A Not So Politically Correct Holiday Letter From ADwërks-2014

Well, none of our cats had to have penis-ectomies this year, so 2014 has been good. See ya in 2015.


Just kidding. Twenty-fourteen has been rife with change at ADwërks, with plenty of TonicSnowEditedgood fortune, and of course some janky fortune as well. For starters, we lost our dear friend, Monday, in March. The office just wasn’t the same without her – too dry without drool, too dull without a furry friend to pet, and too clean without the occasional accident in Mike’s office. But the good news is that there’s a newcomer to follow in Monday’s paw prints, and her name is Tonic. Jim and Kara welcomed the two-month-old yellow lab in October, and we couldn’t be happier to have her in the office. And since she’s so young and naive, we don’t have to pay her much – the opportunity to gain experience digging used tissues out of the garbage and chewing on ADwërkers’ shoe laces is enough to make her happy.

In addition to Tonic, we welcomed two other employees this year – Caryla Chambers as Cog Whisperer, and Tyler Evans as Defender of Market Share. They’ve both fit in well so far, but the true test will be at the ADwërks Christmas party when Andrew will inevitably have too much to drink and say something inappropriate.

Speaking of inappropriate, you’d think that we have Barry White playing on repeat in the office, because there’s been a lot of baby-making going on. Tyler had a baby boy, Taeson, this spring (his wife did most of the work), Heather gave birth to her daughter Onnika, and Andrew knocked up his wife Jenny, and their baby girl is due in February.

They grow up so fast, don’t they? Jim turned 50 this year, but only after Carol did first, so he wins. Also, Kristi’s son Cooper started middle school; Carol’s youngest daughter Tara started high school, and Carol saw her oldest daughter Tiffany off to college, and we all know what happens there, eh? Sometimes you tear your ACL playing soccer and need surgery, that’s what happens (at least that’s what happened to Tiffany), nothing more. Don’t tell Carol otherwise.

It certainly can be hard on parents to see their children leave the house. Carol was eating carrots in her office and she started getting choked up, and Kristi comforted her with a reverse hug. Oh wait, that’s when she was literally choking on a carrot and Kristi rushed into her office like Pam Anderson in Baywatch to give her the Heimlich, only with more life-saving and less slow motion boob-bouncing. It was truly heroic.

Tiffany wasn’t the only one to have surgery this year; Jolene had surgery on her shoulder, which really interfered with her renowned phone skills. We could have used her hyper-ability to accidentally hang up on people when we got our new phone system. We’re still traumatized by the first few days – the incessant ringing, lights flashing everywhere, people getting parked when they should’ve been transferred, people getting transferred when they should’ve been sent to voicemail, extension numbers shouted out like war cries, it was total chaos.

A couple ADwërkers did some moving this year too. Sara moved all the way from Chicago to Greenville, South Carolina, which is the opposite direction of where we would have liked her to move. However, the city is basically like Sioux Falls but with a southern accent, complete with its own historic downtown, a Falls Park, and probably a bizarro Mayor Huether. And Kara moved from the east side of the office all the way to the west side of the office. It was the 6th time she’s moved within 5 years; she must be going for a record.

ADwërks went through a lot of changes this year, but there is one thing that stands above the rest – it has been revolutionary, totally earth shattering, and utterly life changing, and it’s called Cards Against Humanity. One of our clients gave us the game, and we haven’t been the same ever since. If you’re not familiar, it’s exactly how it sounds. It’s kind of like a mad lib card game except the card combinations can be so hilariously vulgar and obscene, that you’ll question the very concept and miracle of humanity. This is not a game for your grandma, unless your grandma is Betty White. We’ve made the card game an ADwërks weekly tradition; we play it every Friday when we start happy hour.


And this is a tame one.

So, we’ve covered just about every ADwërker, but what about our dear Michael Hay? Last week he had a huge burrito, with red AND green sauce because he really gets into the Christmas spirit.

Have a happy 2015.

