's tastes seem to run toward Frank Geary, while Williams is more the Martha Stewart type. "I think we approach the business with a level of maturity that is perhaps atypical for creatives," says the 35-year-old Williams.

"Yeah, there's not a lot of turmoil in our lives," adds the 43-year-old Bennett. "It's really just about our desire to do cool work and hang our asses out there on a daily basis."

The two met in 1992 while at Stein Robaire Helm. Williams, a Northern California native who had been brought down from Goodby Silverstein & Partners, was on staff there, while Bennett, a native of Colorado who had done stints at the L.A. offices of McCann, Ayer and The Shalek Agency, had been freelancing for a number of years. The two hit it off and Bennett joined full time. Together they did award-winning work on Clarion car stereos, Day Runner and The Orange County Register; they were also present during the agency's last days, prior and just after its ill-fated merger with Kresser Craig.

From there they moved to Chiat/Day, but only after getting assurances from Clow that he was determined to put the shop back on course to do interesting work, not make interesting news copy. >24

Appropriately, most of the headlines the agency has made recently have been about the work, and Williams and Bennett have played a key role in that, largely thanks to the Nissan campaign. The pair worked on the first three teaser spots last year, then collaborated on the hilarious "Doggie Mind Control" spot for the Pathfinder, where all the dogs in town take a spin that leaves a mesmerized Pathfinder owner out in the street, and that eerie "Parking Meter" spot for the Maxima.

While the Nissan "Toys" spot, with its Will Vinton-created Ken and Barbie joyriders, seems to have been the one getting most of the attention, Williams and Bennett worked on developing what the overall "Enjoy the Ride" campaign was all about, and also figured out how to incorporate the mythical Mr. K character into the mix. "At its simplest," says Williams, "the campaign is about making the way people interact with Nissan at an advertising level enjoyable." It tries to embody a laid-back, feel-good outlook on life, one that Bennett says "begins at Point A, which is when you're born, and ends at Point B, which is when you die. Everything in between is about enjoying the ride. Life is fun, life is cool, so you should drive a cool car." Ah, account planning at work.

The two seem content with the fact that their contribution to the campaign is duly noted by people like Clow and the top Nissan execs, and while they respect and admire the "Toys" spot, they claim not to be jealous. Besides, says Bennett, "If it hadn't been for our sort of creating this premise called 'Enjoy the Ride,' 'Toys' would have never existed. It would have been just a really nice spot that got presented internally once and never would have happened."

Having been together four years, Williams and Bennett are now poised to reap the benefits of their mutual creative simpatico. Obviously, talent and a healthy measure of fortuitous chemistry have gotten them to this point. "When you're in a business where people are really opinionated, and you're paid for your opinions, it's a potential source of conflict," says Williams. "So having a chemistry that works consistently over a long period of time is a pretty rare thing. For us, it's also been a pretty valuable thing. I think we're more valuable as a team than we are as individuals. We have a shorthand that enables us to quickly develop work, and to work well with each other. As a result, we're much more productive, and more valuable to the people who pay us to do what we do."

In turn, these people have given them more management responsibility, which the partners seem ready for, even though they're curious to see how it will affect their own work. "It's definitely something we want to do," says Williams of the promotion. "We're determined to try and lead by example, and continue to do the kind of work we love."-Anthony Vagnoni

Ian Reichenthal and Wayne Best are celebrating their year-long tenure at Cliff Freeman & Partners. There are, quite honestly, very few places at the moment they'd prefer to find themselves. None of those places happen to be other ad agencies.

Reichenthal, 27, who started out at Ammirati Puris Lintas/New York as a storyboard/scanner guy who was eventually promoted to junior copywriter, states it plainly: "We wanted to come to Cliff Freeman." Why? "The agency is funny. It seemed to match our sensibilities. And it was tougher to get that kind of work through Ammirati." Best, 29, who, while freelancing at Ammirati was partnered with Reichenthal upon his promotion, agrees wholeheartedly.

What kind of work are we talking about here? Well, the first spot these two peas in a pod worked on, with the help of CF&P's Greg Bell, Roger Camp and Matt Vescovo, was for Staples, entitled "I Wuv You." Put simply, there's this sappy bonehead in several scenes overflowing with amorous affection for somebody on the other end of his mobile phone. The last scene has three firemen sitting around an answering machine, listening intently. "Shouldn't we tell him he's got the wrong number?" asks one. "Nah," says another. "It's cute."

