Graphis said some nice things about us.
In fact, we’re still blushing.
Graphis / January 6, 2020
Four times a year, Graphis publishes “the work of exceptional talent” in design, advertising, photography and art. And wow—this time, they profiled us.
“The experience of working with Y&L on our digital ad campaign, focusing on making your own style from thrifted finds, was a great experience from the idea’s conception to the final product.
We’re fortunate to have such a creative and collaborative team to work with.”
Vice President, Marketing, Goodwill of Central & Southern Indiana
“Y&L is not just a creative agency, but a strategic business partner. They are true problem solvers who consistently provide outside-the-box thinking.
They deliver breakthrough creative work that is cutting edge and allows our brand to push boundaries.”
Brand Manager, Brizo Kitchen & Bath Company
“From consumer insights to the creativity that breaks through and connects us with our target market, Y&L has been collaborating at every stage of the High & Mighty brand’s development and launch.
It really is a true strategic partnership, focused on building something meaningful.”
Home and Access Solutions Global Business
Leader & V.P., The Hillman Group
“Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance has worked with Young & Laramore since 2010 as our Agency of Record. We are very fortunate to have a team of creative minds working alongside us to develop memorable content in the saturated insurance advertising space. It’s hard to believe it’s been nearly 10 years since Young & Laramore conducted consumer research which resulted in the creation of our tagline ‘Stop Knocking on Wood.’ We thank them for their efforts in continuing to evolve this concept through the years to bring our brand up to where it is today.”
Kari St. Clair
Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance
Q&A / Carolyn Hadlock, ECD/Principal, Young & Laramore
What inspired or motivated you into your career?
In the early ‘90s, you didn’t go into advertising. You ended up in advertising. Portfolio schools didn’t exist. It was a job (not a career) where misfits went and those who weren’t academic overachievers ended up. I ended up in advertising by starting college as a nursing student. Once I figured out that I couldn’t see people in pain, I shifted to graphic design. Two years into the program, I was kicked out. I was told I had no talent and that I was wasting my parent’s money. That did it, gauntlet thrown. I went to art school and four years later, I graduated with a BFA and a suit of steel.
What is your work philosophy?
To make it safe to be scary. It’s the environment I thrived in as an art director and one that I’ve tried to create as a creative director. The best work comes from play. It’s effortless. That only happens with a great deal of effort from all departments and an agency philosophical backbone. The moment that falls apart, it’s impossible to do great work.
Who is or was your greatest mentor?
Agency founder, David Young. Most people get developed by their mentors. I think I was forged by mine. As a philosophy major, he had an intellectual rigor that was not for the faint of heart. He’s tall, big, and bombastic. I’m the complete opposite. But I learned early that what he said was more important than how he was saying it. He was fearless, demanding, and believed in me. It infused a confidence in me that I still tap into.
What is it about Advertising that you are most passionate about?
I love its potential. Some people hate its ever-changing nature, but I believe that’s its superpower. The fluidity creates opportunity for experimentation and happy accidents.
What is your most difficult challenge you’ve had to overcome?
My inner voice. Though David instilled confidence in me, and my partners continue to have faith in me and my talents, I’m my biggest critic. I often worry that I’m not doing it right or well. By the way, my partners, and David will be surprised to read this because I hide it really well. The positive part is that it keeps me honest and scrappy.
Who were some of your greatest past influences?
I love art. I mean, I love art. Every time I visit a city, the first thing I do with my downtime is find a museum. My mom was an art docent when I was little, and she used to drag me and my brothers through exhibits and practice her tour on us. We were endlessly bored and a poor audience, but I realize now that she subconsciously planted a seed in me to see the world differently. I love Klee, Picasso, O’Keefe, Renoir, Basquiat, Miro, and Seurat. I can literally feel myself soaking up the way they paint and sculpt as I walk through the galleries.
Who among your contemporaries today do you most admire?