Watch Your Tone

Watch Your Tone Aug 13, 2014

I recently took a series of online courses from MarketingProfsPRO called Marketing certificateWriting Bootcamp. Don’t believe me? I’ve got a diploma to prove it. I had to take quizzes and everything. Why are you doubting me so much? Seems weird… Anyway, the class covered many topics, and in its wake left a bunch of knowledge in my brain, knowledge that I am going to bestow upon you.

One of my favorite courses was on tone of voice. You know how when you were a blossoming prepubescent teen and your mom would say; “Don’t take that tone with me,” then she’d send you to your room? Or how when you’re married and you’re a blossoming prepubescent man and your wife will say; “Don’t take that tone with me,” then send you to your room? That’s because it’s not just what you say; it’s how you say it that makes all the difference.

Brands can use tone of voice as a tool to more accurately communicate who they are. For example:

A company that makes things might say:

The diversity in our department enables us to be innovative and creative, resulting in revolutionary, ground breaking and immersive products for our customers.

Or they could say:

We build awesome products that our customers love.

The message is the same but they sound vastly different because of their language, personality, structure and tone. Neither is wrong, as long as they effectively communicate the brand’s personality, culture and values.

How do you start?

To determine the type of tone you should have, start from the beginning by defining your company’s values. Are they silly? Inspirational? Cool? Intellectual? Just don’t say “boring”. It’s easy to jump to that conclusion for some, but I guarantee you it’s not true. Your values will then define your brand, which defines your personality, which dictates the type of tone of voice you should have. Once you’ve done that, it’s time to talk. But before you open your mouth, make sure you’re ready to use it consistently.

Positioning your tone of voice in the consumer’s mind doesn’t happen overnight; it takes time. Think about it. When you know a person, you have certain expectations for how they talk, the types of jokes they make and the things they say. When they say something that aligns with your expectations of them, all is right with the universe.

Now if I suddenly decided that I wanted to talk like, oh I don’t know, Darth Vader, it would come across as strange, since it would go against the expectations people have of me.

Let’s say I told Mike, one of our art directors, to use a certain headline in an ad and he didn’t listenThe Office Dark VaderAdwerks to me. I’d normally say, “Hey, what happened to that headline?” But if I wanted him to suddenly perceive me as Darth Vader, I’d say, “I find your lack of obedience disturbing. Your insolence betrays you. Now feel the wrath of the dark side,” then I’d pull out my pink lightsaber (I’ve always wanted a pink lighstaber). It’d be weird because I’ve never talked like that before; I haven’t established that I’m Darth Vader. That’s an extreme example, but I think you get what I mean. It takes time to establish your tone of voice, and that’s why you must do it consistently and accurately.

Tone of voice can really do wonders for your brand. It can help you stand out from the crowd, engage customers, share your personality, build trust, strengthen and reinforce your brand, and all of this can ultimately lead to generating more sales. And today, given the amount of voices (including the ones in my head) we hear every day, tone of voice is especially crucial to helping you stand out and be memorable.

– Andrew

A Life Insurance Ad That Will Haunt Your Dreams

The following ad contains a scene that is spine-chilling and disturbing in nature. Viewer discretion is advised.

The horror, the ungodly horror! This… this, thing… is one of the creepiest ads I’ve ever seen, and it’s about life insurance, of all things.

The headline is one synonym away from what people put on gravestones. It’s exactly what the creepy lady in the Lazy-Boy would whisper to you in the middle of the night as she rocks back and forth in the corner of your room. “Sleep in peace dear; it’s time to put that life insurance policy to good use (cackle cackle).”

And then, there’s the hand — that disfigured, unholy, inhuman hand – gently stroking the other one as she plots to free you from your earthly existence with her knitting needles.

Despite its flaws, I guess this ad did get me thinking about my own mortality, which I suppose is the point. After all, you never know when a demented granny with a blood-thirsty grin will sneak into your house in the middle of the night and strangle you with the same yarn she used to make mittens for her grandson little Timmy. So I was able to get a life insurance policy for just $27 a month!

