posted by Michael Powelson Sep 02,2015 @ 12:23PM

Circa 1995

Three to five years.  That's the current lifespan of the average client/agency relationship. I'm not here to bless, bemoan or belabor this. It is, as we so poignantly say now, what it is.

But it's also a telling lens through which to note a remarkable milestone for one of our most remarkable clients.

Last Friday, First Community Bank celebrated its 20th anniversary. What began in 1995 with two banking offices, has grown into a publicly traded, multi-state entity that tallied more than 800 million dollars in assets last year.


Such growth has been achieved, in large part, by remaining steadfast to core principles. Sound fiscal planning. A commitment to relationships. And most importantly, a focus on, and loyalty to local businesses.

Including this one.

You see, last month also marked our 20th year as First Community's marketing partner. In all that time, they've done more than change the way we think about banking. They've shaped the way we think about business. First Community's insight and inspiration bleeds into just about every other account we work on. For their achievement, we could not be more grateful, nor they more deserving.

To Mike, Robin and the hundreds of other diligent and talented individuals that have made this anniversary possible, we offer the most heartfelt of congratulations.

Here's to you and all the homes, communities and businesses you've made better.

Including this one.


First Community's first ad, circa 1995:
First Community's first ad, circa 1995
Twenty years later:

posted by Michael Powelson Apr 08,2015 @ 11:20AM

"Intimate Exchanges": New work and the possibilities of Point of View

Our Cups Runneth Over 

Everyone loves secrets. And as a creative director, it’s always a treat to realize your client is holding on to one of the “best kept” variety.

In the case of Goodwill of the Upstate & Midlands, that little known fact was the extraordinary lengths the organization stretches to squeeze every last drop of value from a second-hand donation. We’re talking extreme thrift and re-imagining of materials — an “everything-can-be-used-for-something” mentality that would make the earliest inhabitants of this continent nod in solemn approval[1]. Bottom line: if you think that junk in your basement is worth just as much at the dump as anywhere else, you’re wrong. And a 20-minute tour of Goodwill’s distribution center in Greenville will prove it.

So raise your hand if you’ve ever considered taking a 20 minute tour of Goodwill’s distribution center in Greenville.

Siri? Siri is that you? Please say something so I know in which direction to speak…the multitude of hands…they blind me so.

Yeah, it’s just not something people do.

What people do is watch videos on the internet. Even some that don’t have kittens or naked people in them. So we decided this might be a decent way to tell the story of Goodwill’s obsessive point of difference.

But a virtual tour? Come on. We’re not hocking timeshares here[2]. Besides, a 50 mm lens just isn’t going to do justice to the massive operation and rigorous protocols that break donations down to fetch the most a market will bear. What we needed was a unique, amusing way to demonstrate how Goodwill gets more out of things than anyone else. What we needed was a different point of view.

Ever wonder if your old stuff has thoughts? Anxieties? Even, gasp, desires? Sure, it’s ridiculous. But so are human beings. Just ask John Lasseter, who turned the notion into a feature franchise and 2 billion dollars worth of ridiculousness for Pixar.

Point is, when we took our own tour of the Distribution Center, we couldn’t help but be distracted by the true menagerie of donated items. It was fun to realize that each one had recently left its home with a back story, a sense of character, and, given a little imagination, a point of view. We saw such unlikely pairings of items sitting side by side, waiting to be sorted out. What in the world would their conversations be like as they made their way through this Ellis Island of material goods? And could those conversations be an unexpected ticket to telling the larger brand story?

Given a few of the more colorful things we saw, we think they might have played out something like this:  





P.S.P.S (Pleasant Surprise Post Script): This work was recently featured on the international industry site "Best Ads On TV," an accomplishment made even more special given that the videos will never, in fact, be seen on TV.

[1] Not something there's been a lot of cause for in the last 500 years.
[2] That is unless you own some. Who doesn't love time? And the sharing! Call us.  

posted by Michael Powelson Jul 15,2014 @ 06:24AM

Spirit of the Lowcountry In New Spots

Screen Shot 2014-07-15 at 10.43.00 AM


Went in search of some Lowcountry soul and met great folks with unique perspectives on patient care at Beaufort Memorial Hospital.

Hope to have done both justice with these new spots.


Suzanne Larson from Michael Powelson on Vimeo.


Mike McCarty from Michael Powelson on Vimeo.


Jo Anne Tudor from Michael Powelson on Vimeo.


Special thanks to director Joanne Hock and GreyHawk Films, our partners in crime on this rewarding project.



posted by Michael Powelson Oct 07,2013 @ 08:21AM

Of course we have favorites

Ninety-five percent of my professional energy is spent trying to avoid clichés. So it pains me that I won’t even get through the next sentence without revealing myself to be one.

I’m an advertising creative director, and my favorite client is a bar.

Hope the shock of that didn’t send anyone into atrial fib.

In all seriousness, the smart money says I really shouldn’t be admitting this. It would be better to whip up something frothy and unassuming about an airline whose industrial video unlocked the outer dimensions of my social consciousness. Or the accounting firm’s annual report that Hansel-and-Gretled me toward new heights of disciplined personal finance. I get it. The urge to spin that kind of “client-least-likely” yarn is tempting.

It’s just not true.

The not-so-sexy fact is, our degree of job fulfillment is oddly consistent: We meet up with nice people, stretch in all imaginable directions to get to the bottom of their situation, identify the opportunities therein, then work like hell to communicate that relevance in the most memorable way possible.

