Welcome back to “Feel The Ad Love”, a podcast about all things #advertising and #marketing. This episode features Jeffry Jones, Creative Director from Freed Advertising @papalibre sharing the inside scoop on ad agency relationships and other shenanigans!
M. Bruce Abbott: So, how does a long-haired heavy metal musician get to be one of the top creatives in his field? How is life in advertising as we rock and roll into 2019? Hi, this is Bruce Abbott. Here at Radio Lounge, Ray Schilens and I feel the ad love with Jeffry Jones, creative director of Freed Advertising. From Rotel to Chef Boyardee, the Texas Lottery to Mercedes Benz, Jeff is a great example of what makes our industry fun. He also answers the question of how an advertiser can better use an agency to benefit their brand. Our conversation with Jeff starts right now.
Ray Schilens: Ladies and gentlemen, Vinnie Velveeta is in the building. Well, he’s actually not in the building. He’s on the phone.
Jeff Jones: Speaking of smelly cheese.
M. Bruce Abbott: Vinnie Velveeta.
Ray Schilens: That’s a great idea, Vinnie Velveeta. It’s the smelly Velveeta. I like that for those of you who’re just not happy with the regular Velveeta. It’s Vinny Velveeta.
M. Bruce Abbott: Where did you get Vinny Velveeta?
Jeff Jones: All that means is that I’m shelf stable and I’m easily meltable.
Ray Schilens: Okay, well, that’s enough.
M. Bruce Abbott: And, filled with chemicals?
Jeff Jones: Yeah.
Ray Schilens: That’s an accurate description of Jeff Jones, who is creative director at Freed Advertising here in Houston. We have a chance to work with Jeff a lot on a lot of different projects over many, many years. Always, what we do is we end up having a whole bunch of fun and occasionally get some work done beyond that. So, here’s Jeff Jones, Houston born and raised. Is that correct, Mr. Jones?
Jeff Jones: That is correct, yes. I couldn’t get more Houston than if I tried, really.
Ray Schilens: The only person that I know who also knows somebody in Gloversville, New York.
Jeff Jones: That’s right.
Ray Schilens: What are the odds?
Jeff Jones: That’s right.
Ray Schilens: I think it’s pretty cool.
Jeff Jones: I’ve been there. My wife Nonita, God rest her soul, a wonderful spitfire of a lady, little four foot nothing Sicilian woman who when she first-
M. Bruce Abbott: Wielding a rolling pin, right?
Jeff Jones: Yes, wielding a rolling pin, and when she first met me, I had long rocker hair, as you did in those days. And, I was dating my to-be wife, and she looked at me, and she said, “I know you look like a girl, but you are a good boy.” So, that endeared us to each other-
Ray Schilens: You were in at that point.
Jeff Jones: Quite nicely. I was in at that point.
Ray Schilens: Hey, man. Are you going to grow your hair back, Jeff?
Jeff Jones: The best thing is-
Ray Schilens: You ever going to grow your hair back?
Jeff Jones: Oh, yeah. Yes, without a doubt. I’m starting right now.
Ray Schilens: Okay, good.
Jeff Jones: I’m freshly shorn from yesterday.
Ray Schilens: No shaving.
M. Bruce Abbott: I will live vicariously through you.
Jeff Jones: Yes.
Ray Schilens: You’re going to have to.
Jeff Jones: Speaking of, you asked about Vinnie Velveeta earlier, which is a silly moniker that was foisted upon me, as was Scheffer, which is the nickname that I have earned over the years. That originally came from Nonita because she could not remember my name.
Ray Schilens: Well, it seems like a tough name to remember, four letters.
Jeff Jones: Right, she was trying to impart some wisdom on me across the room and couldn’t remember who this doofus was who was dating her granddaughter. So, Scheffer, yeah. S-C-H-E-F-F-E-R, and then Vinnie Velveeta, to answer the question from five minutes ago was, that is my stage name, because as you know, I am part of the world famous fabulous schlock and roll band, The Unmentionables.
Ray Schilens: Yes, yes. A very good Elvis band and a whole bunch of other genres as well, right?
Jeff Jones: Yes, absolutely. We do a whole Elvis set kind of in the middle, and then most of it is just everything that we grew up with on the radio or that we thought at the time of its inception, boy, wouldn’t it be funny if a band played this song, that kind of a thing. Nowadays, it’s not as unique as I guess we thought it was or whatever. But, nonetheless, a lot of fun. It’s myself, my brother, Darren, and then a very good friend of mine that I met in this silly industry, Allen Babb who is creative chief Poobah at the Lee Group. Then, his two brothers, Mark and Paul, then our friend Richard Alban, AKA the king.
