Smugglers' Inn started as a theme restaurant in Blaine, Minnesota and has become, if not a legitimate advertising agency, then a viable agency alternative with two dedicated ad employees, Carol Henderson, art director and Jarl Olsen, copywriter. Read the whole saga in these posts or click the pirate to follow the entertaining tweets of our dishwasher, Pongo. Who may or may not be an orangutan.!/PongoTryHard

Monday, December 20, 2010

Smugglers’ Inn. As seen in THE TIMES.

Toby Barlow, CCO at Team Detroit, mentioned the two of us by name when he was interviewed by the New York Times about the 2011 Ford Explorer launch that was conducted on Facebook. No, he didn’t say, “Smugglers’ Inn rules!” and, to be honest, there were some other freelancers mentioned who had also worked on this project. Still, we think we left more than our share of shiny pennies in the Team Detroit fountain. Judge for yourself. While we’re thinking of it, Smugglers’ Inn likes Toby Barlow’s creepy-cool novel, “Sharp Teeth”, available everywhere in paperback. (There, Sir Toby, our bargain is CONCLUDED.)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Abbey Road, meet Madison Avenue.

“JWT New York is the Coldplay of ad agencies. No other advertising agency or media concern can make that statement, at least not until 2014.” This is according to counsel for the WPP Group, the holding company that owns JWT New York and several hundred other agencies who was celebrating the impending deal with his staff at McSorley’s Tavern in Greenwich Village.

Advertising agencies have long sought to connect their client’s products with consumers through music, but now they’re paying to align their own names with popular artists.

“How do you put a price on the Beatles?” asks Malachi Galpers of EMI, owners of the Beatles recordings, before answering his own question. The price for the Beatles endorsement, Mr. Galpers informs us, is 184 million dollars. A trifle, when compared to the price reportedly thrown out by the second-most famous band in Rock and Roll when they were approached about lending their name to an ad agency. That word begins with a “B”. As in “billion”. Any Beatles deal, if one is completed, will not include rights to any of the group’s songs, but the purchasing agency would be entitled to unlimited use of a “stinger” of up to eight notes, although this could not be from “Norwegian Wood”. Mr. Galpers maintains that interest among agencies has been “serious”, but at that price, the list of potential buyers would probably be quite short.

What kicked off this sudden rush for rock’n roll cred appears to have been one article in the Minneapolis Star and Tribune that referred to local ad professionals Jarl Olsen and Carol Henderson as “The White Stripes of Advertising”. Their two-person business, Smugglers’ Inn, bested every other shop in town by getting two campaigns in the Communication Arts Advertising Annual, prompting the comparison to alt-rock’s beloved brother-sister act.

“We had decided against entering any award shows,” says Henderson, “but we decided to make an exception for CA. They are the class act of awards shows.

“It doesn’t hurt that their entry fees are a fraction of those asked by other shows. I mean, $1,500 to enter a spot in Cannes? Get me in that business.”

Smugglers’ Inn has no intention of making their association with the White Stripes—or any other band official.

“We were sort of mystified by the White Stripes comparison, to be honest,” confesses Henderson. “I mean, it was flattering and everything, but look at us. We’re not hipsters. We aren’t even skinny. Everyone in town hates us now.”

Surely, I asked, it was a boon to be compared to rock stars for free when your competitors are paying big money for those same associations. Shouldn’t this be a windfall for Smugglers’ Inn?”

“No client that would pick two people who shop at Target over an agency with a couple hundred million in billings and a three-story office full of skinny people (*weight seems to be a theme today-jgt) would be impressed with a paid celebrity endorsement. The only reason we’ve been able to have fun with the work is because our clients haven’t insisted their customers aren’t dumber than they were. We aren’t snobs; we don’t turn down lots of business or anything, but we can’t work for fools.”

Olsen explains:

“Smugglers’ Inn refuses to do business with anyone who couldn’t name three state capitols if they had a banana pointed at their head. It’s our law."

Good to know if you’re a client shopping for an alternative to a free-spending agency. To keep up with the latest from the White Stripes of Advertising, visit

Albany, Pierre, Sacramento.

--Jordan Gossich-Taber, Media Pulse