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CJRW tops ad agencies.

CHANGES THIS YEAR AT three firms have affected Arkansas Business' ranking of the largest advertising agencies in the state. But Cranford Johnson Robinson Woods remains the state's top agency, no matter what measurement is used.

Based on number of employees, Cranford Johnson is four times larger than the No. 2 agency, Blackwood/Martin & Associates Advertising Inc. of Fayetteville.

The firms were not asked to report their number of clients or their sales, but there is no doubt Cranford Johnson also ranks No. 1 in those categories.

Kirkpatrick Williams Associates, which had 11 employees last year, acquired Gurley Associates of Rogers in February. Kirkpatrick Williams now has 18 employees.

Combs & Heathcott, the second largest agency last year with 30 employees, split in February. Ben Combs is president of Combs & Co., which now has 17 employees. Gary Heathcott is president of Heathcott Associates, with 12 employees.

"The |Combs and Heathcott~ agency had generally functioned as two divisions from the very beginning," Heathcott says. "Over a 5 1/2-year period of time, we had two people overseeing basically their client work. Ben managed his efforts and I managed mine.

"So when I decided to strike out on my own, it was a pretty natural break. We even had two separate bookkeeping departments. If you can find a natural break like that, there is no reason it shouldn't be amicable."

Combs & Co.'s clients include the Hot Springs Advertising & Promotion Commission; Systematics Information Services Inc., Baptist Medical Center and Environmental Systems Co. in Little Rock; Tyson Foods Inc. of Springdale; and Magic Springs, a Hot Springs theme park.

Heathcott's clients include Chevrolet dealership cooperatives in Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama and northern Florida. Some of the firm's other clients are KFC restaurants in Little Rock, Fort Smith, Fayetteville and Springfield, Mo.

He estimates the agency does about 80 percent of its work outside Arkansas.

"I don't know that there is enough business inside the borders of Arkansas for as many ad agencies to survive as are here," Heathcott says. "When you do something that is effective for one type of business, you have the opportunity to take it on the road. And that's proven to be very beneficial for us."

KFC Promotions

Heathcott says his agency recently completed a second series of television commercials that KFC will use nationally. Heathcott, while at Combs & Heathcott, first produced national commercials for KFC last fall, promoting the chain's buffet line.

There were two versions of the fall commercial, shot in a KFC at Maumelle. One commercial, shown in Arkansas, has the proprietor wearing a University of Arkansas at Fayetteville Hog hat. No Hog hat is seen in the other version shown in the rest of the country.

"From time to time, KFC uses regional agencies to do work for them |nationally~, and they've asked us to do a few things for them," Heathcott.

Heathcott also has done newspaper inserts for KFC in about 30 national markets.

"We really specialize in direct-to-the-consumer advertising," Heathcott says. "I like the idea of doing work, whether it be print or broadcast or outdoor, that causes immediate results."

In May 1992, the Little Rock area KFC cooperative asked Combs & Heathcott to promote the buffet line. Heathcott says the campaign led to immediate increases in customer traffic and sales.

"Over the next several months, the KFC stores in this market experienced dramatic growth, from 15 percent to 30 percent increases in sales," Heathcott says. "Now we can't take even the lion's share of the credit. They invested a lot of money in equipment, and even some of the franchisees came up with the concept."

Fourteen of the 18 agencies on the list have offices in the Little Rock area. Only Blackwood/Martin in Fayetteville, McNabb Kelley & Barre in Jonesboro, Williams Crawford Perry & Associates in Fort Smith and Miles Beals & Associates in Fort Smith have no central Arkansas offices.
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Title Annotation:Cranford Johnson Robinson Woods Inc.
Author:Smith, David (American novelist)
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:May 3, 1993
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