– Andrew

When a Favorite Product Goes Away

Does everyone remember the Seinfeld episode when Elaine discovers that her favorite form of birth control, the Today sponge, was off the market? She spends the first part of the show finding and hoarding the sponges from every available source. She fills a closet with her beloved sponges. But she goes beyond just gathering the remaining sponges, she rations them too. At the end of the show she queries whether or not a boyfriend is “sponge-worthy.”

Well, that scenario is happening to me. Years ago I fell in love with the Listerine jj-1894_1zPocketPaks Breath Strips in Fresh Citrus flavor. Then, the company that made them changed hands and through some terrible twist of fate, the Fresh Citrus flavor was discontinued. The horror!

I consider the Listerine PocketPaks Breath Strips to be one of the greatest inventions of the 20th Century, right behind the automobile and the internet. I’m not alone; Esquire magazine has praised them as a modern marvel.

Like Elaine, I began hoarding. I ordered dozens of packages from every source I could find. I had stashes at home and stashes at the office. I kept looking for new sources and hidden caches to be uncovered. Alas, I’m down to my last couple of packs. I’ve ordered a few more off Ebay, paying well above retail price, but I know the end is coming soon and I will not be able to get them ever again.

I’ve started experimenting with other flavors. The Cool Mint is OK, and I can live with the Fresh Burst, but the Arctic Berry and Cool Heat are non-starters for me. But none of the new flavors come close to my favorite Fresh Citrus.

Yes, I’ve started to wonder whether the person I’m talking to is worthy of a coveted Fresh Citrus Listerine Breath Strip, or should I just confront them with bad breath. If anyone knows where a guy can score a few Fresh Citrus PocketPaks, please hook me up before I have to determine whether or not you are breath strip worthy.

– Jim

Ice Cream Bars Get Canned

After a long period of inadequate performance, we have decided to let go of Dean’s Country Fresh Neapolitan Ice Cream Sandwiches, 10 pack. The decision was made after careful contemplation, and we believe it was in the best interest for both parties.

These things are never pretty.

These things are never pretty.

At first we were excited to have Dean’s ice cream bars aboard. They were fresh out of the grocery store and filled with potential and wonderment, and seemingly had a lot to offer our agency. But when the honeymoon phase was over, they quickly became stale and jaded (with ice crystals), and ceased to provide any kind of long-term value to our team. There’s just not enough room in our freezer for a snack that falls short of greatness; we simply can’t afford that kind of drain on our resources.

We’ve felt this way for a long time now. Having to see the underwhelming, freezer-burnt treat every day was a constant reminder of our oversight in bringing a less-than satisfactory snack to the company; we’re normally a better judge than that. At first we tolerated the once-celebrated bars out of pity, and just pretended they weren’t there. But we couldn’t hide from the truth any longer, as the ice cream sandwiches began getting in the way of everything we wanted to accomplish, from grabbing some ice cubes to getting the coffee. We just couldn’t have them interfering with our progress any longer.

Dean’s Country Fresh Neapolitan Ice Cream Sandwiches, 10 pack, had been with us since the summer of 2012 – longer than some of our employees – but that doesn’t change the fact that the bars failed to perform on a consistent basis, after being given multiple chances.

“As a business owner, it’s disappointing when you invest so much in an individual snack, only to see its potential go unrealized,” said Principal Jim Mathis.

It was a tough call to make, but we believe it was the right one. We’ve learned and grown from this experience, and feel that we are now more equipped to select future snacks that better align with our core values and company culture.

We wish we could say this relationship ended on good terms, but it didn’t. Let’s just say that Dean’s ice cream sandwiches had to be escorted out of the building.

– Andrew

ADwërks Obtains The Most ADDYs


This was just the beginning.

The 48th annual ADDY Awards Show, which was held this past Saturday in Sioux Falls, was rife with cut-throat competition between ad agencies, but out of everyone else, ADwërks is proud to announce that we probably obtained the most ADDYs – the name of the signature drink at the event – leaving everybody else with egg on their face. We attribute this success to our strict and rigorous training, which involves shutting down the agency early every Friday to drink. It has taken a lot of hard work and dedication, but after receiving this honor, we know that it was all worthwhile.

