How to succeed in advertising by really trying

Bright, breezy, brimming with ideas and on the move describes Franklin Tipton, AS ’91, who has found his calling in a career in advertising.

Advertising has found him as well, awarding him “just about every award you can win in advertising,” according to the prospectus of Tipton’s latest venture, the Dial House advertising agency in San Francisco. Dial House also lists him as one of the 10 best copywriters in the world.

This year, One Club, a nonprofit organization promoting excellence in advertising, awarded him three gold pencils, one silver and one bronze in the advertising category and Best of Show in the interactive category. In addition, he won the prestigious Grand CLIO award, honoring creative advertising, for his Counterfeit Mini Cooper ad campaign and four Titanium awards from the Cannes Advertising Festival, the most prestigious and most international advertising competition.

He calls what he does “pop culture engineering,” which loosely translated means creating and producing offbeat, irreverent ad campaigns that appeal to the young and young-at-heart. “I hate traditional advertising—it’s really boring,” he says.

Although he takes the goals of marketing and selling a product very seriously, the heart of his ad campaigns is entertainment and humor, treating nonsense as sense, and it works.

“You have to look closely at where the brand, the culture and the market intersect, and then brainstorm ideas that will target the group you are trying to reach,” Tipton says.

For example, for award-winning Mini Cooper cars, manufactured by BMW, he revved up a series of tongue-in-cheek ads, creating the Counter Counterfeit Commission, warning consumers not to be taken in by “counterfeits” of such items as watches, sunglasses and, of course, Mini Coopers, illustrated by huge finned cars from the ’50s, a pickup truck, two motorcycles hitched together side by side and a boat, all with the characteristic Mini Cooper stripes.

In conjunction with the campaign, he broke into the automobile customizing market by developing MOTORmate accessories that anyone could live without, such as the G-Whiz G-Force indicator for extreme handling, which prevents Lateral Momentum Facial Distortion from too many high- speed turns. They sold by the thousands.

“My goal was to reignite the love of driving and one’s car,” Tipton says. The result of this campaign was in the showroom—sales of Mini Coopers rose a healthy 40 percent.

Other commercials here and abroad include Bachelor’s Super Noodles (a food fight with noodles between bachelors), Burger King’s chicken fries (the advantage of serving chicken fries to race car drivers at pit stops. rather than a whole chicken on a stick), the Miller Lite Square Table (regular guys talking as opposed to King Arthur’s Round Table) and trash truck drivers’ testimonials for Glad bags.

Steppingstones in Tipton’s career include a stint at J. Walter Thompson advertising agency in New York and then London, where he worked for Gold Greenlees Trott & Mother. His wife, Libby Brockhoff, AS ’92, was a founding partner at the agency. He spent the next three years as a member of the management team that built the Mother brand into an international creative powerhouse known for populist, offbeat work. Mother received Campaign magazine’s “Agency of the Year” award in 1999, only three years after its formation. Back in the States, he worked for a Fallon agency in Minnesota, then joined Crispin-Porter+Bogusky in Florida (where he originated the Mini Cooper campaign), and now he is a partner in Dial House.

Dial House is named, with permission, after a 16th-century cottage in England, which now houses the Center for Dynamic Cultural Change and provides the inspiration for its San Francisco namesake. “It is a bedrock of strategic brilliance,” Tipton says of his newest venture, “with all of us having different areas of expertise.” Another UD grad, Paul Wachter, AS ’06, who won a One Club student award, is on board as a copywriter, and Tipton recently hired Phil Conway, AS ’06, from UD’s Visual Communications program.

Tipton’s career has him hopscotching around the world. “Doing commercials is like working for a mini Hollywood studio—getting the idea and selling it, walking it through, filming, editing and shipping out the finished product. Most of our production work is done overseas in such places as South Africa, Australia, Canada and Brazil—one reason being cost—so I travel a lot,” he says.

Tipton credits UD’s “fantastic” visual communications program, taught then by professors Ray Nichols and Martha Carothers, for launching his career in advertising. “From the time you submitted a portfolio to get into the program, it was the real world and very competitive. Your work was constantly judged and rated,” Tipton says. “Visual communications was the right fit for me—I found myself and what I wanted to do as a career.”