Ray Schilens: So, this incestual relationship continues here into your adulthood. Is that what you’re saying?
Jeff Jones: It does, yes, and it kind of for a while there was a quasi ad agency band. It spilled out from getting into history now, I came up through FKM or Fogerty, Klein, Monroe, or Fogerty, Klein, and Partners, or Fogerty, Klein and one of it’s many names.
Ray Schilens: Ninth, tenth, and eleventh wonder.
Jeff Jones: Yes, all of those things.
M. Bruce Abbott: That company and the company of others and then-
Jeff Jones: The company of a whole bunch of names.
M. Bruce Abbott: Three’s Company, I think, also, and-
Ray Schilens: Until Jack died.
Jeff Jones: What we would do, quite funnily, is have a talent show for our Christmas party. Me and some like minded guys that … I play guitar. well, I can bash out a tune. We threw together this little set each year as the little agency band. The Unmentionables’s actual first iteration was at an FKM Christmas party. There, I was dubbed Vinnie Velveeta by some guys over there at Fogerty. I didn’t give it to myself, but I loved it because I am the king of cheese, as it turns out.
Ray Schilens: I can see a Texas custom license plate in your name as well. You know what I’m saying?
Jeff Jones: Oh, yeah.
M. Bruce Abbott: Now, the funny thing is when I think of Velveeta, Ro-Tel was actually a client you were working for.
Jeff Jones: This is true.
M. Bruce Abbott: The combination of those two make the ultimate in cheap queso, so therefore-
Ray Schilens: Good queso.
M. Bruce Abbott: You have earned this Vinnie Velveeta moniker.
Jeff Jones: That was a great account to work on, and we did a lot of really cool stuff and got to do a lot of neat music, speaking of music, and with Trout Fishing in America.
Ray Schilens: Can you tell the Ro-Tel story about the jingle that you did for them?
Jeff Jones: We had somehow acquired the account, and it was a lot of fun. I think before that, actually what started the packaged goods train we rode for a while there was Ranch Style Beans. Then, we started to accumulate a lot of other stuff based on the strength of that work, which was really nice. This little mid-size in national terms agency was starting to poke the big guy in the eye and steal a lot of their national brand accounts. That was a fun ride for a while there for a few years, but so we got Ro-Tel. We’re trying to come up with a really memorable way to … What were we doing? We were promoting a new salsa they had come up with, a pico de gallo salsa, which I don’t believe it exists anymore. It was very good.
Jeff Jones: Originally, we wanted to use “Copacabana” the Barry Manilow classic. So, we wanted to of course rewrite the lyrics and use that borrowed interest of a very famous song and wrote our version of “Copacabana” and approached the Barry Manilow camp and were quickly turned away when he demanded an exorbitant amount of money, ruinously expensive, this was. So, we had to go a different direction. One of the guys at Fogerty had mentioned this song by there’s a little duo, very clever duo called Trout Fishing in America. Really cool guys, and they have a song called “Pico de Gallo.” I’m not exactly sure if they wrote it originally, but they recorded it and popularized it. It was really good, and it was essentially perfect right out of the gate. So, we just had to change a few things and brand it with Ro-Tel, but it was a very nice way to pick a relatively obscure song from a smaller, hungrier musical outfit.
Ray Schilens: That means you got a good deal on it, right?
Jeff Jones: Yeah, that’s where I’m getting. But, not demanding Barry Manilow money. Wasn’t he famous for being a jingle guy?
Ray Schilens: He was. He wrote American Bandstand and a whole bunch of other stuff as well.
Jeff Jones: Exactly, so he knows what kind of gravy boat jingle writing is, speaking of gravy. Yeah, so we contacted Trout Fishing in America. They were very keen to the idea, and they said, “Okay, we’ll do it. We’re actually recording an album right now in Nashville, and if you would just cover our studio cost for the day, we’ll do it. We’ll happily do it.” We said, “Okay.” The client said, “Okay, hooray.” So, that was amazing fun. Flew out to Nash-Vegas and met with those guys. They happened to be recording in famous RCA studio B, which made me super happy because I learned that’s where Elvis recorded his famous Christmas album among other famous Elvis recordings. Holy moly, I’m in the room where Elvis was, and in fact, this as funny. I don’t know if it’s true or legend, but there’s a hole in the wall in that studio where they claim Elvis got really mad one night and kicked a hole in the wall. They decided to keep it because Elvis kicked a hole in the wall.
