An unexpected blast from the past

The music grabbed by attention and pulled me upstairs

The music from this 60-second commercial grabbed by attention and pulled me upstairs.

I was downstairs painting Thursday night, starting in on a new canvas when I heard a music track from the TV upstairs that immediately grabbed my attention.

It was the music we had created for an Infant Adoption Awareness commercial that I wrote and helped produce back in 2005 while working at Hughes.

That commercial has always been one of my favorites that I’ve written. It is simple, understated and delivers a powerful message at the end. The whole spot consists of a girl on a swing, coming in and out of the frame.

Each swing takes her higher, and with each swing, she knocks the type that’s on-screen out of the picture …
Like many kids,
she’s happy,
and adopted.

A voiceover delivers the line, “To all those who give birth to, homes to, or just give thought to people adopted as infants … thanks for considering adoption.”

The whole purpose of the commercial was to raise awareness for the Infant Adoption Awareness Council of America. An adopted child is no different than any other child. So why not show a happy kid on a swing to help point that out?

We shot the commercial in Oakland, edited in San Francisco and used Elias Music to create the original score. That was more than a decade ago so I was truly surprised when I saw the commercial was still running.

Its message and ability to cut through the clutter was as strong now as it was back then.

That’s the power of Big Idea Thinking. That’s the power of BloodLines Creative.




25th anniversary of the demise of Kenrick Advertising

Coming back from a round of Labor Day golf today, I checked my email and saw that Steve Unger had sent me a message, letting me know that it was 25 years ago yesterday that Kenrick Advertising closed its doors for good.

25 years has created some cobwebs in my brain as the exact details are no longer quite clear in my head so hopefully, some other Kenrickian will clear up exactly what happened that day.

I don’t remember if we were shut down to begin the day or whether it happened after we were coming back from lunch. That seems to be the way I recall it – there were either armed security guards or police officers there to greet us as we got off the elevator at Aragon Place and told us to go grab our immediate belongings and get out.

Denny Long had filed Chapter 11.

Seriously? How could he? Why did he? You have got to be kidding me.

But it wasn’t a joke.

The third largest advertising agency in St. Louis and the only agency job I had worked at coming fresh out of college was no more.

Many of us gathered at Powers, a local Clayton watering hole that was the site of many a Kenrick gathering – both lunchtime and after work. I still remember Denny being interviewed on TV as the news of the shutdown made all of the local channels and how lucky Powers was that a beer bottle didn’t shatter the set. We were furious. We were dumbfounded. We were out on the streets without jobs.

In 11 short months, Denny had come in, purchased all of the Aragon Companies consisting of Kenrick Advertising, Aragon PR, MultaVista, Patrick Promotions, Kingsbury Graphics, Technisonic Studios and I think one or two others – Aragon Consulting Group and maybe some research-based company and before we could even celebrate a year with him at the helm he pulled the plug and abandoned ship.

Most of us didn’t see it coming.

But that’s life. That’s business.

I remember several of us meeting a few days after with hopes to save the company. Maybe buy it back, hold on to the key accounts we had, right the ship and all would be good again.

Turns out a few of us from that meeting had other plans. That was the birth of Brighton.

The rest of us had to fend for ourselves. And gradually, most of us somehow managed to land on our feet. Technisonic was purchased and continued on for many years. Quite a few Kenrickians went to Adamson. Geile-Rexford was born and turned into Geile-Leon and they’re doing great work now with a culture that is reminiscent of the Kenrick days.

I spent 16 years at Hughes and for the most part, it was a great place to work.

But it was never like Kenrick Advertising.

Maybe it was because it was my first real agency job. Maybe it was because I was in my 20s and didn’t know any better.

But I’ve never felt that.

Kenrick Advertising was a place that encouraged creativity. I used to think of it as a grown-up kindergarten, a place where I went to play and was encouraged to come up with big ideas that were totally targeted, totally focused but also out-of-the-ordinary. It’s where I learned the simple expression, “In order to do the extraordinary, you must resist the ordinary.”

There are so many great people that I got the opportunity to know through Kenrick.

Some are no longer with us. Others are scattered about the country. But most of us are still here in the midwest, many still here in St. Louis, many still doing the same kind of work that we were back then. Only different.

So to anyone that once worked in the Aragon Companies and particulary those who strolled the halls of KAI, wherever you are, join me as I raise a toast and pay homage to the many memories of Kenrick Advertising.




Steve Puckett rocked the boat

I was saddened by the news I heard this past week on Facebook that Steve Puckett had died.

