A few months ago, Joe Conwell and Paula Laniado left successful careers in New York City to launch their own advertising firm, Conwell & Laniado Inc., in Mount Airy.
"Smaller firms tend to be more creative," said Ms. Laniado, whose background includes advertising and sales promotion. "People gain experience and break away. Smaller firms are more likely to serve the individual needs of a large client."
The pair's first project was to create the Cal's Choice Milk commercial, which has aired on Baltimore, Washington and Pennsylvania television stations. The newly formed advertising agency was chosen for the half-million-dollar contract because of the pair's experience in promoting national brand beverages.
"Our client chose us for our experience with making judgmen calls for 'the big guys,' " Ms. Laniado said. "And, precisely because of our background, we were able to recognize the tremendous power of simply underscoring the charitable aspect Cal's Choice."
Oriole baseball star Cal Ripken is a partner and spokesman for Cal's Choice, a 2 percent milk with added calcium. He donates his share of the profits from the milk sales to local literacy programs and charities dealing with women's health issues. The firm chose to feature that commitment to local causes as the product's most persuasive feature.
"We knew this would be meaningful to people in the region in a way that would validate the other, very important benefits of the product," she said. "I mean, wouldn't you rather purchase a product that supports the hospital right down the street, rather than, say, a local branch of some big, national charitable organization?"
Most Marylanders and Oriole fans would view the Cal Ripken commercial as an advertising coup. Although the pair described Mr. Ripken as "a very nice man -- wonderful to work with," they noted they have worked with larger names, including movie producer Steven Spielberg and actress Demi Moore.
Mr. Conwell, who has been in advertising for 25 years, was formerly group director at Lintas USA in New York, where his clients included Coca-Cola, Diet Coke, Lipton Tea, IBM, Bass Shoes and Eastern Airlines. Other clients included M&M; Mars, Folgers and Michelob.
Ms. Laniado has been in the business for 15 years and her clients have included Sara Lee, Budweiser, Burger King, American Express, National Car Rental, Veryfine Juices and Reebok.
Mr. Conwell said many large companies are "trying to seem small with regionally focused efforts," and Conwell & Laniado Inc. hopes to tap into that trend.
Both Mr. Conwell and Ms. Laniado said they will be selective abouttheir clients.
Their move to a farm in Howard County, outside Mount Airy, was intended to stir creative juices, Mr. Conwell and Ms. Laniado said.
"How we best serve our clients is to best serve ourselves mentally," Ms. Laniado said. "Unless a structured setting serves a client, it's not meaningful. This is most congenial for us to operate effectively on the creative side."
Mr. Conwell said that in New York, "people put you in little boxes, and they are not great places to think."
"We're trying to put ourselves in a good place to think," Mr. Conwell said. "We're not fighting New York, where everything is difficult."