Ray Schilens: Because Elvis kicked the hole in the wall, yeah. Wow, that’s cool.
Jeff Jones: It was a patented Elvis karate move. It was really neat. They were actually giving tours of the studio while we were in there working. There’d be this glass window, and people would kind of wander by and look in.
Ray Schilens: You felt like an animal at the-
Jeff Jones: What’s going on in there?
Ray Schilens: You felt like an animal at the zoo.
Jeff Jones: Yeah, a little bit.
Ray Schilens: Yeah, it’s time to feed the musicians.
Jeff Jones: It was a tiny pinky toe dip into what could be perhaps perceived as what it would be like to be a big time music guy for five seconds. I got a little taste of that.
Ray Schilens: Being a musician, do you think that plays a role in the success in your creative endeavors? In other words, is that a benefit, having that musical background, do you think?
Jeff Jones: I think it is in lots of ways, actually. Being a copywriter when I was coming up learning to write, I realized that there’s sort of a rhythm to copy. There’s a rhythm or a music to good copy, and especially getting it to kind of cram into the allotted time slots that we’re given where there’s a 30 second or back in the glory days a 60 second radio. But, there’s a kind of a rhythm and a cadence, not to say that it’s a stanza of rap lyrics. There’s a music to good copy the really sings, and I guess there’s a reason why that’s used a descriptor.
Ray Schilens: So, that’s been a big benefit.
Jeff Jones: Say again, I’m sorry.
Ray Schilens: That’s been a big benefit for you, then, as well.
Jeff Jones: It has. Then, on top of that, I’ve got to do a lot of really cool, fun stuff musically. I worked on the Texas Lottery for several years, and we did a whole musical campaign for their scratch games. When I mean musical, I mean that in the sense of Busby Berkeley musicals or Rodgers and Hammerstein or whatever. One was set in a park fountain, and it was very that … Is it Busby Berkeley? Is that the right? What were the synchronized swimming movies? Do you remember those?
Ray Schilens: I don’t know the name, but I can picture them as we speak. Yeah, I got you.
M. Bruce Abbott: The little hats.
Jeff Jones: We kind of riffed on that and played on that, so it was that grandiose 30s musical number. I got to write that. That was a lot of fun. One was based in a bank, so it was very Jailhouse Rock-ish. Then, there was one that was set in a honky tonk, and it was very hoe-down. It was all these animated coins that were line dancing together, but it was exploring cool musical genres, getting to write all the lyrics and melodies even, and then taking my primitive warblings and cassette tape recordings of how this kind of should go to very talented music houses and having it turned into actual, real stuff. That helped a lot. I did a song for Subway, too. We got to work with Jared back before Jared was a bad word.
Ray Schilens: He’s listening now, today, by the way. Hi, Jared.
M. Bruce Abbott: He writes us letters from time to time.
Ray Schilens: Okay, no, not really.
Jeff Jones: I hope not. Correspondence, prison correspondence there, Bruce?
Ray Schilens: Nope. Nope, he didn’t say that. No, no, no.
Jeff Jones: No, he didn’t.
M. Bruce Abbott: No, he writes my kids all the time.
Ray Schilens: Oh, God.
Jeff Jones: Oh, well, that’s different. That’s different and more horrifying than I can imagine.
M. Bruce Abbott: Should I be concerned?
Ray Schilens: This is all fake. This is all fake.
Jeff Jones: I think you might want to look into-
Ray Schilens: Fake news.
M. Bruce Abbott: Do we need a disclaimer at the end of this?
Ray Schilens: Yeah, we probably do, and probably a Hail Mary, too, in there, as well.
Jeff Jones: But, I got to write a song or that. I kind of sat in my office with my little office guitar and bashed out a tune that turned into “Buckle Down, Skinny Up,” because they were promoting a low fat barbecue sandwich at the time.
Ray Schilens: So, you bumped into Jared while he was in the commissary or the kitchen chomping down on something for lunch. What was he having for lunch, Jeff? What was he having?
Jeff Jones: Yeah, it was bizarre. I kind of walked down to the kitchen there, and I turned the corner, and of all the people in the world sitting there was Jared, who was the famous Subway guy at the time. I had no idea why he was in our offices or anything. It’s just me and him, and he’s sitting there. I catch him mid-bite out of a Popeye’s chicken leg. I stopped, frozen. I just looked at him, and I said, “You’re busted.” He kind of just shrugged-
M. Bruce Abbott: Bow, you were prophetic.
Jeff Jones: Yeah, and I just kind of shrugged and kept on going. That was pretty funny, but for a while, I think we started working with regional Subway franchisees for PR purposes and then that turned into some advertising along the way. That’s when the “Buckle Down, Skinny Up” thing happened.
