The Untold Story of This Bald, Toothless Baby and Her Adorable 1993 Print Ad

November 05, 2015

Adweek, By Tim Nudd

If you were the baby girl in the 1993 print ad below—by The Martin Agency for Healthtex baby clothes—you might have had reason to be a little miffed. You just got called bald and toothless in the headline, and the copy dwelled insistently—almost insultingly!—on whether you were, in fact, not a girl but a boy. An auspicious start to a modeling career, this wasn't.

Or was it?

Sage Coy rolled with it, in any case (whether or not she could actually roll over at such an age). And she and her family have nothing but fond memories of the experience—as evidenced by the fact that Sage's father, Bill Coy, recently contacted The Martin Agency, 22 years later, to reminisce about it.

"An advertising friend sent me the ad recently and said it had won some award years ago. So, I Googled the ad, and The Martin Agency came up," he tells AdFreak. "I saw that they had an office in New York City, and Sage was playing cello there, on tour with the Portland Cello Project. And I thought the man who did the ad might like to come and see her."

That man was none other than Joe Alexander. In 1993, he was a copywriter in just his third year at the Richmond, Va., shop. He has since risen, of course, to become the decorated agency's chief creative officer.

He remembers the campaign well.

"At the time, nobody was writing long copy about baby clothes," he says. "The category was all about showing cute kids with some fluffy headline. We knew that parents, and especially moms, love to read everything when they are pregnant. They can't get enough information. So my partner, Jelly Helm, and I just embraced it and tried to find truths every parent could relate to. I think we ended up writing 30 ads in this campaign over five years or so.

"We had this great insight overall for the campaign—the first baby clothes for parents. Meaning, Heathtex was the rare brand of baby clothes in 1993 that made it really easy to dress your baby: snaps, elastic waistbands, washable fabrics, big neck openings and really cute stuff. I was personally in the throes of having 6-, 3- and 1-year-old girls, so I was writing from a strong, truthful POV. The funny thing is: I always thought Sage was a boy."

She wasn't, but that was the point of the ad—to reassure parents that Healthtex would help their boys look like boys, and girls look like girls. (This was long before anyone looked down on gender labeling.) "That's why we always make it easy," Alexander's copy explained, "for your infant to look the only way he or she is supposed to look: cute."

Alexander says Sage was chosen as the model simply because "she was bald and she was amazingly photogenic." But Bill Coy admits that the modeling agency that the family had been working with did have specific orders—to find a girl who looked like a boy.

"The Wehmann Agency in Minneapolis called and asked if Sage was still bald. Yes, she was!" Bill recalls. "But as new parents of a little girl who had to tape a bow on her head because people loved our 'little boy,' we were a bit put off. Then they said it was just what they were looking for. So, game on!"

Sage's mom, Andrien Thomas—a former model herself—took Sage to the shoot and says everything went swimmingly. Funnily enough, Sage actually wasn't toothless at the time. She had a front tooth, which made for an adorable smirk—but that would have sunk the headline, so a different shot was used.

And what a memorable ad it became.

"Everybody thinks their children are cute, but when we saw her in print, she almost didn't look real," Bill says. "It was both pages inside the cover of Parents magazine and started what we think was a very successful little modeling career."

Indeed, Sage would go on to appear in a slew of ads and other projects. She did print work for brands like Target, Kohler and Kohl's. Her first commercial was for the "Virginia Is for Families" campaign. (Her big line was, "Are we there yet?") She also appeared in the 2005 film North Country, sharing scenes with Charlize Theron and Woody Harrelson.

Her biggest advertising moment was a brief appearance on the grandest stage of all—the Super Bowl—in one of the most beloved ads ever to air on the game. She's the farm girl sitting on the pile of hay at the 0:17 mark of Mullen's 1999 spot. Her speaking line doubles as the name of the ad: "When I grow up…"

Now in her 20s, Sage is a musician. She has been touring with the Portland Cello Project, a collective of cello players in Portland, Ore. But seeing her old Healthtex ad today brings her right back to that whole other life.

"I would have to say it's a cute ad. Look at those big baby cheeks!" she says. "I'm definitely hit by a wave of nostalgia when I see this now—it's been quite a while since I did any acting or commercial work. It reminds me of a really unique time in my life, as this ad opened the door for all of the print work and acting that I had the opportunity to do growing up.

