Brothers Take Creative Act to New Cranford Co.

They took different paths to the same place, and since 2007, all three of Wayne Cranford’s sons had been working with him at the advertising agency he had helped to found in 1961, Cranford Johnson Robinson Woods.

Then, suddenly, all four Cranfords — dad and sons — were gone. For the first time in almost 54 years, there was no Cranford at CJRW.

Jay, 48, and Ross, 46, resigned at the end of April, a couple of months after Darin Gray was brought in as CEO. Chris, 41, who was creative director for CJRW’s Jones Film Video division, was on vacation in Nepal when his brothers made the surprising move, but when he returned, the Cranford exodus was complete.

What Jay described as “philosophical differences” came to a head when the new management “required the entire company to sign non-compete agreements.” First Jay and Ross and then Chris, upon his return, refused to sign. Not only are they not going to not compete, last week they announced their plan to start competing head on.

The three have formed a new advertising agency called Cranford Co. — actually a limited liability company — to be located in downtown Little Rock. Their father will be “of counsel” to Cranford Co.

Mary Mel French, former chief of protocol for the federal government, is also acting in an of-counsel role, and Page Atkins is acting as business development adviser. One full-time employee, website designer and art director John Hornor Jacobs, started work on Monday for the new firm, which Ross said has already been doing work for “paying clients” that he declined to identify.

“The ‘co’ stands for company, of course, but also collaboration, cooperation, community and a whole lot more,” Ross Cranford said in a press release.

Cranford Co. is in negotiations on about 2,000 SF of office space in downtown Little Rock. In the meantime, the Cranford brothers have been working from their homes — “I have two spare bedrooms,” Chris said — and can be reached by phone at (501) 944-9295. An announcement video is available online at CranfordCo.com.

By leaving what is generally considered the largest advertising agency in the state, and one of the oldest, the Cranfords are joining the changing model of the advertising industry. The “factory” model that bloomed in the “Mad Men” days of the 1960s and flourished for decades is being replaced with smaller “garden” agencies that provide full service but not necessarily with in-house talent.

“The sixties saw the birth of the Creative Revolution which is still very powerful,” Ross said. “But now we’re seeing a whole new business model emerge in the industry — powers by new ways to create and distribute persuasive messages without all the lawyer of big agencies.”

Instead, Cranford Co. will offer advertising, marketing, social media and digital services, and for projects that they can’t handle in-house, they will contract for any outside talent they need. “Cranford Co.’s collaborative model allows the agency to work with clients of all sizes, large and small, while pulling in outside talent as needed,” Ross said.

   

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