First, Dan Waymack wants to set the record straight.
In 2016, his Waymack & Crew bought M-3 Productions from CJRW, the ad agency across the street, not the other way around. And no, the price wasn’t a dollar.
“It was considerably more than that, and I have the paperwork to prove it,” the commercial-maker said.
Waymack, 54, led a tour around Waymack & Crew’s gleaming glass-fronted offices in downtown Little Rock, describing the CJRW deal and reminiscing about his career. Marketing veteran Alan Crancer, who became Waymack’s director of new regional business development this year, joined him in swapping tales and bragging about firm-owned equipment like a new car-mounted stabilized camera arm called a MotoCrane Ultra. It’s advertised for nearly $40,000 on the MotoCrane website.
Waymack, a filmmaker since age 19, retraced the arc of his career, clearing up what he said were misconceptions on how he wound up at Third and Main.
He said CJRW looked to sell M-3, the production company it had bought from Gary Jones in 2006, after headaches with owning its own production company and bidding for state work. “I told [CJRW CEO] Darin Gray that’s the dilemma of owning a vendor. I said, ‘Why don’t you let me buy it?’”
So Waymack bought the assets, but not the 7,000-SF building M-3 had downtown. He leases the space, and makes payments on the company purchase to CJRW, which financed the deal.
“Because CJRW’s across the street, that ties us in people’s minds,” Waymack said. “But I do think they gave us a good deal. We were already doing their production, and quite frankly I think it was as good as they could get. The agencies here demand excellence, and they have for years. CJRW, Mangan, Stone Ward, and many others require top quality.”
He credited his team with keeping up high standards working in Arkansas and beyond, notably in Chicago. “It’s all thanks to our folks,” Waymack said. “There’s a reason it’s called Waymack & Crew.” Particular praise went to veteran editor Les Galusha, a longtime Jones employee who joined Waymack in 2016.
The firm opened an office in Bentonville and July, and has other branch offices in Chicago and West Palm Beach, Florida.
Waymack admits he’s no great businessman. He once dismayed a retailer he admired by describing business dealings as a byproduct of wanting to shoot high-quality work. “He looked at me like I’d done something completely disgusting.”
Before he was shooting Allstate and Miller Lite commercials, Waymack was a teenager documenting weddings. That’s where radio star Craig O’Neill stepped in, helping launch Waymack’s career. (O’Neill is now capping his own career as a television anchor at KTHV.)
“This was 1986, and Craig was a guest at one of the weddings,” Waymack said. O’Neill approached Waymack and told him to follow along. “I was starstruck, so I followed him shooting as he interacted with people, and it was hilarious. Videos didn’t go viral then, but this got passed around and I started to get job offers.”
Veteran ad man John Hudgens asked Waymack to produce a commercial for Little Rock haberdasher Jimmy Karam. “Mr. Karam had just gotten in a bunch of shirts from Mexico at a dollar apiece, and he wanted to know if I’d trade the production work for a bunch of dress shirts. I said, ‘No, sir!’ But we’ve been making commercials ever since.”
Along the way, he’s made U.S. Army ads, Allstate “good hands” spots with veteran actor Dennis Haysbert, and countless commercials for tourism in Florida, Kentucky, Illinois and Arkansas, as well as the Arkansas Scholarship Lottery. “Ten or 15 years ago we were making many bank commercials; then the big thing was hospitals. Now it’s colleges. Banks are advertising less, and some do no commercials at all.”
Business is good now, he’s happy to report. “We’ve had rocky times, but I think that’s been because of my business decisions, not the marketplace.” An error from 20 years ago still haunts him: buying a $300,000 editing machine that was quickly obsolete. “Two or three years later, it was a boat anchor.”
His best and worst years came back to back within the last decade. “We concentrated on work outside Arkansas that good year,” Waymack said. “That outside work gives us the volume we need to succeed, but the next year was horrible outside the state, and some in-state customers had started wondering if I was still working here. That was a good lesson.”