M. Bruce Abbott: It’s funny, because such great stories, such great client stories, and you have such a history here of working in advertising. It’s funny because when you talk about things like jingles, and you were joking about the 60 second radio spot that hardly ever occurs anymore. A lot of times when people are thinking of advertising agencies and what they do, there’s obviously the whole Mad Men thing. Sometimes it’s thought of as an old model and only a small sliver of what marketing entails, advertising and advertising agency. But, with these clients, and especially some of these big clients, and some of the stuff that you see today, what are areas that an agency is involved with that maybe people don’t realize, that it’s more than just radio, television, and making some jingles? What are some areas that a client who may not understand the internal workings of an agency could be surprised to know that, hey, we do this and we do this, and we’re involved in this?
Jeff Jones: That’s a great question, because it is so much more than that stuff. It is exactly like Mad Men. I will admit that right off the bat. Everybody has got their-
M. Bruce Abbott: Bottle of scotch.
Jeff Jones: Bottle of scotch and other things.
M. Bruce Abbott: Mistress.
Jeff Jones: Mistress or three.
M. Bruce Abbott: Or three.
Jeff Jones: And, we all drive red Jaguar convertibles.
Ray Schilens: This is uncanny, how true this is.
Jeff Jones: It is, I know.
Ray Schilens: No.
Jeff Jones: No, honey, put that down. I’ll get to that later. Anyway, so, yes, it’s lots of lots of other things and quite pedestrian seeming and boring and other sort of … Really? You all need us to do that, things as well. I’ve written everything from menus to canned pasta labels to something as simple as a flyer. I’ve done on-hold messaging. Thank you for calling. Your call is important to us.
Ray Schilens: Which is not true.
Jeff Jones: It’s not ever true. That’s not true. There’s that kind of stuff. There’s a lot of pre-advertising stuff that we also do. A lot of branding before you get to the branding. I’m not explaining this well, but I guess what I mean is we’ll come up with a brand promise, a brand’s positioning, a brand’s personality. We’ll develop a brand’s story, which is kind of how copy could go, the vibe and tone and feel of copy, but it’s not actually copy. There’s a lot of pre-thinking that girds and helps build a foundation for a brand. Brands do this if they’re rebranding.
Jeff Jones: They could be established for a long time, but they kind of need to take a new direction or form something that’s starting from scratch or something that we’ve had clients where they’ve never really thought of those things before or thought in those terms. They could be pretty successful from the get-go on their own merits, but it’s time to take that next step sort of a thing. We do a lot of stuff like that. There’s just any and all manner of stuff. I think I mentioned flyers, things that you wouldn’t think an agency would be a part of, videos, just all kinds of manner of-
M. Bruce Abbott: That’s the thing. Sometimes with this technology, social media, video usage, at the core, everything still must represent a brand. Therefore, to get a message and a positioning that you want, you still interact with things like social media and technology and it’s just a merging of those two.
Jeff Jones: It is, indeed. I think that’s where the expertise of in agency comes in most handy or is most vital. Because, that thing I described before, the personality, the positioning, that kind of stuff, everything that we do then spills out of that. It’s a literal document that’s created. It’s the blueprint for everything that goes forward, whether it’s a social media post, whether it’s … I’ve written email subject lines.
Ray Schilens: Sure.
Jeff Jones: I’ll write a TV campaign, and then I’ll write email subject lines. But, everything has to be … I guess what I mean is the agency is vital to keep the brand on brand and to make sure that everything is cohesive and that every touch point the consumer has with that brand, there’s consistency throughout. A lot of times, one of the things I lament most after doing this for such a long time is that over the years, agencies have been essentially relegated to just another vendor in the minds of a lot of clients because, well, you’ll just handle that thing that I want done. A lot of stuff is dictated.
Jeff Jones: We’re more and more, each year, we’re looked at less and less as a vital partner and an expert. That’s the thing that’s most frustrating. You hired us for a reason, yet you’re dictating every single thing and don’t want to listen to our recommendations. We end up, it’s a constant battle, and sometimes you just pick those battles. You relent, and the client’s always right, just as the customer is always right, because it’s their money. It’s their thing, ultimately. But, I think it’s that expertize and that experience that an agency can bring to a project or a company or a brand or a campaign that is getting overlooked more and more. I think I wandered off into something and forgot the original question.
