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Direct is better.



Resneck Stone Ward and Associates is on a roll. With $14 million in capitalized billings, Little Rock's third largest advertising agency--behind Cranford Johnson Robinson Associates and Mangan Rains Ginnaven Holcomb -- is also one of the region's fastest growing.

Just five years old, RSW had its image polished to a high gloss when the 1989 Clio Awards (referred to in the industry as "The Academy Awards of Advertising") honored the agency's work for Worthen Bank and Nickelodeon Shoes. RSW was the only local agency to be singled out from among 27,000 entrants by the competition launched 30 years ago to pay homage to U.S. television advertising.

Larry Stone and Millie Ward call themselves co-creative directors -- his background is art, hers is copywriting -- though officially, the title is his and that's his primary responsibility. Ward is the company's VP and functions first and foremost as supervisor for all the Little Rock-based accounts and for the agency's public relations efforts.

Myron Resneck, the third partner, runs the firm's Memphis office. Stone and Ward have been a creative team for about eight years since they worked together with Resneck and Ben Combs. The three split from Combs in a bitter feud in 1984 that resulted in a legal dispute Combs eventually won against Resneck and Stone.

With his craggy face and huge eyes underlined by deep circles, Stone looks more like a prize fighter than a creative genius. That is, if you keep your eyes on his longish hair and beard and don't notice his bay window. Ward is tall and apple-cheeked, with flyaway hair. She's as bright and chatty as Stone is reserved. The two finish each other's sentences, gently interrupting each other like a long-married couple -- or longtime partners.

"A lot of the growth that we've experienced has been within our own client base," says Stone. "And that comes from results. When your clients have an objective of growth and that succeeds and you're part of that, then you grow too."

A partial list of Resneck Stone Ward's client list, which they describe as having depth and diversity, includes Worthen Banking Corp. and six of its affiliate banks; Stephens Inc.; Munro & Co. of Hot Springs, the shoe manufacturer; the Nickeldeon TV Network of New York; Doctor's Hospital; Union Planters Bank of Memphis; and Belz Enterprises of Memphis and its national Factory Outlet Mall chain.

The principals are quick to point out that, while they manage the creative product, much of the agency's success is owed to the gifted pool of writers and artists they've assembled. Other than talent, Stone and Ward look for intelligence and good judgement, qualities they say are difficult to find in one person.

"It's real easy to do something bizarre, but that doesn't make good creative," says Stone. "Good creative has to work, it has to sell."

Much of Resneck Stone Ward's advertising carries the recognizable stamp of their unique, innovative style -- vivid colors, bold headlines, and whimsical visual techniques with lots of geometric figures scattered across a layout in what appears to be an unstructured design.

"I think what people would say about this agency is that it does an outstanding job of marrying graphics and really punchy headlines that still carry a strong sales message," says Ward.

Ward and Stone believe a creative product must do two things: accomplish the marketing objective and stand out from the thundering advertising herd galloping across the media. They've certainly done that for Worthen Bank, which the firm picked as a client after its plummet to near-insolvency and return to profitability.

"Traditionally, in any market, but particularly in this one, outdoor advertising for banks has been just name I.D. -- just put up a board that presents that bank's name somehow," explains Ward. "We don't believe there are very many banks in any market that would let us do some of the things we've done for Worthen Bank, that would let us put as much color and personality into the things we've done for them."

Stone continues his partners thought: "What's even better than that is the client has a series of post-advertising research going on, every six months or so, and those lines just keep going up. It's working."

Stone cites an old cliche about advertising being "no better than its clients" and adds: "We've been extra-ordinarily fortunate to have the right kinds of clients."

One of RSW's zany new television commercials for Worthen features a bank executive cutting up ala Michael Jackson -- quite a departure from the standard, stodgy "Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow" bank spots.

"We wanted to do advertising that was out of the ordinary," says Kay Cook, Worthen's marketing director. "You see so much out there and it all begins to look alike."

Bold billboards also have been used effectively for Doctor's Hospital, for which Resneck Stone Ward handles public relations, advertising and marketing.

Lynne Matthews, director of public relations, says one of the factors in their choice of RSW was the agency's personal touch. "They become part of the team in working with you. They always have the hospital's best interests in mind, even if it means less revenue for them."

Matthews says the relationship between the hospital and the agency is so finely tuned that, "they're almost always right on target the first time."

Ward says that's no accident. "We spend a lot of time and energy in this agency trying to make sure that the `relationship' part of the relationship is sound and is cultivated day to day and that we are viewed by our clients as part of the team rather than as a vendor or as an adversary. Our clients are like our children."

"They are my support staff," says Cook, whose full-time help includes just an administrative assistant. "They work helping to set up our budget. They write our press releases. We have employee activities and they help us in planning those."

Stone says their client style allows them to learn "exactly what needs to be done. It's the way to do it."

"We not only know about the advertising that we do for Doctors, but we know what their numbers are like in their Emergency Room," adds Ward. "We know how many patients their cardiac unit had last month. And we know what's going on in other cardiac units across the country that we can apply to that unit. We spend a lot of time knowing the business that our clients are in and making a practice to ask questions and be with our clients, to know where they stand in their market."

Matthews is especially proud of the outdoor campaign Resneck Stone Ward came up with for Doctors Hospital, one of the city's newest hospitals and one of the smallest. The boards stress Doctors' women's services, emergency room, and cardiac care. "They have done this through being able to convey the personality of the hospital through the creative and copywriting," explains Matthews. "People notice our billboards because they're different. That was Resneck Stone Ward's idea and it was all their creative."

The most far-reaching suggestion RSW has made for Jacksonville People With Pride was for the group to sponsor a festival, called Cityfest, says Mike Wilson, a co-chairman of the three-year-old, nonprofit organization formed to combat negatives images of the city due to dioxin-contaminated areas.

"It was a good idea, has been very well received by the people, and raises money for us," says Wilson.

Stone has a saying that goes, `Your output is no better than your input. You have to absorb everything -- movies, other advertising, have to input all the time or you won't have anything coming out."

With its fast growth, comes the question of how big Resneck Stone Ward & Associates aspires to be? It's a tough question, one they say gets bounced around a lot in their offices.

"Our objective as far as growth goes would be to grow with the right kinds of clients rather than mass growth," says Stone.

He describes their business attitude as following the Pogo theorgy: "Is it fun? Is it profitable? Is it ethical? If not, what are we doing here?"

"What we would like to be, more than big or small," says Ward, jumping in, "is to be a known presence in this market, in the Memphis market and hopefully, as we grow in a more regional fashion, an agency that is innovative and sets a high standard for its creative product and gets results."

Ward and Stone personally involve themselves with each client. The Los Angeles producer they worked with on the recently-released Worthen commercials was struck by the fact that the agency's principals were attending the work session.

Instead of having to make a series of phone calls before finalizing production decisions, he could work directly with the decision-makers. "Direct is better," he said.

"That's what we think," Ward says. "Direct is better."

PHOTO : Both Ward (left) and Stone act as co-creative directors for the firm; they have worked

PHOTO : together so long they finish each other's sentences.

Letha Mills is a free-lance writer living in Little Rock.
COPYRIGHT 1989 Journal Publishing, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1989 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Resneck Stone Ward and Associates
Author:Mills, Letha
Publication:Arkansas Business
Article Type:company profile
Date:Sep 11, 1989
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