On a side note, we took home some bling too.

Best of Class Award – Advertising For the Arts & Sciences – Non-traditional Category

We took home two Gold ADDY Awards and the Best of Class in Advertising for the Artsphoto for the SculptureWalk X campaign we did last spring. We created big metal Xs and installed them on all of the sculpture stands downtown to spread the word about the SculptureWalk eXpo, which was being held to celebrate SculptureWalk’s 10th anniversary.

As Jim put it, “It pays to wake up in the middle of the night with an idea.”

Gold ADDY Award – Newspaper Category

Andrew missed the announcement of these awards because he was in the bathroom relieving himself of all the ADDYs he obtained earlier in the evening. But we received a Gold ADDY Award and four Silver ADDY Awards for the print campaigns we did for the Falls Park Farmers Market. A couple examples are below.



– Andrew

Celebrating The Life And Career Of Monday Mathis

It is with deep regret and heavy hearts we announce that we had to say goodbye to our Environmental Wagineer, Monday Mathis. We wish we could say that she was recruited by another agency with a promise of more doggy treats (hey, it’s a dog eat dog world), but instead, we’re sad to say that age and health issues finally caught up with our dear friend.monday-big_blog

Of course, in times like this, we remember the highlights of Monday’s life. And here at ADwërks, she had an accomplished and fulfilling career. Every Tuesday and Friday (despite her name, Monday probably hated Mondays more than Garfield), Monday came to the office to continue her lifelong work of closely monitoring the lunchroom, ensuring perimeter security, and keeping up employee morale. Over the years, she even enjoyed some moments in the limelight, with starring roles in many TV commercials, print ads and billboards.

Monday also enjoyed some press time with a couple local news stories about dogs in the workplace. There was one instance when one of the local TV stations was in the office filming her for a story. As we threw one of her toys down the hallway in an effort to catch her running on camera, Monday left a big steaming pile of over-excitement on the floor. We all had a good laugh, until it was time to clean it up…

But every hardworking dog needs some time to rest, and Monday could frequently be found sleeping on the job, either privately on her bed under Kara’s desk, or shamelessly out in the open, right in the middle of the hallway, as her snoring resounded throughout the office.

In addition to working hard and resting easy, Monday was a social butterfly and liked to have fun in the workplace as well, frequently joining us in our status meetings and making herself at home during conference calls with clients, innocently banging her tail on the wall with glee. She’d also greet ADwërkers by making her daily rounds to each cubicle, always leaving behind a bit of drool. But Mike seemed to get the butt end of that ritual, as his cubicle was her favorite place to break wind.

Monday brought a kind of energy and happiness to our office that can’t be matched, and we will all miss her dearly. Tuesdays and Fridays at ADwërks will never quite feel the same without her. But we celebrate her life and feel grateful that she has provided us with so much joy.

Rest in peace, old friend.

– Andrew

Celebrating 15 Years of Handcrafted Marketing Solutions, and “That’s What She Said” Jokes

On February 19, 1999, ADwërks opened its doors for the first time. Jim had boldly, and kind of crazily, decided to leave his stable job with a cushy office, for an unstable job with a home office, that also doubled as a spare bedroom.

There was no fancy ribbon cutting ceremony or popping of champagne (although there was a healthy supply of Maker’s Mark in the house). There was just one man (with 50% more hair) and one dream. And with that, Jim turned on his Windows 98 computer and fax machine, and began work for a couple of car dealers in Topeka, KS and Lincoln, NE. ADwërks’ first client grew up to be CarHop, and they are still a client today.

What began as a dream, quickly spiraled into a reality. Like, a real-employees-who-need-retirement-plans type of reality. Over the last 15 years, ADwërks steadily grew from one employee and a handful of clients, to 12 employees and numerous clients. Some clients and projects have come and gone, but many clients have been working with us since the beginning.

