published Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

Chattanooga's Fancy Rhino wins top Addy

Fancy Rhino CEO Isaiah Smallman helped lead his agency to win four gold Addys.
Fancy Rhino CEO Isaiah Smallman helped lead his agency to win four gold Addys.
Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Chattanooga Addy Winners

2013 Best in Show

• Winner: Fancy Rhino — Build Me A World Trailer

• First Runner Up: Area203 Digital — Cloudswell Logo

• Second Runner Up: Melinda Taylor — Chattanooga Whiskey Women campaign

2013 Gold Addy Awards Totals

• Chattanooga Publishing company — 4

• Fancy Rhino — 4

• Area203 Digital — 2

• Cleveland State Community College — 2

• Neathawk Dubuque and Packett — 2

• Steven Ratajczyk Design — 2

• Life Care Centers of America — 1

• Two By Four — 1

Source: 2013 Addy Awards

Chattanooga 2013 Addy Awards
Chattanooga 2013 Addy Awards

Chattanooga-based Fancy Rhino took home an armful of awards last week, winning the top advertising prize for an emotional sepia-toned trailer that promotes a film about the Howard School.

Like the Oscars are to movies, the Addys honor creative work in the advertising industry. Wins at the local level lead to regional face-offs, and the winners of those events enter the final, national tier of competition.

Fancy Rhino's 2012 movie, "Build Me a World," tells the story of what was then one of Tennessee's worst schools, a contrast with Chattanooga's growing image as an economic and technological powerhouse. Fancy Rhino won Best In Show for the trailer, also winning top honors for a handful of other promotions it created on the road to becoming a full-featured ad agency.

Led by CEO Isaiah Smallman and chief creative officer Drew Belz, the young creative agency scored four gold Addys, tying the Chattanooga Publishing Co. for most golds.

Fancy Rhino's rise from a maker of movies to a national creative firm began almost by accident, Smallman said. In the two short years since its founding in 2010, Fancy Rhino has garnered recognition and clients from coast to coast, but it started as just a couple of college graduates who liked making videos.

"We rebranded ourselves and created a website, and people started asking 'who did that, can they do our website, can you get us in touch with them?'" Smallman said.

The transition to offering Web, print and video services began in fall 2011, and the company began taking on new clients throughout 2012. Fancy Rhino's key to success, Smallman said, is to carefully evaluate customers' needs before throwing themselves into the project. Once the project gets going, the company sets up a special website for clients to track changes and projects.

"We're not just gonna say, OK you're in the transportation industry so let's pull out our folder of transportation logos and stick your name on this one," he said. "We're really getting down to it and saying who are you guys and what makes your company different?"

While Fancy Rhino was able to grow revenue by a multiple of five in 2012 and plans to double sales again in 2013, it isn't the only big Chattanooga winner this year. Area203 Digital, the Chattanooga Publishing Co., Neathawk Dubuque and Packett and even Cleveland State Community College received multiple honors for their work.

"Our creative community in Chattanooga and the surrounding area is generating some much deserved regional and national buzz," said Shannon York, creative services director at the Times Free Press and president of the American Advertising Federation of Chattanooga, which organizes the competition.

Though the groups won awards for a wide variety of work ranging from glossy magazines to digital promotions, they all had one thing in common: They like teamwork.

Area203 Digital won recognition for its logo design for Cloudswell, the rebranded IT entity controlled by payday lender and philanthropist Carey V. Brown. The digital marketing agency also won two gold Addys and almost a dozen silver awards in addition to its first-runner-up prize for the Best in Show category, a showing that chief creative officer Tavis Salazar credits to the company's team-based approach.

"The fact that we won in so many different categories shows that we're an integrated shop," he said. "We don't have people in their silos, we don't just hand projects to people and say, 'Hey build this," instead from the very beginning they're put into groups to make this happen."

Like the other gold winners, the Chattanooga Publishing Co. will move onto the next stage of competition in April, which will include entrants from the entire Southeast region.

"There was a lot of great creative work on display this year from a variety of talented local people, from firms to students," said Mark Jones, whose publishing team took home four golds and 15 silver awards. "We have a very collaborative process from editors to writers to photographers to designers, and that definitely pays off in the finished product."

about Ellis Smith...

Ellis Smith joined the Chattanooga Times Free Press in January 2010 as a business reporter. His beat includes the flooring industry, Chattem, Unum, Krystal, the automobile market, real estate and technology. Ellis is from Marietta, Ga., and has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication at the University of West Georgia. He previously worked at UTV-13 News, Carrollton, Ga., as a producer; at the The West Georgian, Carrollton, Ga., as editor; and at the Times-Georgian, Carrollton, ...

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