"I'm also reminded of how lovely my parents are," she adds. "They have always been very supportive of my interests, challenged me, but never pushed me to be involved in projects that I didn't want to be a part of. That's incredibly important, especially since I crawled into the industry at such a young age."

The ad brings Joe Alexander back, too. In fact, he included it in The Martin Agency's just-released coffee-table book celebrating its 50th anniversary and all the great advertising it's done in that time.

"I've always felt this ad was one of the iconic ads in our history," he says. "The headline and Sage's look—I mean, you can never lose with a cute baby, right? It's amazing to see how Sage has grown into such a cool person. That just adds to the iconic status of the ad, for me."

He adds: "Thanks, Bill, for reaching out. And Sage, I'm sorry I called you bald and toothless and took advantage of you just to sell some onesies. I'm glad it didn't hold you back."

Continue to Adweek.

Posted By: The Martin Agency

Why Some Ad Campaigns Keep Doing Great Work, Year After Year, Campaign After Campaign

October 23, 2015

October 15, 2015 | Michael Lee

Why Some Ad Campaigns Keep Doing Great Work, Year After Year, Campaign After Campaign

While the vast majority of advertisers in the country, bounce erratically from campaign to campaign, strategy to strategy, agency to agency, a few advertisers appear to have cracked some sort of code.

A code that helps them to keep coming up with great campaigns, year after year, selling a product, building a brand, engaging an audience, and yes…winning awards.

Advertisers like GEICO, Apple and Nike, spring to mind for consistent quality work over the years and Old Spice and Direct TV more recently are building a fine body of work (I’m sure there’s a number of others).

So, what’s the secret?….Is it simply the sign of a great agency? A great client? A great working relationship? Just simple common sense?

GEICO is the best example of this to me.

For years we have been hearing the ‘15 minutes can save you 15%’ message delivered by geckos and cavemen, from a screaming Little Richard to humpday camels, from squealing piglets to a shuffling Ickey all the way to the ingenious Unskippable work, GEICO have been getting it right year after year, campaign after campaign.

Oddly enough, the GEICO product is not particularly sexy. It’s not a stylish pair of running shoes or a gorgeous new piece of technology. It’s good old-fashioned car insurance. And definitely not the first place to look for consistently outstanding advertising.

I spoke with Steve Bassett and Wade Alger of The Martin Agency in Richmond VA, the Creative Directors of the GEICO account to try and get some pointers.

They opened with a simple couple of facts: The Martin Agency and GEICO have been partnered for 21 years. Steve has been running Geico since 2000 and Wade since 2009, and Ted Ward the CMO of GEICO has been there since day one.

Pointer one. Simple personnel consistency. A group of people on the business, both on the agency and client side who know the brand, it’s needs, it’s ambitions, strengths and weaknesses. Makes sense to me.

And then there’s consistency with the message. Steve and Wade added “The 15/15 message has been with us since the beginning and the teams keep finding ways to re-invent the savings messages. It’s quite remarkable to have something stay around that long and still have fresh ideas. That’s a testament to a great brief.”

So. Pointer two: keep the message simple, memorable and consistent. The GEICO way is not about keeping your audience interested in your brand by coming up with a bunch of fresh messages. It’s about delivering a consistent message in a fresh and engaging way (How many brands would benefit from following that advice).

How about the way GEICO works with The Martin Agency? Is there anything in how they work together? Steve and Wade give a little insight into that, “As to how we work together, it really is a round table where everyone has a voice, as trite as that may sound it really is true.”

And it’s a direct response business. Historically the idea of DR advertising has met with frowns from people like Steve and Ward “Our job is to generate inquiries for GEICO,” they explained. “To get people to call or click so by definition it’s direct response, however when you look at the body of work it really is feels different than most DR advertising.”

So, how do you structure the team on an account like this? “Our creative is structured as one large pool of writers, art directors, designers, producers and technologist. We’re strategically selective as to which resources will be needed depending on the nature of the project. And we always like to mix it up to keep the work fresh and current.”

