Ad Firms Head to the Beach to Find a More Creative Lifestyle

Any time Chuck Kushell is so inclined, he can peer down from his office and see if his home is floating away.

Kushell’s home happens to be a 64-foot powerboat docked in Marina del Rey. His office, which has a bird’s-eye view of the boat, is the West Coast branch of the ad agency Hill, Holliday, Connors, Cosmopulos. After the firm decided to open office space here, primarily to create ads for Infiniti, Kushell felt plenty of pressure to rent office space on Wilshire Boulevard, where more than two dozen other Los Angeles ad agencies are located. Instead, he chose Marina del Rey.

“There used to be a security blanket involved with a Wilshire Boulevard address,” said Kushell. “There isn’t anymore.”

Just as agencies began fleeing Madison Avenue several years ago for the West Side of Manhattan, a similar movement away from the Mid-Wilshire District and Century City is taking place in Los Angeles.


But there appears to be one key difference. In New York, it was primarily escalating rents that caused the mass migration. But most top Los Angeles agency executives whose offices have--or are about to have--addresses in Santa Monica, Venice and Marina del Rey say it wasn’t better prices that lured them. It was the promise of better lifestyles in the beach towns.

“There is a psychic value,” said Gerrold Rubin, chairman of Rubin Postaer & Associates, which will be moving next year from Century City to Santa Monica, just two blocks from the ocean. “There is a certain environment close to the ocean that we think attracts good people. It also breeds a creative atmosphere.”

Besides Rubin Postaer, with its 160 employees, two other Los Angeles agencies plan to move from Century City to Santa Monica. Kresser/Craig, which creates ads for Arco, will be moving in September. And Poindexter/Osaki/Nissman, which creates ads for the Los Angeles Zoo, also expects to move there soon.

“Let’s face it,” said Robert Kresser, chairman of Kresser/Craig, “the environment’s a lot more conducive to creativity in Santa Monica then it is in Century City.”

Adds Larry Poindexter, president of Poindexter/Osaki/Nissman, “Not only is it a more attractive place for employees to work, but you don’t need armed guards to escort them to their cars at night.”

Several agencies already call Santa Monica home. Suissa & Associates, which creates ads for the Sports Connection, has been there since opening in 1985. And the Shalek Agency, which places ads for Fox Broadcasting Co., opened there in 1988. Chiat/Day/Mojo, which moved to Venice in 1988, is in the process of building a $20-million-plus headquarters there which is expected to be completed next year.

Indeed, many agency executives say that after Chiat/Day/Mojo made its move, the door was opened for others. “Certainly Chiat/Day broke the ice,” said Poindexter. “They made it legitimate.”

Several of Chiat/Day/Mojo’s top executives live in Marina del Rey. And a number of its employees live on the Westside. “Above everything else, we knew it would make it easier for people to get to work,” said Bob Wolf, chairman of Chiat/Day/Mojo North America, which creates ads for Nissan. Added Wolf, “What’s creative about being in a Mid-Wilshire high-rise?”

For David Suissa, there was never a question about where to locate his agency five years ago. “Why have an agency in Los Angeles if the surroundings look like New York City?” posed the agency chairman, who lives in Venice, just minutes from his agency.

“I came here to be away from everyone else,” said Nancy Shalek, president of the Shalek Agency, which throws an agency bash on the beach every year. “We didn’t want to be in a building where a typographer can stop once and make 12 pickups” of ad copy from different agencies.

But not everyone is sold on being so close to the beach to feel the breeze.

The Los Angeles office of J. Walter Thompson moved west from Century City this week to a new address on Wilshire Boulevard that is closer to the beach--if you consider 40 blocks close.

While agency executives did consider property in Santa Monica, James K. Agnew, the agency’s general manager, decided against it. “It seemed to us that it could be interpreted by some people as too Southern California--or too flaky.”

Not about to move to Santa Monica any time soon is the Western Division of Grey Advertising, says Miles J. Turpin, agency chairman. Turpin says he’s happy with his agency’s Mid-Wilshire location. A move further west would put the agency too far away from its clients, and also too far from many key suppliers.

The pull of the ocean tide is hardly pulling Turpin. “I don’t know if someone is more creative,” he said, “because they can go down at noon and stick their toe in the Pacific.”

The Many Themes of Luxury Car Ads

What is the “hot button” for luxury car buyers?

That’s what every luxury car manufacturer--from Germany to Japan to England to America--would like to know. And a recent study of several dozen ads for 11 different luxury car makers by the Los Angeles advertising research firm Phase One concludes that manufacturers from each nation are trying different ad themes.

“German manufacturers believe we want practical reasons for buying a luxury car,” said Jim Hillson, vice president and senior analyst at Phase One. “Japanese car makers generally portray their cars as being state-of-the-art machines.”

As for the British, “they’re relying mainly on the tradition of British luxuriousness and prestige,” said Hillson. And America’s top-selling luxury cars, Cadillac and Lincoln Town Car, present “time-honored images of size and power.”

So, who’s selling the most luxury cars in the United States? Surprise: it’s Cadillac and Lincoln. The two car lines accounted for 56% of the luxury cars sold in the United States from October, 1989, through February, 1990, reports Ward’s Automotive Reports.

Still, as both competition and prices increase, Hillson says more luxury car makers will create ads to persuade consumers that luxury cars “are a value-driven, rather than an ego-driven, purchase.”

Rewriting the Rules for Paying Agencies

Tough financial times are forcing ad agencies to not only be more creative with their ads, but also be more creative in developing ways for clients to pay them.

This week, DDB Needham Worldwide is expected to announce a new compensation system that will vastly change the conventional 15% system used historically--but not always practically--in the industry. Under the plan to be announced Wednesday, the agency is expected to tie compensation to the market performance of its clients’ products. Some smaller agencies have already taken this tack, but DDB Needham would be the largest agency to formally adopt the strategy.

It is believed the agency will seek a top dollar rate--up to 20% commission--for brands that exceed sales expectations. But it would also agree to accept lower rates--from 10% to 0%--for brands that fail to perform.

Former Ad Duo Goes Hollywood

Many people who create advertisements dream about getting out of the ad business someday to write megabuck screenplays.

That dream became a reality last month for two Los Angeles ad men who sold their screenplay for a reported $750,000 to Morgan Creek Productions, which produced the films “Major League” and “Enemies, A Love Story.” The screenplay, “Stay Tuned,” is about a depressed television addict who makes a pact with the devil and is pulled into his TV set----unable to escape from the frightening TV dimension.

It was written during a nine-month period--over weekends and during their free time--by Jim Jennewein, former associate creative director at the Los Angeles agency Speer, Young & Hollander, and Tom Parker, a former copywriter at Saatchi & Saatchi. They also had creative consulting assistance from Rich Seigel, who is a copywriter at the agency Bozell.

Both Jennewein and Parker--who last year produced the Adweek parody magazine Madweek--have already left their agency jobs to pursue film writing careers. “In advertising, it’s hard to be creative because of all the restrictions that clients place on you,” said Jennewein, who is 34. “We feel emancipated.”