Ad firms gain notoriety on international stage

By Michael Sheffield

Published by the Memphis Business Journal, May 20-26, 2005
FedEx isn’t the only Memphis company that is doing more and more business overseas these days.
A group of local advertising firms including Sossaman & Associates and Chandler Ehrlich, are finding the international stage friendlier to Memphis firms.
Representing clients like JK Products, a German manufacturing company, and England-based Gyrus ENT, these Memphis firms are not only winning business, but also managing to win international acclaim for their work.
Bob Chandler, CEO of Chandler Ehrlich, says technology has eliminated most of the boundaries and now clients just want to find the best work.
“Big firms look for talent, experience, responsiveness and smart pricing when seeking advertising partners,” he says. “Geographically proximity does not play the role it once did.”
Smaller firms like Tactical Magic and Counterpart, which have both garnered acclaim from international industry magazine Graphis for logos and ads designed for local clients, are examples of Memphis being a viable alternative in and outside the U.S.
Shepherd Simmons, CEO of Counterpart, which had its company logo included int eh 2004 edition of Graphis’ Logo Book, says the recognition puts the city on the creative map.
“It means they can get world-class work here in Memphis, with all the efficiencies of a local relationship,” Simmons says. “It’s a nice affirmation, because our goal is to give our clients world-class work.”
Trace Hollowell, CEO of Tactical Magic, which also received honors from Graphis for work it did for local clients Fulmer Helmets and Jay Etkin, says the success of the Fulmer logo was even more gratifying because Fulmer is the oldest helmet manufacturer in the U.S.
“We didn’t want to touch the name, but we wanted to bring the logo into the new era of motorcycles,” Hollowell says.
While the accolades put the firms on the international radar, those are secondary to creating a successful campaign for an international client, especially one that has an established international presence like Sossaman’s client JK Products, which manufactures tanning beds and tanning bed accessories.
Brooke Tweddel, Vice president of Sossaman, says working with a client like JK is an opportunity to not only put the firm’s work out in the world, but also to learn more about the global market.
“In our case with JK Products, the Ergolin (tanning bed) brand is distributed in 44 countries and is already established as the clear brand leader throughout Europe,” she says. “It’s also largely a business-to-business account for Sossaman and we’re learning the important differences between American retail and foreign retail businesses.”
Part of Sossaman’s learning process included making sure the messages they created for the client could translate to the international market. That process included finding suitable substitutes  for jargon  like “tan” and “radiant,” words that appeal to U.S. consumers but mean something totally different in Europe.
“In Europe, tanning is something you do to leather and radiant is used to describe radioactive materials,” Tweddle says.
Contact staff writer Michael Sheffield at 259-1722 or

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