Repositioned boutique rebounds stronger

After CD/art director Tony Williams took a hit when the agency with which he had partnered lost its major account, he reinvented his traditional Gavan agency as a creative boutique focusing on new media projects for small companies.

By adding “urban appeal” to the mix, his business has rebounded quite profitably for these difficult times.

Gavan was just underway as a traditional boutique when “we put all our eggs in one basket,” Williams says, by teaming with R. J. Dale Advertising and Public Relations in pursuit of the Illinois Lottery’s $105 million account.

When a general market agency resigned in 2004 amid rumblings that the lottery agency was targeting African Americans, Dale stepped up to compete against 18 other agencies for the multiyear contract.

Williams helped pitch the account. The margin between R. J. Dale, the first place winner and the second place winner was the highest in the history of the Lottery competition.

Williams worked as a CD/writer/art director on the account, and also co-directed the Lottery’s memorable Bernie Mac commercials, until Dale’s oft-extended contract finally ended this year.

With the Lottery work over, “we had nothing to fall back on,” Williams recalls.

Gavan was back at square one. “But I picked up and kept going,” Williams said.

He reassessing the creative skill set he had built over 15 years as a staff or freelance CD/art director or freelance for big agencies and national advertisers and regenerated Gavan.

By gearing it to new media and the African American market, Gavan is possibly Chicago’s only such resource.

Over the past few years, the roster of Chicago’s dedicated African American agencies has narrowed down to mainly Carol H. Williams.

Long time category leader Burrell Communications sailed the mainstream when purchased by Publicis a decade ago, and Eugene Morris and Robert Dale, having made their marks, are contemplating other options.

Small, flexible companies like Gavan traditionally fare well during economic downturns, to which Williams can testify.

“We knock on doors and show companies how they can have great creative and save money. Consequently, we are now enjoying strong growth,” he says.

Some of Gavan’s diverse recent projects have included a doc-short currently in progress for the Children’s Neuroblastoma Cancer Fund to premiere mid-June; an animated web and trade show promotion for Motorola’s new emergency product line and a music video for artist Kentrell for New York-based Jive Records.

Gavan’s staff consists of partner and veteran filmmaker/editor Patrick Mongoven, who merged his production skills with Gavan to head production; Jennifer Walden, project coordinator Yolando Oladapo, sales and production and Williams and veteran filmmaker/editor Patrick Mongoven.

Their 1,800-sq. ft. of South Loop space has a green screen, a Final Cut Pro HD suite, full ProTools and an audio room, plus Mongoven’s camera and lighting equipment.

Gavan is located at 1900 S. Clark; phone 312/497-4241. See