I read his obit in today’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch and it all seemed so trivial.

About three inches of copy space to sum up a life. That’s about the norm for most obits – where you grew up, where you worked, and who are your survivors.

Of course, an obit can’t begin to really tell a life story. It’s just a notice – a sad notice, that someone has passed on.

I didn’t know Steve very well at all. My main encounters with him generally were at awards shows. His agency, The Puckett Group, seemed to come out of nowhere and quickly began dominating the St. Louis awards scene in the late 80s and most of the 90s.

I went back into my archives where I have a few old Flair Awards booklets – which later became the ADDYs and tried to find some of his work because I know that many times, work from my Kenrick or Hughes days went up against work from The Puckett Group and it seemed most times, they got Gold and we got honorable mention.

I remember meeting with Steve one time at his agency – he was intense, he was a little bit aloof – but I found that he was also extremely personable and passionate about the work that he and his colleagues did. Somehow, The Puckett Group fell on some hard times – it could have been his refusal to compromise and wanting to always stand up for the work they did. I don’t know.

I remember being surprised when he was named the Creative Director at the Brighton Agency – a spinoff from my old Kenrick days – so I continued to keep track of him from a distance – and the last I remember hearing anything about him was when he was let go from Brighton in 2003.

It wasn’t until this week that I heard his name again. Even in his obit, I learned a little more about him. I knew he loved sailing but had no idea he was Commodore of the Carlyle Yacht Club.

I’m sure he was as passionate about sailing as he was about creating great advertising.

His death reminds me that time is short. And we’re not necessarily remembered for the campaigns we create but rather for the person we were. Steve was a game changer. He left his mark on the St. Louis advertising community. His passion for creating great work inspired others to do the same.

That memory lives on.

Steve rocked the boat quite often during his career.

We should all strive to do the same.

R.I.P., Steve.


Baseball on the brain

Here we are, moving in to the last day of February and I can’t wait for spring to arrive.

My son, Michael is currently going through tryouts for his high school baseball team. He’s in day two, three more days before the first cut. For the past three months, he’s had pitching lessons, getting him ready for his tryouts as well as four weeks of hitting lessons. All those lessons aren’t exactly cheap but his love for baseball is great and they really do help him. Though Michael isn’t exactly a fireballer, his instructor, Matt Whitesides, who’s taught him over the past seven years, has helped him develop great form and last year, worked with him to develop a pretty wicked curve ball that made a number of hitters look downright foolish. It was fun to see.

So while those tryouts are on-going, my coaching career will soon come to an end. For nine years (starting in kindergarten), I coached Michael’s grade school team. Last year, when he went on to play high school ball, I got the opportunity to coach my daughter, Catherine’s team. I had no idea what to expect – but quickly discovered it was every bit as fun coaching her team as it was coaching Michael’s. This year, Catherine’s team is merging with another and I’m just going to be an assistant coach which is perfectly fine by me.

Then there’s the Cardinals. With Albert and Tony gone, there’s a different feel already to spring training. I haven’t been all that enthused to hear Yadi griping and moaning but hopefully, he’ll get his millions and will maybe run out all of his ground ball outs. (Well, one can dream, right?) My expectations for this year’s Cardinals team aren’t very high. It’s just too difficult to repeat. But for now, the talk is about 12 in ’12. I doubt it, but it sounds good and is an interesting spin to have – at least until after the All Star break.

I’m also extremely interested to see the new ad campaign that’s going to come out of Hughes – or rather, HLK, my former agency. I must admit, I’m jealous. I will always remember working on the Cardinals account back when I was at Kenrick Advertising. ┬áIn 1982, we created the campaign, “You and the Cardinals. That’s a winner!” Obviously, we borrowed directly from Jack Buck but it all made sense. I can still remember directing Jack as we recorded some radio commercials. “Uh, Mr. Buck, could you maybe slow it down just a bit?”

“Listen kid, I say it the way I read it and if you don’t like it, you can get somebody else.”

“Actually, that sounded great. I think we’re good.”

And we were good. Two of the radio spots I created that year were Flair winners (the equivalent of today’s ADDY award). I got to meet Willie McGee, create some commercials with Ozzie Smith and sit in the dugout for a game which was like a dream come true for me. When the Cardinals went on to win the World Series, it was an instant classic – the year I got to work on the Cardinals account that they won it all.

So as we head in to this leap year day when the weather’s warm enough to throw the ball around it’s no wonder I’ve got baseball on the brain.

Bring on March with all its basketball madness, knowing that the first pitch of the season will be here before we know it.