After years of successful campaigns one of the obvious questions is how do you decide what campaign to produce next? Focus groups? Calculated hunches? Evidently it’s none of that. It’s much more simple, “Ted Ward does,” says Steve, “The decision to run a campaign resides with GEICO, and Ted hasn’t missed with one in the 21 years we’ve been working with him.” (Ted, we’ve never met, but congrats on all you’ve done with the GEICO brand. Let me know when you’re offering the master class, I’ll be there in a flash)

So it sounds like you’ve built up a pretty special relationship with GEICO? “Yes, and to be honest it’s more of just a great relationship in general. Work just happens to be one aspect of it all”. Wade and Steve responded, adding “After 21 years we still like hanging out with them and they still like hanging with us, so perhaps special isn’t a strong enough word.”

Maybe that’s it. As simple as ‘we like hanging out together.’

Makes sense to me. For all the data analysis, research, focus groups, presentation decks, insights, performance reviews, conference calls, and Venn diagrams, it’s probably what’s most important. And maybe the one question every agency and client should ask themselves. Every 21 years or so.

Posted By: The Martin Agency

After 80 Years With One Ad Shop, Land O' Lakes Hires The Martin Agency

October 13, 2015

Adweek, By Patrick Coffee

Two months after announcing its creative review, Land O' Lakes Inc. has picked The Martin Agency as the agency of record for its dairy brands including Land O' Lakes butter and Kozy Shack puddings. This move comes after the account spent an incredible 80 years with Minneapolis agency Mithun (which, along with Martin, is owned by IPG).

Mithun was one of six agencies participating in the review, and three candidates competed in the final round. Moving forward, the Richmond, Va.-based Martin will handle communications planning and creative development in addition to all media-planning and -buying duties for the business.

Like so many agency reviews, this one followed the client's appointment of a new CMO. Land O' Lakes marketing chief Tim Scott served as international CEO of mcgarrybowen and president of the Dentsu-owned shop's Chicago office before leaving the agency world to go client-side in April. He and his management team helped run the three-month review along with outside consultancy SelectResources International.

Regarding the decision, Scott said, "We're delighted to begin work with The Martin Agency. From their speed in learning our business to their translation of strategy into impressive initial creative thoughts to their chemistry with our team, it's already a strong partnership."

Land O' Lakes remains America's most popular butter brand, but its parent company is not a particularly big spender—Kantar Media reports that Land O' Lakes Inc. reduced its measured media outlay from $20 million in 2013 to $8.1 million in 2014. Still, Martin Agency CEO Matt Williams told Adweek that the new account will allow his agency to do what it does best: "To take brands that people know really well and inject them with a new sense of energy and momentum." He noted that "Land O'Lakes is a household name and a company with big ambitions," adding, "everyone has it in their fridge."

Does this mean a new TV-centric marketing push for the client? "It's a little early to know the specific media mix," Williams said, "but one of the things we are most excited about is the opportunity to capture the essence of the brand and bring it to life across lots of different media from digital and social to mass media and internal communications."

Land O' Lakes is also keen to raise its profile among Hispanic consumers. Martin worked with fellow IPG shop Casanova Pendrill on the review, and Williams said, "We partnered with Casanova from the beginning so that our ideas would do well in both the general and Hispanic markets. We're really excited about what's to come."

The first new work on this account will launch in 2016.

Continue to Adweek.

Posted By: The Martin Agency

Tic Tac Goes Little in First Big Work With The Martin Agency

October 10, 2015

Advertising Age, By Jessica Wohl

Tic Tac is jumping back into marketing with a new brand effort suggesting people take time to appreciate the little things in life -- including, of course, Tic Tacs.

The effort comes after the Ferrero USA brand picked Interpublic Group's the Martin Agency as its new agency in December, following a decade with Omnicom Group's Merkley & Partners. The Martin Agency worked on Tic Tac's Minions-themed packages tied to the 2015 summer movie, but this is the first big brand messaging change in more than three years.

Tic Tac had been using the "Shake It Up" slogan since early 2012, when the brand really began to shift more of its attention from TV to other areas.

"It kind of put us on a multimedia platform, it gave us a great kind of voice for social media," Tic Tac Marketing Director Todd Midura said of the "Shake It Up" marketing. However, it lacked a really big product insight "that we could really hit home with the consumer," he added.