Another example is their "Family Tree" print ad for the Sauza tequila "Life is Harsh" campaign; one of the few print ads that can make you truly laugh out loud, it features doctored stock shots and a guy who landed some really poor genes. Both ads sort of speak for themselves as "that kind of work." Not much else need be said.

That's not to say Reichenthal and Best didn't do work that made 'em smile elsewhere. Print campaigns for the YMCA, Kirshenbaum Law Associates and Hillshire Farms (which were done while the guys were at APL) all picked up awards last year, and a spot for RCA, also done at Ammirati under creative director Tod Seisser, is among some of their more treasured work as well.

Nevertheless, while still being somewhat shocked at landing positions in their agency of dreams, they're as content as they could possibly imagine themselves and still sport that raised-eyebrows "li'l ol' me?" look of innocent surprise. Appropriately, they loathe any suggestions of scenery adjustment. "I don't know where else you go from here," explains Best. "This is the place we were looking for; there is no reason to leave."

Their enthusiasm for the work is >26 shared with just about everyone at this intimate agency (the creative department numbers less than a dozen), and it's shared selflessly. Much of what comes out of Cliff Freeman & Partners is a collective effort, and not only does this team not mind at all, they appreciate this approach. "We're not overly concerned with recognition," says Best. "There are so many people here with so much talent. What makes the work strong is that it is collaborative."

Reichenthal adds that the greater the number of creatives working on a script, the more likely it'll be funny, and that the proper evolution of a piece is dependent upon the varying perspectives and input. They use the Cherry Coke "Ostrich" spot, which Reichenthal and Best worked on with Roger Camp and Michelle Roufa, and their latest for Staples, "Gladys Puts Her Foot Down" (which they worked on with Josh Miller and Matt Vescovo), in which a shrill-voiced office manager screams her way toward fear and respect in the office, as examples of work that improved as their colleagues put their respective two cents in.

"We've sold our souls to the collective good," says Best.-Ivy Kazenoff

The love connection: "I Wuv You," for Staples.

Art director Mark Erwin had only been working with freelance copywriter Wendi Knox a few months when he became convinced of their creative chemistry. So when the Los Angeles office of Ketchum Advertising wavered about hiring her full time, Erwin took matters into his own hands. He marched into his creative director's office and announced: "I met this person and I want to work with her, and I want to work with her here."

They hired her. "This guy has chutzpah," Knox remembers thinking. "That click factor, you just can't manufacture it," Erwin adds. "We had it in the first week." And while the irony is that Erwin and Knox left six months later to freelance, it was a pivotal juncture in their relationship.

Now, six years later, Erwin, 39, and Knox, 43, are still together as associate creative directors at Rubin Postaer & Associates in Santa Monica, pitching new business and producing and overseeing work for Honda, Unicare (a managed care company), California Pizza Kitchens and Fidelity Bank. They're a senior team with an edgy reel. Take the '96 Honda Accord campaign directed by the Coen Brothers and ranked among the Top Ten campaigns of the year by The New York Times. Tagged "Simplify," the spots use cinematic metaphors to highlight the serenity of buying an Accord.

Commercials for Philips' defunct CD-I entertainment system which broke in '94, starring former Saturday Night Live star Phil Hartman, are even stranger. Trying to find a clever way to cram all the product points into the spots, Erwin and Knox turned it into a quick-cutting spoof, with Hartman assuming multiple personalities, from a fawning mother to a demented little boy to a shouting electronics salesman. The team also helped launch the Honda Odyssey minivan, being the first to license and animate the late artist Keith Haring's drawings.

"They're thoroughly knowledgeable and professional about the business, and they've come up with one solid, strong award-winning campaign after another," says creative director Larry Postaer. "I don't lose a night's sleep when I know they're on the case."

Describing Erwin as the calm "Gary Cooper" half and Knox as more highstrung, Postaer says that in the end, "I honestly don't know who thought of what; it's a solid collaboration. They seem to be completely harmonious."

