Who’s Who in Minneapolis Advertising

Don’t discredit the Midwest when it comes to pumping out ads that persuade the nation.

Next time you see an advertisement, actually look at it. Resist your finger’s instinct to press mute or turn the page. Resist the urge of those restless legs to head toward the fridge. Pretend it’s a “Where’s Waldo” but, instead of a man in a peppermint-striped shirt, you’re looking for a concept, a design and a target audience. We Minneapolitans are lucky, because we happen to live in a city with some of the most prestigious ad firms in the country; in exchange for our attention, we are given a glimpse at some of the most creative work coming out of the metro. To get a closer look, A&E hunted down three of the best firms.

Little & Company is the company that makes Target gift cards so hard to part with by infusing them with music and entrancing holograms. They’ve worked with the likes of the Walker Art Center and Office Max, and one of their latest campaigns is promoting a company that tries to mix curvy playground structures with sustainable design.

“If there are three ways to solve a problem, advertisers have to think, ‘What’s that fourth way – the one that’s dramatically different?’ ” explained Joe Cecere, creative director of Little & Company.

A Minneapolis College of Art and Design graphic design major, he believes that “customers are more demanding now; they practically demand things to be well-designed.” He also insists that knowledge of pop culture is key to good advertising.

Cecere claims that he always wanted to be a designer, from the time he was little. “I used to design signs for my parents’ restaurant,” he shared. By the time he was hired at Little & Company, the group was becoming less of an exclusive design firm and more of an overall creative firm, branching out further into advertising and development.

Campbell Mithun is another company nestled in Minneapolis, although it has branches in California and New York as well. One of its latest projects was coordinating the promotion of TRESemmé hair products in episodes of “Project Runway.”

Kara Betsch is new to Campbell Mithun, fresh from her “Lucky 13” internship. As a graduate from the University’s journalism school, she was recently hired in the account department, which is in charge of forming a concept and dealing with legal issues for the campaign.

After working on a Burger King campaign, Betsch is all too familiar with the legal restrictions on children’s advertising.

“We need to make sure the commercials are selling food, and not the monthly promotion (toys),” she explained. Betsch revealed that she was puzzled by a recent McDonald’s ad in which the Kung Fu Panda was holding a Chicken McNugget. “Food can’t interact with property,” she explained. “I thought, ‘How’d they get around that?’ “

She added that such restrictions are fairly new, and have come about due to rising awareness of advertising’s influence. “We can’t make biblical references, either. Americans are sensitive. In the U.K. and Europe there are racier ads that would blow you away.”

At Colle+McVoy, things get a bit more risqué. In an effort to promote Atmosphere’s latest album, they created the “Paint that Sh-t Gold” campaign, in which users can go through the band’s Web site to tag Internet pages in a graffiti-like style.

Eric Husband, the creative director at Colle+McVoy, explained that the Web is getting more and more important in advertising. “With the Atmosphere campaign, users were spending probably five minutes on the site, which, compared to time driving by a billboard or looking at a print ad, is a lot.”

“Ads aren’t necessarily the magic bullet,” he continued. “Our philosophy is ‘What else can we do, besides this?’ “

Looking at other firms’ ads, Husband revealed that some of his pet peeves are hackneyed phrases, like ads that begin with the command “think of it as Ö “

“I saw a billboard on the way to work today that said ‘Drive Green,’ ” he remarked. “There’s no such thing as driving green.”

A graduate of the University’s liberal arts program, Husband explained that he still doesn’t know everything when it comes to the metamorphosing field that is advertising. “You leave school,” he said, “But you’re always studying.”