Little Firm Works Magic with Ads

Tactical Magic earns top honors in 5-state design competition

by Jane Roberts

Published in the Commercial Appeal, April 14, 2007


Tactical Magic, one of the smallest advertising agencies in town, Friday night won one of the two biggest awards in a five-state competition known to send advertising careers rocketing.

Tactical won the Seventh District Bud Chamberlain Award for a business card it designed for Memphis-based sBox Storage, a division of Folk Investment.

The business card folds along scored lines to create an actual box, an idea Curtis Smith, contest judge from Cramer-Krasselt — one of the 50 biggest marketing groups in the world and famous for its Corona Beer ads — says is completely brilliant.

“This is an amazing conceptual piece,” Smith said. “It takes a business card and from it, forms the company’s entire reason for being in business.

“It’s awesome. Tactical could have done what 95 percent of designers would have done, and the business card would be stuck in a wallet.”

Folk Investment hired Tactical to help it rebrand Assure Container Rentals, a company Christopher R. Folk started several years ago. He leases the boxes to industrial clients for on-ground storage.

“The response has been that it’s very creative and well-received,” Folk said.

Tactical specializes in helping companies establish their personality and branding through logo design and other key elements.

The company, founded in 2001 by longtime Memphis creative director Trace Hallowell, 47, has five employees.

“All five have a share in the business because I wanted a group of committed people that each own a piece of the company,” said Hallowell, managing partner and creative director.

“The story, to me, is the fact that if you look at the last couple of years, we’ve been in the top three ADDY winners next to agencies seven to 20 times our size.

“This year, for instance, Tactical earned five gold awards and two silvers at the local ADDY contest, one less than Carpenter Sullivan Sossaman, which took the most local honors and has several dozen employees.

“We’re all about doing strategic marketing for our clients. Our passion and our stock in trade is creating high-impact work that helps customers fall in love with brands,” Hallowell said.

The awards were presented in Tuscaloosa, Ala. Winners were judged against 1,063 entries that advanced to the district competition after winning local Ad Federation ADDY contests throughout Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana and Tennessee.

“Tactical always wins a lot of awards. They are a tiny little shop, but they always pump out a lot of great creations,” said Melissa Alexander at Commercial Advisors in Memphis. 

She and Jenny Dow from West-Rogers co-chaired the district contest.

The winning entry was judged against hundreds of print campaigns, “including full-blown spreads of color advertising,” Smith said.

“People will definitely try to copy it because it’s so good. If it winds up in the awards books, that will prevent it from being copied, because you truly have to have no shame to copy something everyone has seen in the awards books.”

One of Tactical’s best-recognized projects is the logo it designed for Lunar Productions, which is featured in this year’s design annual of Communications Arts, a compendium of winning work from around the world.

“They picked 18 logos this year, and Lunar was one of them,” said Hallowell, who has 20 years experience in advertising, including 13 as creative director at Thompson & Co. “That’s not an honor that’s been given to anyone in this town.”

The company offices are at 1460 Madison, where clients meet around a farm table in the back room and often come to work on their own projects. “They love our atmosphere. It has a bed-and-breakfast feel,” Hallowell said.

"A house of brands is like a family, each needs a role and a relationship to others."
- Jeffrey Sinclair