Ad agency The Johnson Group wins Addy for Chattanooga tourist campaign

Ad agency The Johnson Group wins Addy for Chattanooga tourist campaign

July 19th, 2011 by Carey O'Neil in Business Around the Region

What better place to shoot an award-winning scene than in the Scenic City?

Through an entirely local effort, a Chattanooga firm has won a national best cinematography Addy award - the Oscar of the advertising industry.

The Addy went to local advertising company The Johnson Group.

When considering the effectiveness of the ad, which promotes Chattanooga as a tourist destination, the victory comes as no surprise, officials said.

"The campaign has not only won an award, which makes you feel great, but it's been effective," said Bob Doak, president of the Chattanooga Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. "I think it speaks well to the talent we have in Chattanooga,"

Since the ad started running last year, hotel tax revenue has increased 17 percent, a $750,000 bump Doak largely attributes to a nearly $1.5 million advertising campaign that included the award-winning TV spot.

In addition to hotel tax revenue, the tourism bump added about $18 million to local room rental revenue and even more new money to restaurants, attractions and all the other businesses tourists patronize, he said.

"It's like taking a whole pile of money and throwing it in the city," said Joe Johnson, head of The Johnson Group, which developed the campaign.

That payoff for the six-month-long development process is rewarding to see, he said. Johnson said the campaign was "the most tested campaign Chattanooga's ever had," with concepts tried out on 1,200 people before story boards were even drawn up.

After developing their concept - dreamlike shots of the area with the tagline "Chattanooga: Take me there" - The Johnson Group hired Chattanooga-based Atomic Films to shoot its video.

"We took the shots that are the normal attraction shots and thought, 'How can we show that in a different way?'" said Atomic Films owner Dave Lang.

To accomplish that, Lang and co-owner Bobby Stone used a tilt-shift lens, allowing them to selectively focus shots.

"It makes things look tiny. Even though it's a big boat on the water, it looks like a toy boat," Stone said of one shot.

Using tilt-shift techniques in this way is a somewhat new concept, according to Stone.

An international research group found ads that win creativity awards are 11 times more effective than traditional ones, and creativity is the top criterion for an Addy. The tilt-shift technique helped carry the ad to the national award, Lang said.

The path to the national contest was a long one. The Johnson Group entered the local Addy competition against 360 other local entries and took best in show. The ad then went up against 823 regional entries from six different states and won gold. Finally, it bumped shoulders with national advertisers such as Ford and Allstate - which took best in show for its "Mayhem" campaign - taking the cinematography award home to the Scenic City.

All involved said they're proud to have grabbed the top honor, but work already has started on the next round.

"We're already looking at spring 2012," Doak said. "We'll be going through the same process."

Contact Carey O'Neil at or 423-757-6525.