One-man agency wins top award Hartsock's ad for a bar features drunk with head in popcorn bowl


March 09, 1998|By June Arney | June Arney,SUN STAFF

At first, all you see are the arms of a bartender wiping the bar. Then the camera quickly pans to a sandy-haired, slightly balding businessman, slumped over the bar. He's chubby, wearing a blue Oxford shirt with the sleeves rolled up. His head is buried in a bowl of popcorn.

It's getting close to last call. Glasses clink in the background.

Arms reach out and pull the man up by his hair, move the popcorn bowl over and wipe under it.

"This ain't a place where everybody knows your name. people here can barely even remember their own," a voice says.

Then the patron's head flops back into the popcorn. The bartender continues wiping the bar.

It's a television commercial for Hank Dietle's Tavern, and it earned its creator, Underground Advertising, the best-in-show Saturday night, topping the 1,000 entries in the Advertising Association of Baltimore's 24th Annual Best in Baltimore ADDY Awards Show, a formal affair held at Baltimore's Hyatt Inner Harbor.

Turns out Underground Advertising is a one-man shop -- Eric Hartsock. He's a transplant from Kansas City, Mo., in town for only about two years, according to Sydney Wright, an account executive and producer with Sheffield Audio Visual Productions in Phoenix, Md.

When Hartsock got here, he made the interview circuit of local shops and got some praise but no job offers. He decided to strike out on his own and works out of his home in Stevensville.

In what some who have watched ADDYs for years are calling an unprecedented sweep, Hartsock entered about 14 pieces and walked away with eight ADDYs and the coveted best-in-show award.

His tavern spots seemed to really strike a chord with the judges.

"It was funny, it made me laugh," said Jennifer Lauren, one of the judges and a senior writer and vice president with Young & Rubicam in New York. "It's like one dangerous watering hole. You want a boring place -- this is not it."

Lauren said she liked the irreverence and the clever tag line: "It's safer in the street."

The 15-second television spot was one of three that Hartsock did for Hank Dietle's Tavern. It was entered in the under $10,000 production budget.

Of the 57 ADDYs awarded, W. B. Doner & Co. received the most with nine; followed by Hartsock's Underground Advertising with eight ADDYs, plus best-in-show; Cornerstone and Eisner Associates Inc., each with eight ADDYs; and Gray Kirk VanSant and Campbell Group tied for five ADDYs.

In all, there were 152 finalists, which include ADDYs and citations of excellence in more than 60 categories.

Patricia Martin, another judge and a writer for Martin & Lipton Advertising in New York, praised the overall work, saying the radio was the best in years and that the print entries also were outstanding. She, too, found the best-in-show spots entertaining.

"It was quick and it was funny," she said. "It was the kind of humor you get on television sitcoms of a blue-collar nature."

Recognition on Saturday night went to shops ranging in size from Hartsock's single-man operation to the city's largest.

"It was a fairly typical year in Baltimore, full of great creative minds who face their toughest competition sometimes right here in Baltimore," said Chic Davis, director of the Advertising Association of Baltimore, which runs the awards program. "Winners here usually do really well in regional and national competition."

Local winners here go on to the regional competition, which covers the Northeast, including the big New York agencies, in New York March 30. The national competition will be judged in Baltimore May 1-2.

Pub Date: 3/09/98

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