Friday, September 12, 2008

Marrying Advertising and Product Design

Profile: Jennifer Parke

Art director falls for product design


Sept 8, 2008

-By Eleftheria Papris


Jennifer Park

As an agency art director and creative director, Jennifer Parke was always frustrated at being involved only in the final steps of a product launch. When she got to work on a project for industrial design shop Boombang in Los Angeles, she saw the true potential for marrying advertising and product design earlier on. 

Hired to work on Church & Dwight, Parke, 35, says she was inspired to see how much the advertising influenced the product design, and vice versa. "The ads were changing the product, and the product was changing the ads in such a healthy, harmonious way that I went, 'This is it,' " says Parke, who joined Boombang as executive creative director in February. "We could be building the whole package and handing it over to the companies once it's a healthy, living child." 

The daughter of an art director, Parke earned her first freelance paycheck, for $50, at age 10 for coloring in storyboards. "I was the little brat running around doing stuff in the office," Parke says of the summers in New York tagging along to work with her father, the late Frank Parke, at the time an art director with Cliff Freeman at Dancer Fitzgerald Sample. "I saw all these people wearing jeans and T-shirts at work. They were all laughing and having fun." 

At first, Parke pursued a career in graphic design, joining a studio in Chicago after high school, where she learned pre-computer craft skills like blowing up type and keylining. After attending the Miami Ad School as one of its first handful of students, Parke and her older sister Heather, a copywriter, put a book together and landed their first agency jobs at BBDO in New York, working under Donna Weinheim on Pepsi. Within a year, they won a bronze Lion at Cannes for their "Soap on a Rope" spot, about a man's fantasy of being Claudia Schiffer's soap in the shower. "It seems so old-school now, but it was very funny at the time," says Parke. 

While her sister stayed at BBDO, Parke spent the next decade freelancing in L.A. for agencies like Chiat/Day and BBDO West, in San Francisco for Hal Riney & Partners and Kirshenbaum Bond + Partners, and in New York for Cameron Berlin & Partners and Ogilvy & Mather. In 2001, she started her own business during her off-hours. An avid iced-tea drinker, the Pittsburgh native was tired of the crunchy sugar crystals in her tea, so she developed Sugarshots, a liquid sugar-cane product now sold at retailers like Williams-Sonoma. "That started my love for ventures," she says. 

In 2007, after working at Deutsch in L.A. for two years as co-cd on Old Navy and Helio, Parke started her own agency, RoyFrank. A few months later, she met Boombang CEO Tylor Garland, who needed help on a new line of sexual healthcare products for Church & Dwight's Trojan brand."It was pretty clear that the success of the product was going to be tied to the communications and the advertising," says Garland. RoyFrank merged with Boombang eight months ago, and Parke helped add advertising to the 5-year-old company's offerings. "All the frustration I had from the agency side with the product was the reverse for Tylor from the marketing side," says Parke. 

Boombang, with 25 staffers, has designed more than 200 products, including grooming aids for Newell Rubbermaid's Ace brand, electronics for Disney, a sunscreen for K2, and its own creations, like a mesh bicycle seat, SaddleCo, and a line of eco-friendly pet products, Kingdom for All. The company, which recently picked up an identity assignment for Live Earth, often becomes an equity partner with clients. "We're not just fee for service, we also do product equity, like licensing and royalty, or business equity in form of stock or supply agreements. Or we blend them all," Parke says. 

Working with product designers and engineers, Parke says, can produce powerful results. "It's almost like back in the old days when art directors and copywriters first started working together," she says. "When they started to do that, advertising changed in general. I feel the same way about product designers and advertising people. Once they are in the same room, they are bouncing ideas back and forth, and you get healthier, more amazing stuff."


Education: Miami Ad School
Career: Landed her first agency job at BBDO New York working on Pepsi under Donna Weinheim after winning a student Andy Award. Won a bronze Lion at Cannes for a Pepsi spot "Soap on a Rope." Freelanced for agencies BBDO West, Chiat/Day, Colby Effler, Hal Riney & Partners, Kirshenbaum Bond + Partners, Cameron Berlin & Partners and Ogilvy in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. Joined Deutsch/LA in 2005, where she was co-creative director on Helio and Old Navy. She launched RoyFrank in 2006 and merged her agency with Boombang in 2007.
After Work: Parke lives in Venice, Calif., where she can often be found surfing, kiteboarding or cooking with her husband, Tommy Masztak. Teaches advertising at the Art Center College of Design.