Local advertising agency BooneOakley’s goal is simple: be disruptive.
And in the marketing world, says company president Greg Johnson, that means developing distinctive brands that get noticed, ads that get recounted and phrases that enter the vernacular.
BooneOakley, located at 1445 South Mint St., specializes in this brand of story-telling, which is why the 25-employee company stands toe-to-toe with agencies that have thousands of employees.
Since it opened in 2000, BooneOakley has led campaigns for a number of well-known companies, such as HBO, MTV, State Farm Insurance and CarMax, and was a contestant on AMC’s advertising reality show, “The Pitch,” last spring.
Locally, they’ve led campaigns for the Mint Museum and the Charlotte Bobcats.
Johnson will be honored this month as an emerging leader in his field when he receives the “Next Generation” award from the N.C. Hall of Fame in Journalism, Advertising and Public Relations.
An N.C. native and UNC Chapel Hill grad, Johnson, 45, joined the BooneOakley team more than two years ago after holding high-level positions at Johnson & Johnson and Nike, where he helped launch the Air Jordan brand.
He spoke with ShopTalk about standing out in a crowded market, encouraging creativity and the changing world of advertising.
On starting conversations: Because consumers are constantly bombarded with advertisements, the best marketing campaigns do more than reach eyeballs; they start conversations, Johnson says.
Take, for example, Bojangles’ “It’s Bo Time” slogan – a BooneOakley creation now used by fans of the food franchise.
“When you start hearing people use language from your advertising and using references in their cultural vernacular, you know the work ... will lead to sales,” says Johnson. “Until that point, it’s just a cool piece of footage.”
On “The Pitch”: While on “The Pitch” (a spin-off of “Mad Men,” AMC’s award-winning drama about advertising in the 1960s), BooneOakley competed against another agency to develop the best campaign for a new flavor of the snackfood Popchips.
The drama was real, Johnson said. In fact, mid-week, he got sick and had to have emergency surgery to get his gallbladder removed.
BooneOakley didn’t win the TV competition, but the agency did won new clients once the show aired. Even San Francisco-based Popchips approached them about a different project, Johnson says.
On office space and creativity: The BooneOakley office is in a former textile mill. To foster collaboration, the work space is open, with no doors or closed-off glass offices. A basketball court and scooters help employees de-stress and connect outside of a project.
“Creative ideas come forth in pressure situations but also by people who are having fun and enjoying what they’re doing,” says Johnson, whose desk is in the middle of the action.
On adapting digitally and making good hires: BooneOakley is always looking for ways to adapt, Johnson says, which is why he looks for employees who are creative and willing to test new ideas – even with the agency itself.
For example, www.booneoakley.com offers an option for the traditional website format or a YouTube-hosted website with high-tech videos embedded within videos.
“Don’t be afraid of going places people haven’t gone before,” says Johnson. “Change is the new normal and you have to be brave enough to evolve.”
Keys to Success draws on insights from small business people on building a successful enterprise. Contact reporter Caroline McMillan at 704-358-6045 or email@example.com
The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.
Have a news tip? You can send it to a local news editor; email firstname.lastname@example.org to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Charlotte Observer.Read moreRead less