Now, armed with a new ad agency and a new CEO -- former A-B InBev marketer Paul Chibe recently came on board at Ferrrero's North American division -- the brand is using two :15 TV spots and a variety of social and digital elements to promote happiness in the smaller things in life. The idea came from spending time with millennials and others who almost reject "that bigger is better and more is more," said Mr. Midura. Unlike some other generations, he feels the brand's younger consumers have "a real focus on those little things in life really meaning a lot."

Mr. Midura did not divulge specific spending plans for the campaign, set to kickoff with TV on Friday evening. He said spending would largely be in line with what the brand has done before, while using a variety of methods to try and make a bigger impact with that budget.

Online components include a pre-roll ad disguised as a screen with the spinning center that sometimes plays before an online video loads. Instead, the spinning center is made of Tic Tacs.

Continue to Ad Age.

Posted By: The Martin Agency

Celebrating 50 Years One Oyster (and Pint) at a Time

October 09, 2015

From two bands to six breweries, oysters, doughnuts and bbq, our 50th anniversary party was one for the books. We even had a few employees celebrate by brewing some of their own beer and designing custom labels:

Casey Hall’s Good & Tough Milk Stout with Scotch and Coffee. Art by Whitney McCall.

Jason Ray’s White Whale IPA. Art by Will Godwin.

John Cartier’s 970 Nut Brown Ale brewed along with Andy Bupp, Matt Roberts and Anne Love Field. Art by Todd Hippensteel.

Scot Crooker’s Beer, Beer Cream Ale…with a twist.

Angie Leaf’s Mid-Century Mandatory Meeting Java Stout. Art by Will Godwin.

Glen Groat’s Creative LA Coffee Stout. Art by Todd Hippensteel.

Posted By: The Martin Agency

10 Dream Jobs for Creatives and How the People Who Have Them Got Them

September 27, 2015

Adweek, by Gabriel Beltrone

A career in advertising can be a notorious slog, especially at the beginning. Working grueling hours on dog's-breakfast accounts, watching 99 percent of your ideas—often the best ones—die on the vine, then swallowing your rage when clients insist on mangling the few gems that actually survived the meeting. But for the creatives who have the talent and ambition—or maybe just the stomach—to stick it out for long enough, there can also be great opportunities, running campaigns for brands that are big enough, and brave enough, to influence pop culture, maybe even make the world a better place. Here, a handful of jobs a driven young creative might wish he or she could someday have, and how the people who actually got them did.

Steve Bassett and Wade Alger

Steve Bassett and Wade Alger

The Martin Agency, group creative directors, Geico

At least since the time of the caveman (2004) and lizard (1999), Geico has served up some of the most consistently funny ads in the business. The insurance company has been a client at the agency since 1994; Bassett has run it since 2000, when former agency president and creative leader Mike Hughes brought him back from a hiatus at DDB, Dallas, where Bassett and Alger first worked together. Eight years later, Alger joined the agency (after stints at GSD&M on BMW and TM Advertising on Nationwide Insurance). He has worked on Geico ever since, moving up to handle the account alongside Bassett two years ago. Recent highlights include “Unskippable” as well as “Whisper” (featuring a kraken monster) and “Countdown” (with the band Europe). As for how they keep the work fresh, Bassett credits three factors, in this order: “[vp, marketing] Ted Ward at Geico and his team are smart as hell, Geico’s basic brand promise hasn’t changed in 20 years, [and] the last thing people want to see is just another car insurance ad, so we don’t give them one.”

Schooling (S.B.): University of Georgia, “I switched my major from Psychology to Advertising to avoid flunking out.” (W.A.): Southern Methodist University for communications

Chose Advertising When: “Junior year in high school in my psychology class,” says Alger. “We studied the effects of advertising. I was intrigued how 30- and 60-second stories could impact people.” For Bassett, “When I read the Lemon ad for Volkswagen.”

Key Advice for Young Creatives: “Always remember this, somewhere in this world, there’s a doctor who has his/her hand in someone’s chest, massaging their heart to keep them alive,” says Alger. “Who cares if the talent is wearing a red or blue shirt, it really doesn’t matter." Adds Bassett, “if your boss asks if you want to work on a direct marketing account with almost no brand awareness or money, say yes.”

Continue to Adweek.

Posted By: The Martin Agency