Six years ago, I submitted a proposal to the One Club in NYC for a Creative Leaders Retreat; a 3-day getaway where people like me in smaller agencies and markets could meet creative directors we admired. I was able to meet a few of them in an intimate environment and learn firsthand from their tribulations and their trials. I have always loved W+K, any of their offices. Susan Hoffman was kind enough to spend an afternoon with me. I learned more from her than I would have reading nonstop for a year. BBH London was my first love when I was a student. Still admire the hell out of them. I love Rethink and Sid Lee in Canada, and Droga5. I tend to gravitate towards culture and philosophy more than the latest campaign. If you have those two things, you’ll do good work.
What would be your dream assignment?
Most people would say Nike, Apple, or Coke, but I actually think I’d be trapped by their iconic status. I’m a big fan of the underdog where you can be on the offensive, not defensive. Defending ground can dilute the work. I also love inventing brands and then advertising them. Category or industry doesn’t matter as much as opportunity. Some of my favorite work that the agency has created wasn’t ever an assignment. It was an untapped opportunity.
Who have been some of your favorite people or clients you have worked with?
Two very different clients come to mind. One is creating the luxury fixtures brand, Brizo, for the Delta Faucet company. It was over a decade ago and the first foray into fashion in the home category. We legitimized our space in fashion by partnering with fashion designer Jason Wu, which is still intact today. It was a unique strategy and helped Brizo compete with category behemoth Kohler.
The second one was when a group of Carmelite cloistered nuns approached us to do a recruiting campaign for them. How do you say no to a group of nuns? They were fascinating, smart, extremely well-educated, funny, and passionate about healing the world through contemplative prayer. We created a website for them, praythenews.com, that ended up becoming a global destination to process the news through the lens of contemplative prayer. It was featured in several mainstream media outlets and The Today Show came to Indianapolis to do a story about them.
Was Young & Laramore always a full-service agency? If not, what prompted the expansion?
No. We started as a small design boutique because we were founded by a poet and a painter. At that time, most of the clients were local and almost everything was made in house; illustration, photography, airbrushing, yes airbrushing and lettering. We became an advertising agency overnight when we won the Steak’n Shake pitch in the early 90s. In 1998, when we started EchoPoint Media, our media division, we became a legitimate full-service agency. And we’ve never looked back. David Young used to say it was better to be a generalist. He would quote Maslow’s law of the instrument where if the only tool you have is a hammer, you will treat everything as a nail. Having the agility to solve the problem in a multitude of ways is one of our core strengths.
What are the most important ingredients you require from a client to do successful work?
Trust in intuition. In themselves, and in us.
What is it like to work from downtown Indianapolis?
Indianapolis is a city on the rise. Our culinary scene is getting national attention and companies like Salesforce are choosing the city for their regional headquarters because you can have quality of life, but also leverage national opportunities since we’re centrally located. I’m from here and have loved seeing the acceleration, but many of our clients aren’t based here. Many employees of the agency aren’t originally from here either and love it. Many graduates tend to seek the coast, but quickly realize that geography doesn’t ensure great work.
What is the greatest satisfaction you get from your work?
Making something happen against all odds.
What part of your work do you find most demanding?
Building trust. It takes patience and persistence to earn trust. But it pays off every time.
What professional goals do you still have for yourself?
Make Y&L a nationally sought out agency. I’ve always said the ultimate power is the ability to say “No.” That only comes with leverage from doing amazing work for good clients. Also, to make Indianapolis a creative destination. That was David and Jeff’s original vision and I’d like to help make it happen.
What advice would you have for students starting out today?
Don’t look to the industry for inspiration. Don’t try to figure out the system. Hack the system. Be interested and interesting. Oh, and please make sure that you check the salutation before you send a note. I’ve received way too many cut and paste names on cover letters.
What interests do you have outside of your work?
If my work is to see the world differently, and I believe it is, then I have no outside interests.
What would you change if you had to do it all over again?
I probably wouldn’t have gone to art school. I’d have just flown to the agency I wanted to work at and offered to work for free. Hell, I’d even pay them to let me work for them.
Where do you seek inspiration?
From beauty in art and nature. And my kids.
How do you define success?
Doing what you love to do and getting paid well for it.