Ray Schilens: But, you’ve wandered into a really … You answered the real question, the first question. It makes me ask a new question. You obviously really love what you do. You meet those challenges, and you come back to work the following day, and you have more challenges, and you overcome them. So, at the end of a day at work, what is the most important thing for you in your world, then?
Jeff Jones: I used to always joke that I am spectacularly unqualified to do anything else. It’s true. I kind of fell into this industry, this job, and I was just glad that someone would have me. I guess the most important thing for me at the end of the day, seriously, is, gosh, I don’t know. This will sound trite and petty, but appreciation for what I can bring and what we as an agency can bring to the success of a client. That’s not to say I don’t ever get that, and it also … You’ve got to be super thick skinned to be in this industry from the get-go.
Jeff Jones: I had a creative director, a good friend of mine, once say, “The first thing I think of,” well not necessarily the first thing I think of, but the thing I think of, the thing I come up with, the thing I concept … And, yes, we use that as a verb. The thing I create is absolutely perfect, and then I have to go show it to somebody else. That’s the moment when, well, I don’t know. Did you consider this, or did you think of that?
Jeff Jones: It’s true, because you have to, yes, we sell stuff for a living, but even internally, amongst each other, we have to sell each other on these ideas before it ever gets to the client. Then, we have the agency consensus. We’re all in alignment with this. Now, hello client, here is our idea. Because, we’re told no all the time, whether by peers, or … This is a team sport, obviously. We all work. I work with art directors and designers and other creative directors, and it takes us as a team to create what we do. So, we all have to believe in it. But, that just means you’re going tb rejected or told no or maybe steered in different direction, and you’ve got to be cool with that, or you’ll never get anywhere. You can’t fall in love with your baby, because it’s probably going to get thrown out.
M. Bruce Abbott: Which, kind of leads me, our big finale here, the main gist of this podcast is how can a client make the most of their relationship with an agency?
Jeff Jones: Well, man, I would say just trust us. Just trust the agency that you believed in enough to hire or at least talk to, but say you’ve hired us now. We are engaged to do work on your behalf. It would be great to dig into our experience and let us utilize our experience and the expertise we have in whatever area it is to let your business shine. We’re not in your business, but we know how to tell people about your business and to get them to do things on behalf of your business. So, that’s what I think. I think, just trust us. Let us do the stuff we know how to do so you can do the stuff you know how to do even more successfully.
M. Bruce Abbott: Wise words from Vinnie Velveeta.
Ray Schilens: One of the things we love about your attitude, Jeff, is you’ve got a great … Obviously, the skin is there, the tough skin is there, but you’ve got a great positive attitude about stuff. You’ve also got the back of a duck. That means things roll off it, which is-
M. Bruce Abbott: His wife said that one time.
Jeff Jones: Where are you going with that? You saying my ass looks big, Ray?
Ray Schilens: I hadn’t noticed.
Jeff Jones: You’re saying I’m waddling?
Ray Schilens: Possibly so.
M. Bruce Abbott: Have you ever thought of doing squats?
Ray Schilens: In your old age, yes, squats are good. That’s for sure. That’s good. Thanks for bringing some light to what you do and I’m sure a lot of folks are going to get a lot of fun out of listening to this podcast.
Jeff Jones: Well, thanks, guys.
Ray Schilens: Jeff Jones is creative director at Freed Advertising in Houston. You were going to say something, sir.
Jeff Jones: Oh, yeah, I was just going to thank you guys. You have made, since I’ve met you guys, work has become less like work and a lot more fun like you said at the beginning. That makes a ton of difference in how I have that backside like a duck, just the attitude. But, I look at it this way. It’s advertising. It’s not brain surgery. It’s not rocket surgery, or whatever they say. It’s important because it is one of the most vital parts of this big cog of capitalism that I’m such a big fan of, but at the same time, it’s just advertising. We’re just selling beans or whatever. Can’t take it too seriously. Honestly, you can’t.
Ray Schilens: You’re absolutely right.
M. Bruce Abbott: Got to have fun with it.
Ray Schilens: Jeff, you are having fun. Thanks for being a part of our podcast today, and we can now officially say Vinnie Velveeta has left the building.
Jeff Jones: Thanks, guys. I will see you all soon, I’m sure.
Ray Schilens: Okay, thanks, Jeff.
M. Bruce Abbott: Feel the Ad Love is a product of Radio Lounge, copyright 2019. Listen for more at RadioLoungeUSA.com for sound design and audio production services for broadcast, corporate, e-learning, podcasting, pretty much anything that needs sound. If you love what you hear, let’s talk. Again, RadioLoungeUSA.com.
Jeff Jones: I’m going to go back to sleep now, yeah.