New West Eyeworks, Inc. was a leading specialty retailer of eyewear that operated 167 stores in thirteen states and the company's merchandising strategy centered around a "signature" value price point for a wide selection of quality, brand-name eyeglasses (frame and lenses) — First pair $59. Second pair $49.
New West also sold brand-name contact lenses and non-prescription sunglasses and offered customers on-site eye examinations by independent optometrists. The stores operated under the Vista Optical brand name, other than the stores located in Arizona and Utah, which used the Lee Optical brand name. The company's optical laboratories and distribution facilities were located in Tempe, AZ, and near Portland, Oregon.
Cary Sacks and John Fuller first pitched New West Eyeworks the year before I started at Sacks/Fuller in Los Angeles but did not win the account. Instead, it was awarded to Cliff Freeman & Partners who developed an incredibly funny TV campaign that featured a small dachshund humping the leg of the guy who bought his glasses at New West — seriously. The spots basically said to everyone who wore glasses, "Buy your glasses from New West and horny dogs will hump your leg."
Needless to say, that single Cliff Freeman commercial almost killed New West Eyeworks. The results were so bad, New West lost market share and sales in areas they didn't even support with broadcast. That was when Barry Feld, President and Chief Executive Officer of New West Eyeworks, Inc. called John and Carry ans asked if they could come to Phoenix and meet. As Creative Director and Cary's partner, I also attended the meeting, during which Barry said to Cary that while all this stuff was happening with Cliff Freeman, he just could not get that headline and picture of the beautiful woman wearing glasses out of his head, "The $59 Face." He awarded us advertising account and asked us to develop TV to support the print.
Below is part the three-year run we created — which save New West Eyeworks and delivered these numbers:
TEMPE, Ariz.–(BW HealthWire)–March 24, 1998–New West Eyeworks, Inc. (NASDAQ:NEWI) (PSE:NWE) today reported an increase of 51.7% in income before tax for the fiscal year ended December 27, 1997, compared with the prior year.
This is where the concept came to life: using single take commercials, no cuts to hide anything, and straight forward well written deliveries.
These were the first two commercials Cary and I created for New West Eyeworks. The spot we called "Smarter" actually came from a brain storming session Cary and I were having trying to turn the "$59 Face" print concept into a TV spot. I was holding two identical pair of glasses from the dozens New West had supplied us. I put one on and then the other and then I asked Cary which made me look smarter? If the glasses were exactly the same, but one cost more at a regular eyeglass store, then which made me look smarter?...
The campaign was born. Using single take, close-ups of great looking people delivering the concept directly to camera. No cuts. No splashy editing. Just pure retail at its hardest working level — simple, with substance.
The Print Campaign:
To control print production costs, Cary and I cast several models for our newspaper concepts which we shot with Carl Furuta in LA. To save New West time, additional shoot fees, and production costs by not having them make identical sunglasses, I retouched different model posses and their glasses from clear to darker shades to represent sunglasses.
By this time in the campaign, Cary Sacks had left the agency to pursue other ventures and I was now Executive Creative Director. When I started casting for the second year of print advertising, one photo really stood out, Catherine Gilmour's. As it turned out, she was the former 1979 Rose Bowl Queen and while I was going to Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, I sold shoes at Robinson's to pay for school supplies. One day this absolutely beautiful girl came in with her Mom, it was the first time I met Catherine. I even remember they were looking for Espadrilles.
A few years later I'd gotten my first job at Dailey and Associates on the Honda Scooter account and we were casting for models for our brochure shoots. Each model would come into the studio with their portfolio and I would ask them a few questions about riding scooters, etc. In walks this very talk, absolutely gorgeous model — it was Catherine Gilmour. To me, she was so beautiful I was embarrassed to look at her directly so I just buried my head in her portfolio. She probably thought I was a geek.
Ten years later I was doing these ads for New West and I not only got the chance to work with Catherine, I'd overcome my shyness and even told her how I'd remembered meeting her. She probably thought I was a stalker – lol.
Aside from getting to work with Catherine in our print ads, I had so much fun concepting and creating the next set of commercials on my own. The client was never told I'd concepted, written and art directed the 3 spots mainly because there was still this uneasiness John felt from Barry and Annette with Cary having left the agency. But then again, shit like that happens all the time in advertising and some how the client just never finds out.
I also got to continue the print campaign in the look and feel Cary and I created, except now I was the writer and the art director, the retoucher and the paste-up guy. Ya gotta love small agency life and opportunities!
By the end of our second year, Boni Peluso had joined me as co-ECD's at what was now called the Fuller Group. During our third shoot with New West Eyeworks, the clients were told that I was leaving for an Executive Creative Director position in Silicon Valley where I would be working on a bunch of things called "dot coms".