In praise of TOKY

The 53rd Communication Arts Advertising Annual arrived in my mailbox yesterday.

I love to see great work, so opening the cardboard mailer that holds each CA is always a treat. When it’s the Ad Annual, it’s like opening the Christmas present that you weren’t sure what exactly was in it but could hardly wait to get your hands on it to find out.

Last night, I quickly devoured its contents. For those of you who don’t know, Communication Arts comes out five times a year and features the best work being done in advertising, design, interactive, photography and illustration.

The Ad Annual has changed through the years. Back in the late 80s and early 90s, each annual was packed with magazine and newspaper ads, outdoor boards, as well as scripts for radio and key frames for TV commercials. These days, the Ad Annual has gotten a lot smaller but the work is still outstanding.

This marks the 33rd consecutive year that I’ve had nothing in it and that depresses me each year but I always vow that next year will be the year. I’ve actually only had a grand total of four entries that I ever considered CA-worthy. None of them made it.

So I always peruse the Annual to see if any other St. Louis agencies had anything in it. To my knowledge, there are none – though I did see a fantastic campaign created by Barkley out of Kansas City with Paul Behnen as the Executive Creative Director. Paul went to St. Louis U High, graduated a year below me and he recently moved to Barkley after spending many years in New York. I also noticed that Claude Shade showed up as a photographer for a Goodby Silverstein campaign. Claude was an awesome art director at TBWA back when they were doing great stuff here in St. Louis.

Okay, but I thought this was titled, “In praise of TOKY”.

It is. Because as I was devouring all of the contents of the Ad Annual portion of CA, I completely missed the spotlight portion that they do each edition highlighting some hot ad or design firm.

So tonight as I was getting ready to revisit all the ad work again, I noticed four letters on the cover that leaped out at me. TOKY.

I’ve know Eric Thoelke since about 1985 or so. We were both board members on the Not Just An Art Directors’ Club and Eric and I worked on a few mailers for the club together.

I have always had the highest regard for Eric and he’s been the guiding force (backed by his wife and business partner, Mary) in making his shop a truly special place in St. Louis that does absolutely amazing work for a very interesting client mix. Communication Arts devoted 10 pages to profiling the company and the work they do.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Reading the article inspired me. Eric talked about the early days and how much hard work he had to put in to get things rolling. To quote him via CA, “When you get it going, it’s like pushing a boulder, all of a sudden you turn around and the boulder starts to get some momentum. Pretty soon, the boulder is chasing you down the hill instead of you pushing it. If you’re lucky, you get to hop on the boulder and kind of run on top of it for a while, while it’s moving.”

It’s moving and it’s picking up even more momentum.

Keep it going, Eric and congrats to each and every employee of Toky Design.

Myself, I’ve got a boulder that I’m trying to push.

The 50 most creative ad people over 50

Today, I ran across an article on about the 30 most creative people under 30. It’s an impressive list and the work they are doing is fresh and unexpected.

Go here to see it:

That got me thinking about creating a new list, one that I think would contain work that is equally fresh and unexpected. Perhaps even more so because here you might find a list filled with people who have been creating great work for clients for years and years.

I don’t have this list yet. People like Lee Clow and David LuBars immediately came to mind. I dug a little deeper into my memory bank and came up with Neil French (one of my all-time favorite copywriters), David Abbott, Dan Wieden, Mike Lescarbeau, Luke Sullivan, Tom McElligott, Lionel Hunt, Mike Hughes and Jeff Goodby.

If you wanted to expand that list to the digital world and also include photographers or directors you would quickly add in Robert Greenberg or Joe Pytka. And that is certainly only the tip of the iceberg.

For those of you in St. Louis, we could start our own list. My list would begin with Tom Townsend, Jon Bruton, David Bartels, Eric Thoelke and branch out from there.

Problem is, I don’t know what all of these people are doing right now – most are in leadership roles, inspiring or overseeing great creative. I don’t know if they are actually writing or art directing or shooting though I’m sure they are certainly heavily involved in the process.

I always aspired to be among those names.

I still do.

One thing that really struck me in looking at the work samples of the 30 under 30 list is how heavily integrated the advertising is these days.

It has to be.

The days of the big budget, nationally broadcast commercials to sell product or push a brand are behind us. They’re still done, though not as frequently. When they are, they have to be launched on the internet, hyped on the internet and have many tentacles that reach down to customers and find them at a variety of touchpoints.

These days, there is almost as much creativity that goes in to finding and reaching the target audience and connecting on their level as their is to the actual idea itself.

But ideas still rule.

Doesn’t matter how old you are for that.

Big ideas can cut through anything.

So I ask you, who would you put on the most creative ad people over 50 list? My only criteria would be, they still have to be in the game.

It would be nice if a few media outlets would turn their attention away for a few moments from the next generation of great ad thinkers and instead salute the ones who’ve been doing it year after year.

Who’s on your list?