Ten years ago at the Richards Group in Dallas, Gary Pascoe and John Payne were merely smoking partners. Everyday, they'd take the long hike to the agency's off-campus smoking warren and en route, they realized they had much more in common than tobacco (which they've both succesfully given up since). Eventually they got to put their heads together on a job-TGI Fridays table cards promoting jalape -- o poppers. "We were junior creative guys and we took it so incredibly seriously and were up until four in the morning working on that silly thing," laughs Pascoe. Their efforts culminated in a sunny yellow starburst, which the client picked over their clever copy. Nevertheless, the pair went on to gain valuable experience on the agency's beer clients, Motel 6, and Continental Airlines. Seven years ago, the team moved to the L.A. office of TBWA/Chiat/Day, and on to assignments for Taco Bell, Sony PlayStation, Infiniti, Levi's and Nissan. Now creative directors, the pair most notably conceived the Cannes Lion-winning campaign for Whiskas that takes the cat food commercial out of the kitchen and into the safari, showing the domestic feline in pursuit of wild animals. "I don't think we could have come up with that if we weren't both into cats," explains Payne, owner of a black short hair, P.T. Adds Pascoe, who cares for an obese mentally-challenged calico named Barkley, "The client wanted to position Whiskas as a cat food company that embraces cats and catness but we realized that nobody really talks about cats the way cats really are. They're either wearing a little top hats and dancing around or talking like humans. There's something really funny about the way cats will transform into this little beast in your living room because a butterfly comes in. Cats are in touch with their animal instincts. They haven't sold out like dogs."
The team also presented a new angle on motor oil in a campaign featuring anthropomorphized engines that jump out of their sheet metal skins to get their next Pennzoil fix. "We realized that all the oil companies were talking to the same gear heads and macho grease guys," explains Pascoe. "Why not broaden the audience and treat oil more like a Pepsi or Budweiser? And if Pennzoil is Budweiser, then who's the frat boy that wants it? The engine." Currently, the pair is producing a new Pennzoil spot and continues to oversee Whiskas and Shell Chemicals. Chopped liver and grease at first might not seem like thrilling subjects, but Payne reflects, "We started off in the dregs working on the worst assignments. Even now, we always have kind of the same attitude-this is the thing that nobody's paying attention to but maybe we can do something really good with it. "