has a beginning.
Ours starts with a man named Jay.
There’s a certain pressure with the “About Us” section of a website — especially for an ad agency. If you’re reading this you likely fall into one of four groups:
- A client or potential new client
- A competitor
- A potential new hire
- Our moms
And you’re here to learn more about us, not receive a predictable slathering of ad agency self promotion goo. We’re proud of our history, good and bad. Successes and failures; hard times and good times — it makes us who we are today, and it begins with a man named Jay.
Jay Brothers was a fine artist by God-given talent, a commercial artist by training and an Ogilvy-inspired adman by profession. He started “The Brothers Company” in January of 1974, in the shadow of one of America’s worst stock market crashes, the Arab Oil Embargo and a recession that produced double digit mortgage rates and stagflation. It was the classic American dream — a big idea guy bravely moving forward in the face of depressing times and a scary economy.
Jay grew the agency with infectious enthusiasm and a personal flair for advertising. He was a classic pen-and-ink adman, no job starts or creative briefs — instead a tin of Prismacolor markers and a fresh watercolor tablet. Concept, strategy, design, and layout all from one guy, in one afternoon — hand drawn on a flip chart for final presentation. It is a lost art.
January 1982, eight years later, Paul Brothers shows up. The lessons from his father, Jay, were many and often difficult. “I am my father’s son, good and bad,” Paul says about the training under his father. “An irreplaceable opportunity to be mentored by a true creative with patience only family can muster. It was a blessing and remains an important part of who I am today.”
For the next 15 years, the little creative agency in Tulsa soldiered on. The Macintosh revolution of 1984 saw Paul’s move to the creative side as a self-taught graphic artist, eventually becoming Creative Director. There were good times and not such good times. Complementing his father’s transparency, Paul says, “My Dad gave me a front row seat to see what worked, and what didn’t work. It wasn’t complicated — do more of the former and less of the latter.”
There was a time Jay Brothers was a three-pack-a-day smoker, beginning with his tour in the United States Air Force and moving into his early career in advertising. By late 1998, he had stopped smoking for decades, but the damage was done. Diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer, Jay spent the last three years of his life fighting a battle he couldn’t win, watching the company he founded begin to grow, and speaking honestly to his son about his pride...for “his boy.”
Jay died in the Spring of 2001. He was 64. But his story isn’t over. In the last years of his life there were a number of young hires at Brothers & Co. — hires that proved to be the bedrock for our company today, and spoke clearly to one of Jay’s last encouragements to Paul, “Hire people that are better than you, and you’ll do fine.”
It is critical to our culture today that many on our leadership team knew Jay Brothers. They were young guns, he was in his prime. He was a kind-hearted, honest man. He is our founder, and he is missed.
And once again, the little creative agency in Tulsa soldiered on. Then, an experience that forever changed our company and our business.
On an extensive private tour of Walmart Home Office with Senior Vice President, Don Harris, Paul Brothers saw firsthand the brutal, high-stakes battles our customers must fight to get their products on shelves. Not to sell their products. Just to have the opportunity to sell their products.
It was a defining moment. It changed Paul and brought definition to a deep dissatisfaction he had with the advertising business.
“There is a profound lack of understanding in today’s agency business about our lot in life — we are here to serve. Yes, creative. Yes, strategy. Yes, planning and insight. But above all, we serve. Everything else flows (or not) from there.”
The precepts you see in Our Lighthouse grew from Paul’s trip to Walmart. His first day back in Tulsa he called a meeting with the leadership team and out of that meeting came these words. This is the core of who we are today, what we do for a living, and how we approach service to our customers:
So here we are, almost 40 years later. The little creative agency in Tulsa now has offices in Oklahoma City and Wichita. We work for some of the proudest brands in America and invite you to review our client list to see if you don’t agree.
We are almost 70 people strong. We come from diverse backgrounds but share irreplaceable convictions about our lot in life. We are passionate and we are growing — proud of who we are and what we have accomplished.
This is the company that Jay founded. The one we’re building together.