ADwërks has undergone many changes over the years – changes in staff, changes in locations, changes in clients – but there is one thing that has remained the same, and that’s the passion. It’s the same thing that motivated Jim to leave his job and go at it alone, and it’s what continues to fuel ADwërks today – a passion for advertising, a passion for producing great work, and a passion for working with great people.

Thanks to our friends, industry colleagues, clients, and all who has supported us over the years! Here’s to many more!

– Andrew

ADwërks Successfully Clones Kara

Of course by “cloning,” we mean that we hired an equally skilled and hardworking person Caryla-for-blogto take over some of Kara’s workload.

Caryla Chambers has joined ADwërks as our Cog Whisperer. Her main duty (ha, duty…) is to coordinate and manage all of ADwërks’ production work for McDonald’s, guiding it from creation to completion, and making sure that it is produced and delivered efficiently, correctly and on time. Additionally, Caryla will oversee the production work for ADwërks’ other clients, which includes updating the daily job sheet and ensuring that each project is progressing on schedule. In other words, if the creative team is wasting time drawing pictures of Batman and watching cat gifs when they’re supposed to be working on a project that’s due in two hours, Caryla will lay the smack down.

Caryla has been in the advertising business for more than 30 years, and over that time she has accumulated an impressive amount of experience. Heck, she was laying the smack down before The Rock grew into his speedos. She worked as a production manager at Lawrence & Schiller for over 14 years, she was a traffic manager at Avera for over five years, and she was a production/traffic manager at LodgeNet for nine years, to name a few.

Caryla was born and raised right here in Sioux Falls, but she has kicked around a bit, including a stint in Minneapolis and taking up residence in Missoula and Bozeman, Montana, but ultimately family brought her back to South Dakota.

The self-proclaimed workaholic (an addiction that is fueled by another addiction – coffee), still manages to find time doing the things she loves, which includes spending time with her husband Dar, her two beloved cats, and spoiling her 7-year-old granddaughter. Caryla also enjoys gardening, drawing and painting. Plus, as a dedicated Cirque du Soleil fan and art buff, she travels the region to attend every show and gallery possible.

We’re confident that Caryla will be an excellent fit for our team and our clients, and we look forward to her future here at ADwërks. Feel free to help us welcome her aboard!

Toulouse-Lautrec & His World Campaign

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s art has captivated the world for decades. His immersion into the theatrical and decadent nightlife of 19th century Paris influenced his creation of a wealth of prominent and iconic works. To celebrate these works, an exhibit called Toulouse-Lautrec & His World has come to America for the first time, and the Washington Pavilion in Sioux Falls is one of only four stops around the country. ADwërks was honored to have the opportunity to promote it.

Since we knew the exhibit would appeal to a diverse group of people, we created and implemented an extensive marketing campaign that’s sure to reach everyone.

Accompanied by 19th century cabaret music, images of some of Toulouse-Lautrec’s most recognizable pieces transition from one to the next as a French woman’s sultry voice communicates the message.

Taken from real quotes from art critics of the time, the radio spot features two cynical French men scrutinizing Toulouse-Lautrec’s work. But hearing their rants today, they actually provide us with an accurate description of his art. What some may have considered Toulouse-Lautrec’s flaws during his time, we view as his strengths today.

This is one of four animated GIF ads we created. They resemble the same look as the TV spot. To replay, just click it.


Since a good portion of our target audience frequents downtown Sioux Falls, we created posters that were displayed in the windows of downtown shops.


Additionally, we created some print ads and a billboard to help get the word out.

The exhibit will take place January 25th through June 8th, and will be held in the Everist Gallery of the Visual Arts Center at the Washington Pavilion. It will feature 150 of Toulouse-Lautrec’s original works, including 12 of his famous posters and 35 sketches. If you enjoy art even just a little bit, you’ll definitely want to take advantage of this once in a lifetime opportunity to witness Toulouse-Lautrec’s work firsthand.

– Andrew