That synchronous working style is indicative of their training. Erwin, a native of L.A, attended the University of >25 Texas/Austin, studying to be a copywriter. But when he interviewed for jobs in New York, he was offered a junior art director position at FCB. "I always thought I'd switch back to being a writer," he says. "When I became a CD it become less and less important to me." He worked at Scali McCabe Sloves in New York, and then moved to L.A. when Scali opened a West Coast office. Eventually he found himself at Ketchum.

Conversely, Knox, who grew up near Oakland, Calif., had every intention of being an art director; she studied art history at UCLA and took night classes at the Advertising Center in L.A. before a headhunter recommended that she switch to writing. "I have a good visual sense but my drawing is stuck in sixth grade," Knox jests. She worked at L.A. agencies Hall & Levine and Dailey & Associates, before jumping on the Southern California freelance circuit, spending the bulk of her time at Chiat/Day, winning more awards and getting more work produced than many of the full-timers there, she claims. By the early '90s she found herself enjoying a freelance project at Rubin Postaer. "This place was such a panacea," she explains. She agreed to go full-time in '94 as long as she could have Erwin, with whom she'd been freelancing off and on since '91, as her ACD partner.

Just how joined at the hip is this team? Would you find them sharing an office? "No, thank God," Knox says, "we need our space." Most likely you'll find them hashing out concepts over lunch at the Broadway Deli, where Knox says "we can name booths where we've come up with different campaigns." And while they've both had other excellent partners, Knox says, Erwin is the only one with whom she continues to grow. "When you look at an ad and ask yourself, 'Is it just me or does that suck?' it's good to get confirmation from someone you trust," says Erwin.-Pat Riedman

A nerd in need: Phil Harman for Philips CD-I.

Wells Rich Greene, New York, team Alon Shoval and Ralph Yznaga talk about honesty in advertising. A lot. In fact, it seems that laying truth on the line is the primary objective in just about all of their work. And as different as they are in character, that common goal is what they find most pleasant and most productive about their creative marriage.

Take their year-old campaign for Heineken, for example. Concepts often found on "Heineken Nights"-evenings spent pub crawling in search of the night's most absurd overheard conversations-are illustrative of that much sought after truth. Of the more recent series for the import beer, one spot has the voiceover of a couple on a date, arguing over the fact that one member of the party has never read Moby Dick. Another is a locked down shot of some pathetically impassioned guy in beads and a tie-dye screeching on the karaoke stage to "I Will Survive." All that's been added is a one-word titlecard, "Unfortunately."

The spots are painful to watch, but that's the point. Says Shoval, "The heart of the spots is the recognition that you've been there. They're about truth." As a team, they both concede they're "trying to go further than the cliches we've been taught in the industry." So they've created an icon with the Heineken red star, and mocked it a little.

Their satirical style is resonant in other campaigns as well. The POP work they've done for Condomania, a small Greenwich Village shop that sells more prophylactic paraphernalia than the average Joe would ever need, disregards the safe sex element of condoms and emphasizes strictly the fun of sex, with condom balloon animals and the common tagline, "Bring out the beast." And the long copy ad they did encouraging equal opportunity throughout the advertising industry opens with a shameful truthfulness: "They needed an ad about equal opportunity, so they asked two white guys to write it."

Yznaga, 37, a native of the Lone Star State, studied at the University of Texas at Austin and landed his first job in advertising as an assistant art director at JWT/New York. He moved on to Young & Rubicam and then Saatchi & Saatchi before being hired at WRG. He's also got a children's photography thing going on the side. He and Shoval have been a team for nearly two years now, and Yznaga has no complaints. "I hadn't had a really good working experience until I began working with Alon. He pushes me a lot, and I always agree with him."