Cracking that nut is where the jollies lie. If you help a brand discover something about itself and get that thing noticed in the market, you feel good. If you don’t, well then, not so much. Still, nine times out of ten, the specific category of a client’s business is irrelevant to the ratio of smiles and frowns.

But this post isn’t about those nine times. So all I can hope is that an explanation of the tenth turns out to be less obvious than you might have thought.


In November of 2002, I arrived in Columbia from Morgantown, WV. Achingly homesick and too stubborn to admit it, I knew no one but the people who’d hired me. At that point, I was an all-together different cliché — 22 years old with the bank balance to prove it. So I moved into the kind of apartment complex whose parking lot is just as full on a Tuesday afternoon as it is on Sunday evening. Bed sheets hung in windows, beepers hung on belt loops, and folks paced bare spots in the grass waiting on the payphone to ring. The rent was right. But it became clear that unless I hoped to add “Miranda” to my small list of acquaintances, social needs would have to be met elsewhere.

Enter Yesterday’s Restaurant and Tavern. I walked in my first Friday night in town, knowing nothing about the place other than it was a RIGGS client – the first and oldest to be exact.

As in any decent pub, my approach to the bar was met with a smile and expectant expression from the young woman on the other side. Rounds passed and it became clear that the demeanor of this wait staff wasn’t the product of a well-studied handbook or strict managerial coaching. There were no scripted phrases, no upsell ploys or pandering stabs at personal conversation. Just a few kind words and the respect to leave patrons to their own private thoughts or company.

The result was a feeling of genuine acceptance, an easy belonging that sets drinkers and servers on truly equal footing. I knew my requests weren’t putting them out. They knew I assumed no sense of superiority accompanied a seat on the outside of the brass rail. This translates into an unspoken, organic equilibrium that is the hallmark of all Clean, Well Lighted Places — so many of which are literally neither. Settling my tab that first evening, I felt grateful to have located this in Columbia. But it wasn’t until I tried to leave that I realized what I’d really found.


Growing up in the rise of “casual dining” franchises, my generation has been long conditioned not to trust, or even notice, the “memorabilia” a restaurant nails to its walls. But something stopped me at the door that night.

Here I was, five hundred miles from home, awash in a sea of garnet and black and orange and purple. But just over the threshold were my own colors and this small salute to home. Trite as it sounds, I can’t tell you how validating that felt. Suddenly my new city seemed a little more open to its transplants.

Those ragged stickers snapped my funk long enough to hear just how loud the walls were talking. I registered the keepsakes from Michigan and Penn State. I read the hand written tributes to longtime customers and fallen Marines. I studied plaques and flags and oars and framed galleys of books that had presumably been written in the booths they now hung above. I began to understand that these weren’t decorations, but artifacts that told the age and history of this place as sure as the rings coiling to the center of an elderly tree trunk.

And then, of course, there were the photographs. For the next forty minutes I went to the walls.

I scanned the faces frozen in time, fixed in their celebration of birthdays, promotions, their own relationships and life in general. Here was proof that the allure of this place transcended most of the trivial ways we try to classify each other and claim there’s much difference between us. I saw white and black, locals and drifters, professors, dropouts, first loves and ex-wives. I saw folks who must look nothing like themselves now and some who were most surely gone all together.

But most importantly I saw reflections.

The majority of the snapshots chronicled Yesterdays late 1970s origins. And so the photos bore striking similarity to those in my parents’ old albums, the ones I used to spend hours examining, wondering what their lives had been like before me. These questions swirled even more now that I’d reached the age they were then. I took comfort in the belief that, just like all the strangers on the wall, the ones responsible for me had had their moments.

I pictured a time they may have drank too much or laughed too loud. I told myself they too were probably alone at some point, starting from scratch and hoping for the best. I used the faces on the wall and the loved ones they resembled to convince myself that things would work out for me too. And with that, a bar that claimed to be all about the past made it just a bit easier to face the future.


Several weeks ago, Yesterday’s asked for an appropriate way to celebrate its 35th anniversary in an outdoor campaign. For good measure, we took a few days and went in several different directions.

Then, of course, we went to the walls.

Hope you enjoy.








posted by Kevin Archie May 02,2013 @ 05:00AM

New Work: Warren

Warren is a forensic engineering and consulting firm that provides technical investigation and analysis of personal injury and property claims in order to uncover the real truth — origin, cause, responsibility and cost of an event — with unmistakable clarity. They believe that every cause leaves a trace and will therefore work tirelessly to get to the bottom of every case. With this in mind, we updated the Warren brand to be as distinctive and straightforward as possible.

The two downward-pointing arrows in the negative space of the Warren "W" further extend the brand promise of getting to the bottom of it. A warm color palette differentiates Warren from competitors — often red, black, and white — while also aligning to the idea that real truth is not always "black and white." The primary color is yellow-orange because of its bright energetic qualities and its correlation to safety — think school buses, yellow lights, and construction machinery. Warm-toned monochromatic photographs of places and situations where a Warren expert often investigates are shown in pre-disaster states to provide a sense of assurance rather than fear. This extensive identity upgrade is already delivering real results for Warren in new business opportunities and new cases. Among the design deliverables was a full stationery package and a search-friendly website designed in collaboration with friend and one-time Weconian, The Pixellary.




By the numbers

youtube is 2nd largest search engine