Higher Calling

April 14, 2006
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Comments from Bill McKendry at February’s ADDY Awards seemed to be only friendly agency rivalry when the Hanon McKendry top gun pointed out the absence of perennial favorite Jager Group. The year before, the two agencies had been neck-and-neck in medal count, with Jager stealing the show with its Air Zoo campaign.

As it turns out, McKendry, one of the professionals featured in last week’s cover story, “Is This Christian Wall Street?” which examined West Michigan opportunities in the faith-based marketplace, may have been alluding to a monumental restructuring in his 14-employee competitor.

Principal and founder Lee Jager has announced he has disbanded the company in favor of a higher calling. His new firm, Oneness, will serve a growing movement in corporate America to embrace Christian life, as a branding consultant to local and national companies that want to portray biblical values and beliefs.

“The decision was a combination of a lot of things,” Jager explained. “It was God’s leading. It was some spiritual aspect happening in my life. It was moving forward in business, asking, ‘What do I want to move forward in?’”

Jager was convinced of this path by the growing movement he has seen in not only the marketplace, but also in the mindset of people in general: their receptivity to what not long ago was a relatively taboo, or at least incredibly niche, market.

“I’m fascinated, energized by it, frankly,” he said. “I’m hoping I can awaken more businesses to the fact that businesses are taking the lead in this, feeling good about it and finding all kinds of rewards, including financial.”

Jager Group had spectacular success with its “It’s A Boy” Christmas Day marketing campaign, licensed first to Zondervan in 2003 and 2004, then to Hobby Lobby last year. The ad ran in newspapers across the country, creating an influx of e-mails, phone calls and media attention. Jager Group produced another piece for Hobby Lobby that ran on Easter Sunday.

He hopes to expand that campaign into other media and regions — specifically, he has immediate goals to introduce the message as a viral campaign in the Philippines’ vast text-messaging market, the largest in the world. Jager’s service as a missionary to that region helped influence his decision.

In other Jager Group news, former Creative Director Rob Jackson and two other Jager alumni have launched Extra Credit, a new ad house driven in part by Jackson’s expertise in outdoor advertising.

The firm has hit the ground running with a client list that includes Anheuser-Busch and ongoing work for the Outdoor Advertising Association of America. The Anheuser account — which includes outdoor, print and interactive —is likely the most recognizable brand serviced by any West Michigan firm.

“It feels pretty cool to get that call out of Grand Rapids,” Jackson said.

  • Compass Academy’s Alumni Board is hosting the sixth 24 Hour Film Festival on Friday, April 21. As the name implies, films are scripted, rehearsed, shot and edited all in the course of a day. The films will be judged the following week and the top 10 movies will be screened on Friday, April 28 (now, we’re looking at 72 hours) at Studio 28.

Zany press release quote from former judge Evan Koons: “The festival is this fertile explosion of old and new filmmakers, artists and creatives. For one day, they create some of the most amazing stories ever told.”

  • Local technology firm CPR Inc. is hosting the indoor Putt-a-Round for Kids Fundraiser for the DeVos Children’s Hospital and Children’s Miracle Network.

In view of the Watermark Country Club, CPR’s high-tech, award-winning facility at 1595 Galbraith Ave. SE has its own permanent nine-hole indoor golf course, complete with hazards, obstacles and a clubhouse. The event runs from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., with tee times available throughout the day.

  • In an odd combination of two of the region’s most controversial stories, Mark London’s downtown strip club and The Gun Lake Tribe casino (both featured in this week’s Focus section), it seems that the two embattled projects might have a common foe.

“Today started out pretty bad for me,” said London, a former Republican politician. “I woke up this morning and saw Judy Rose on a Dick DeVos ad.”

Rose, president of the Black Hills Citizens for a Better Community and central figure in the strip club opposition, is featured prominently in the current campaign ad of the hometown gubernatorial candidate. The placement has generated speculation that DeVos is the high-profile financier backing Rose’s $100,000 fund to defend a city ordinance regulating adult entertainment.

Recall, DeVos was a lead financier of anti-gaming expansion lobbyist 23 is Enough.

“For someone campaigning on a pro-business ticket, he sure seems to work hard to keep them from opening,” commented D.K. Sprague, tribe chairman.

  • The rocky start thing aside, Lech Walesa is bigger than Bono: Time Magazine Man of the Year, Nobel Peace Prize winner, symbol of hope and freedom after being imprisoned by the Communists along with members of the Solidarity Party, and the first democratically elected president of Poland.

Walesa, in town last week as keynote speaker at the World Affairs Council of Western Michigan’s annual dinner, apparently has learned much over the years.

To a room filled to capacity at Frederik Meijer Gardens, which included the leaders of every major union in the city, and every politician, Walesa often cited the technology of the world, the ability for everyone to communicate on the Internet, and reiterated the differences between the Old World and the New.

A Polish college student in GR asked what young people should fight for today, and he said it was no longer a world of fighting with stones, but with wisdom. The world lacks platforms but they will be developed; we have only old models (he joked that the U.S. obviously elected two presidents, but it was not the best model.) He also said if you meet three Poles, all three will start a different political party.

He said the higher the technology, the technological competence, the greater the need for values, is paramount. “There is no point in fighting anymore. Technology is intellect. Weapons of intellect require your participation. It is a struggle for wisdom, for wise decisions. Young people need to participate. They must.”

Walesa ended his time on the podium saying that the U.S. had bestowed on him the most honors and awards, “So now, you have to listen to me.”    

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