"No, you don't," argues Shoval, 34, who was born in Israel but raised near London and studied at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, in hopes of writing for the theater. Shoval, who describes himself as the "blacker and more forthright" of the duo (whereas Yznaga is "concentrated"), started his career at O&M/London and then, following a girlfriend and a band, went to Y&R/Paris working as a freelancer on the European Nintendo account. Frustrated with the "visual metaphor" style of European ads, Shoval followed a colleague to New York. "I wanted to write in my own language," he confesses. Shoval describes their teamship >26 in an unusual way. "Ralph is sorta Mr. Anal and I'm Mr. Angry. I think it's a good combination." And Yznaga takes the same concept and makes it a little more palatable, in their usual style: "We don't really see life the same way. It's made a dynamic combination, though, and we've learned a lot together." Although Shoval laments the fact that the two have separate offices ("In England, you share everything with your partner," he professes), he agrees with Yznaga that, "the team is sacrosanct. It's essential."-Ivy Kazenoff

Miami's Crispin Porter & Bogusky has made quite a mud-spattering print splash in the knobby-snobby world of serious mountain biking with its buff book ads for Shimano bike parts, and, curiously, all of it is the work of the oddly configured team of Tony Calcao, Markham Cronin and Scott Linnen. Yes, it's a trio for Shimano, one writer (Linnen) and two ADs, and no one's the third wheel. But, still, why three? No one is quite sure. "Must be the amount of work," guesses Linnen, 35. "We're a '90s kind of team!" offers Cronin, 31. "Uh, there have always been the three of us on this account," adds Calcao, who, at 24, is considered "just a pup" by his colleagues. They also work as a trio on other accounts like AvMet healthcare and the Miami Heat, but they can't really explain the origins of the three-pronged attack, so, never mind, the trinity is an eternal mystery.

In any event, they must be doing something right. Since CP&B landed the account in late '95, they've produced in excess of 60 ads for Shimano, and there's nary a bent spoke in the bunch. In fact, not only is there no other bike advertising like it but Shimano's rad sophistication stands out in the entire extreme sports field. There was the elegant James Bondian "Techno-Thriller" campaign, the hilarious series of 14 action figures based on real mountain bike racers and their personal quirks, and, most recently, the "Guts" campaign, featuring odd scenes like bike parts in formaldehyde next to jars of human and animal organs, and a Fox TV-style alien autopsy that yields prime gear material (all three campaigns were featured in Creativity's Upfront section). They've also done two campaigns for Shimano footwear, the first nicely tagged with the image of toes spread like a peace sign with the slogan, "Power to the pedal," and a more recent one based on fanciful Japanese monster movie characters, with shoes that have names like Mudzilla and Metatarsalon.

If only Shimano had a bit more exposure (all the print campaigns will be up for awards consideration this year, at least); TV has been talked about, but it's not in the budget yet, nor is general-interest print media, for that matter. "Despite the size of Shimano, most of our work is produced on a shoestring," says Cronin. "We're trying to talk them into expanding to reach beyond the bike race/mountain biking set," to maybe a nice commercial on the ESPN2 mountain bike show, for instance, but don't get the idea these guys are complaining about their dream client. "Shimano is very cool; they demand the unusual," says Linnen. "They're in the odd position of being sort of the IBM of the bike industry; they're a huge Japanese conglomerate and they have to talk to mountain bikers, who hate being advertised to. Shimano realized they were really low on the cool factor, and that's why they picked us. And they push us. We'll show them stuff we think is good, and they'll say, 'It's not up to what you showed us the last time, go further.' "

Cronin is the Crispin vet here, with five years at the agency. Linnen and Calcao joined CP&B two years ago, the former after a stint at Harris Drury Cohen in Ft. Lauderdale, the latter straight out of college. They all rode mountain bikes before they got the Shimano account, they claim, though Tony is the biggest rider of the three now, say his cohorts, "and he's the only one whose bike hasn't been stolen yet," according to Linnen. "Yeah, Tony rides all the time with [creative director] Alex Bogusky," adds Cronin. "The rest of us are too busy doing the work."

How do they brainstorm? "Communal showers," they agree. Well, OK, you do get mighty sweaty in Florida. "Most of this work gets done at lunch, actually," says Linnen. "We generally work alone, then get together and pool our ideas and see where we are."

Do they socialize outside of work? "What's outside of work?" wonders Calcao. "When we're asleep?"

"We're all very different," says Cronin. "We do see each other a little bit after hours, but we don't have much in the way of social lives to begin with. I'm married, Tony is about to get married and Scott has absolutely no friends and no family."

