Bearing Down

Full-service branding agency Loaded for Bear joins local landscape

By Sarah Baker

The old adage “loaded for bear” is fitting for a new full-service branding agency that’s emerged on the Memphis advertising landscape.

Loaded For Bear staff includes Julian Timberlake, from left, Brent Booth, Taylor Lackie, Michael Carpenter and Joel Halpern. The firm has been in its 2259 Young Ave. office since December.

(Photo: Lance Murphey)

“We came up with Loaded for Bear after stepping back and looking at the Memphis creative landscape and what our goals were, which are to prove that great creative can happen in a ‘creative wilderness’ such as Memphis, but also to help our clients be prepared for anything,” said managing director Joel Halpern. “That is where the term came from, an old hiker’s saying that means going off in the prepared for the worst case scenario, or a bear.”

Founded in August and working out of its 2259 Young Ave. office since December, Loaded For Bear is comprised of Halpern, co-creative directors Michael Carpenter and Julian Timberlake, and senior art director Taylor Lackie. The advertising, design, online, social media and PR firm recently added Brent Booth as interactive director to solidify their capabilities.

“Our whole mantra is, ‘building brands, blowing minds,’” Halpern said. “We like to work with clients at a full-service nature, helping them in a 360-degree approach where the advertising connects to the brand message, which connects to the brand look and feel. All of those pieces working together to create a real cohesive package.”

Loaded for Bear is some 10 years in the making. Halpern, Timberlake and Lackie’s friendship stems from their White Station High School days. And a few years ago, Halpern hired Carpenter of Switch Creative to create ABC 24’s brand and stayed in touch.

“He did such an awesome job. … When Julian and I started tossing around the idea in April of last year of doing this, he was our number one choice,” Halpern said.

Halpern moved back to Memphis from New York in 2009 and noticed a gap in the creative scene in Memphis. He said the now-called Loaded for Bear started out of an apartment while Timberlake was living in Germany during his stint as senior copywriter for Scholz & Friends.

“He was telecommuting from Germany in off hours and we were all working out of living rooms and dens at nighttime,” Halpern said. “It took some time to really develop our story.”

Combining Halpern’s production and marketing talent with Timberlake’s copywriting experience, as well as Lackie’s time with agencies like BBDO Atlanta and Cramer-Krasselt in Chicago, Halpern said the group had an opportunity to start “a national agency operating out of Memphis.”

Loaded for Bear brings together their respective know-how on accounts such as Porsche, Coca-Cola, Corona beer, AirTran Airways, Hyatt Hotels, Samsung, Seattle’s Best Coffee and Georgia Lottery.

“Our belief is we don’t necessarily consider ourselves one of the Memphis agencies,” Halpern said. “The standards in which we hold ourselves to are on a national and international level and some of the great stuff that’s happening really all over.”

Loaded for Bear has already accomplished work like the MEMFIX Crosstown campaign for the Mayor’s Innovation Delivery Team. Similar to “A New Face for an Old Broad” organized on Broad Avenue in 2010, MEMFIX: Cleveland Street in November featured temporary street improvements like bike lanes and crosswalks, pop-up retail and food trucks, live music, a movie screening, art installations and tours of the Sears Crosstown building.

Only being an agency for a few months, Loaded for Bear was encouraged by Advertising Federation Memphis to enter its MEMFIX work for interactive campaign at the recent American ADDY Awards ceremony. The agency took home both a People’s Choice Award and a silver ADDY.

“We weren’t even planning on entering anything and we got a call from the AdFed president and decided to go for it,” Halpern said. “It was an amazing project to be a part of.”

Loaded for Bear has plans to help with MEMFIX initiatives in Soulsville and Binghampton. Additionally, the branding firm is currently in the development phase of an interactive website for the MEXFIX, MEMSHOP and MEMMOBILE initiatives.

Other clients of Loaded for Bear include Hollywood Feed Pet Stores, American Queen Steamboat Co. and Optimus Parts. Halpern said the firm is currently talking with five to seven other potential entities to add to its roster.

“Our plans are big,” Halpern said. “We are sort of unapologetically confident in our abilities. We feel that Memphis is primed for really great work.”