LBC survivors launch start-up ad agency

A series of whimsical television commercials for a bigger – presumably
better – Alperts Furniture store in Seekonk signals more than a reprieve
from the hard sell a la “John here from Alperts.” The commercials are
the first effort by start-up ad agency Nail to succeed where so many
others have failed: in Providence.
Nail President Chuck Carmone, 32, and Creative Director Brian Gross, 29,
are well acquainted with the vagaries of the industry here, having been
thrust into business when their employer of about three months, LBC
Communications, pulled out of advertising to refocus on design. Still
they’re hopeful – even optimistic – about their prospects.
“Everyone’s telling us we can’t, which is the frustrating part,” Carmone
said. “It’s that kind of thinking that’s going to keep Providence
small.”
The pair – who took over the front offices of LBC Design in October –
plan to get big drawing on local talent to attract national accounts.
“Maybe there’s not enough business (in Rhode Island) to attract an
agency,” Carmone said. “But there’s definitely the talent here to build
one.”
In their favor, Carmone and Gross have experience snagging out-of-state
clients. The two met almost four years ago at Boston’s Kelley/Dexter
where they worked on accounts ranging from Vail Resorts to Sunderland of
Scotland golfing rainwear, among other national and international
accounts.
At Kelley/Dexter, “we used to joke about being a stealth agency,” Gross
quipped.
Gross joined LBC in June, lured by the title of creative director and a
chance to work with Bruce Leonard. The adman had closed his award-
winning shop, Leonard/Monahan, on the fifth floor of 127 Dorrance Street
in February and gone to work on the fourth floor as a consultant to LBC.
Carmone followed Gross only weeks later as account supervisor. However,
the arrangement was short-lived.
At the end of September – about six months after hiring eight former
Leonard/Monahan employees and declaring itself a full-service
communications company – LBC split with Leonard and returned to its
design firm roots.

NAIL’S Chuck Carmone, left, and Brian Gross.

“That was really a shock for us,” Gross said.
What Carmone described as a “feeding frenzy” followed, with mostly
Boston agencies vying for the ousted talent. Between interviews, he and
Gross worked freelance on projects LBC had promised clients. The
campaign for Alperts’ new, 4-acre showroom – five, 30-second spots
featuring the tagline “time for new furniture?” – was among them.
Within about a month, the duo stopped interviewing and decided to go it
alone. “No one really matched what we wanted to do,” Carmone explained.
The decision to open an agency in a state where more have closed than
opened in the last decade was both “really terrifying” and “really
liberating,” Gross said.
Carmone and Gross credited LBC with giving them a launching pad; and the
print and television campaign they executed under LBC for the Roger
Williams Park Zoo with getting them noticed. The pro-bono zoo account,
now up for review, is one of several Nail is pursuing locally and
nationally.
David Duffy, president of Providence’s Duffy & Shanley and a 25-year
industry veteran, was pleased to hear about a new agency in town.
“I applaud them and I certainly wish them well,” he said. “We need more
agencies. We need young people to be out there creating the
communications world in Rhode Island.”

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