by Emily Adams Keplinger
The world of marketing and advertising has always been one of responsive evolution. Tastemakers and the general public have a pull that is inarguably unparalleled in most other industries. But through the years, changes in technology, possibly even more than consumers’ taste, have played the biggest role in changing marketing and advertising strategies and delivery. With more than 40 years in the marketing and advertising industry, Anderson Humphreys has witnessed the ongoing development of the field from a simple to a more complex form.
“I came into advertising in the 1970s as a filmmaker with F. Herrick Herrick as my mentor,” recalls Humphreys. “He was the guy who brought Hitchcock over to this country. Ultimately, we developed a TV series called Ports of Call. The series was set in Miami and was distributed to 26 markets.”
Later, Humphreys formed a production company called Hefalump Pictures and began work on The Cayman Triangle, a PG-rated comedy feature film that’s a spoof on the Bermuda Triangle. The film features a number of look-a-likes and Humphreys worked with a voice impressionist to dub in the lines, matching the voice to the face. Subsequently, this became a spin-off and he launched a company called Phonies, using celebrity voices of an impressionist to produce telephone answering machine messages. They were sold in numerous stores around the country including Radio Shack, Target, and Walmart. The latter endeavor evolved into a partnership with the renowned impressionist Rich Little, who did all of the male voices. Julie Dees, wife of former Memphis disc jockey Rick Dees, became the impressionist for all of the female voices.
Returning to Memphis, Humphreys started his own advertising firm, Humphreys Ink. The company went through several evolutions over the next 30 years. But it’s what has happened on the inside of the firm that really tells the story of the field.
“Initially, we worked in a traditional manner with staff, overhead, etc.,” explains Humphreys. “I wrote three books, including Semmes America, a book about American Genealogy and how it should be presented. And I was part of a newly formed company in Washington, D.C., called ACC (Anderson Chip Charles) that produced an advertising industry-related book about the annual Addy Award winners simply called The Book.”
In what seemed to be a total deviation from traditional advertising, Humphreys found he had an interest in paint ball. In fact, for a time, he was the owner of the Paint Ball Park located in Lakeland. But true to his background, this was not just a recreational interest. Humphreys wanted to learn the business, and then be able to market it on a national basis.
“I got very interested in paint ball and connected with a guy in Chicago to form a partnership,” says Humphreys. “We raised $7 million and built Challenge Park Xtreme, in Joliet, Illinois, a facility that included BMX biking, skating, and paint ball. We came up with different concepts — a complete town named ‘Bedlam’ that offered an urban cityscape as the background for playing paint ball. Participants were able to be a part of ‘big games’ that involved 6,000 to 8,000 people playing in one big orchestrated game. We had numerous celebrities who took part in our games, too, which, as can be imagined, enhanced our marketing efforts. In all, we created 12 different, themed fields, including an area that simulated burnt-out Berlin-esque ruins and another area that simulated a Mayan temple. In creating new games and ways to handle paint ball, it became a very interesting chapter in my life, all done while running Humphreys Ink. And that chapter served as an introduction to realizing another technological advancement in advertising — the virtual office.”
Humphreys believes the Internet changed the business of advertising more than any other advancement that has impacted the field.
“Film houses and type houses, they all went away,” he says. “With the advent of more sophisticated personal computers, work could be done internally by an advertising firm. There was no longer a need for couriers, as PDF files could be sent directly to clients. And the playing field was leveled as smaller agencies could begin to operate globally, competing with larger firms for contracts.”
Humphreys now works in a virtual agency of his own creation. Most of his clients are out of town. And he is able to assemble the team he desires for each contract, drawing on the best-of-the-best.
“In a traditional brick-and-mortar agency, I would have to deal with overhead costs such as facility space and payroll,” he says. “Staffing would be limited by geographies. But having a virtual agency allows me to bring in the team I need, which usually ranges from three to nine players, and they can be located anywhere. I put together the ad team we need, like a media director, an art director, and writers. We rely on email for most communications and engage Skype when we need face-to-face conversations. I can work from anywhere now, though most often I choose to work fireside from my farm outside of Memphis in Rossville.”
Humphreys says that he finds working from his rural setting to be creatively inspiring, set among lakes and trees. He has a small, but very efficient office, and can host meetings at various locales if needed.
“The main reason I went on this independent track is that it gave me control over the ‘financial valve’ of my work,” says Humphreys. “I can turn it off and on as needed since there are no salaries, only contracted laborers. And for my clients, I can offer a much better product for a lot less money, and delivered much quicker.”
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