"But we get along pretty well," says Linnen, smoothly ignoring the apparently continuous intramural kidding. "Occasionally there's a fight, with the throwing and the yelling, but there's generally a good atmosphere here. I've been at other places where there are closed doors and politics, but that doesn't happen here. There's rarely a day when you don't want to get up and come in, and that's unusual."-Terry Kattleman

Surprisingly, there's no such thing as "on a lighter note" with Paul Malmstrom and Linus Karlsson, the two Swedish imports at Fallon McElligott who've created the controversial Miller Lite campaign starring "creative superstar Dick." There's not much that's light about them, at least not when they're together, speaking as a team.

They're very into advertising. And so they should be. Their work on Miller Lite (they've also done wild TV campaigns for the Swedish Keno Lottery, Bjorn Borg underwear, Turelli pasta, OLW snacks and a variety of music promotions) has created a controversy in the industry and apparently boosted sales of the long-ailing brand practically overnight. And, as further justification, they love what they do and have genuine faith that they're good at it.

One would never guess that these two are the pair that have invented such commercial quirkiness as the Can Caddy for Miller Lite and Le Look le Plus Cool for Diesel. First impressions suggest they're somewhat straight-laced and on the more business-minded side. In fact, these guys, not native to the English language, stumble over only one word: "eccentric." They defend their work to the core, and, says Malmstrom, 30, the art director of a team that prefers not to take on any such limiting titles (they have a lot of trouble describing themselves individually), "Our stuff's not weird. The stuff you see on TV everyday is what's weird," later adding, as if defending himself against his most outspoken critics, "Relax. It's only advertising. It's only beer."

What does he mean by this? Both Malmstrom and Karlsson, 28, speak of their philosophy of the industry, illustrated by ideas of infectiousness and economic system analogies. Says Malmstrom, "Advertising is like a germ. If you enter the consumer's head in just the right way, he gets a cold." And Karlsson explains that that germ may actually be a beneficial invader, if offering the right stuff. "Advertising should be enriching. Otherwise you're stealing the viewer's 30 seconds. We want advertising to be a dialogue, a give and take." Adds Malmstrom, "We're looking to give more than we take."

"That's the new economic system. That's the way it should be," concludes Karlsson.

Both guys acknowledge their fortunate situation. They believe their ability to enter the minds of (just like a germ) and entertain consumers is a direct result of their client's utter coolness. "We're lucky," >26 they agree. They still can't see that their work, to many minds, is offbeat. The concept is foreign to them. And what response do they have to the criticism that it is often a little more burning than "offbeat"? Says Malmstrom, "You get sad, but it doesn't really matter."

Both Karlsson and Malmstrom grew up in the suburbs of Stockholm ("bad neighborhoods," says Karlsson) and the two met at a private advertising school, RMI Berghs, Stockholm. Malmstrom helped open Paradiset DDB about six years ago and speaks of nailing beams and floorboards during the working hours and churning out a few ads during lunch breaks. There were three guys there then. Karlsson arrived about six months later and the agency has grown considerably, its staff totaling about 22 now, creative and account people being one and the same.

But, this past October, after a two-day visit with Bill Westbrook, Malmstrom and Karlsson left Stockholm to join Fallon McElligott because they like America and Minneapolis ("People there are slow and friendly, kind of like Sweden," says Malmstrom of the city), they liked FM and Bill Westbrook ("There's something special there; even though it's a big agency, it feels like a small one," says Karlsson) and because they think the move will encourage even greater creativity. "We wanted to lose control because that's when the ideas come," explains Malmstrom. "When you get too comfortable, you don't work your best," says Karlsson, adding, "there's a part of chaos, within a structure, that's necessary for creativity."

And they'll be able to do that so long as things continue the way they have. Although Malmstrom and Karlsson have only three criticisms of life in the States (the first is that it's too easy to get a driver's license over here; the second is the bureaucracy; the third is that Americans, according to these guys, have taken advertising too far: "They've forgotten how good it can be," says Karlsson, adding later, "There are other ways to communicate, but some people are afraid of taking risks"), apparently, none of these complaints are too grave.

Karlsson concludes the conversation with a contagious appreciation. "We both think the Miller work is the best work we've ever done," he says. "We're extremely proud of it. We think Miller is very brave. We hope to change the

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