Business Cover

Blondes Have More Fun

by Christiaan Mader

Cathi Pavy, ABiz’s inaugural Jillian Johnson Award winner, is fiercely loyal to the Lafayette brand.

Sitting at a wired-up desk, the room lighted by a wall-sized projection screen, Cathi Pavy occupies a swivel chair sporting West-coast ergonomics. Through the glass wall behind her, the life-sized counterpoint of her husband Francis Pavy’s paintings provides a backdrop equally at home in Silicon Valley.

Pavy’s full-service media firm, BBR Creative, has for 18 years operated on the cusp of boutique branding and marketing for a who’s who of national, state and local clients. Insofar as advertising is parcel of the language of the modern world, Pavy’s voice is driving the way Louisiana talks about itself. Since the beginning, BBR — the firm takes its name from Blonde-Brunette-Redhead, a nod to founders Pavy, Cherie Hebert and Sara Ashy — has been in your conversation, furtively changing Louisiana’s out-of-state image through projects for clients like Louisiana Economic Development, One Acadiana, CODOFIL and Festival International de Louisiana. Her work as chief creative officer has pitched a line of string out to prodigal Acadians with campaigns like 2014’s “Come Home, Louisiana,” which courted the return of Louisiana-born talent in diaspora and in need of a reason to come home that isn’t a hot bowl of gumbo and a kiss from mom or dad.

“We should think creatively about who we can be as a city. There’s so much potential here. I’m also just very competitive, and I’d hate to see some other city surpass us,” Pavy, our inaugural winner of the Jillian Johnson Award for Entrepreneurship in the Creative Economy, tells ABiz. The award is named for the dynamo designer-musician-community activist tragically killed in the Grand Theatre shooting in July.

Beyond the clever marketing, the zesty sloganeering and playful branding that are BBR hallmarks, Pavy’s business has become an example of what an Acadiana business can be. We don’t have to settle for the traditional or the homespun; Acadiana businesses can be daring, media savvy and debonair.

By committing to projects she believes in, her business has attracted scores of young designers, artists, writers and marketing professionals looking for a chance to speak to the world at large and expand Louisiana’s economic vocabulary. To that end, BBR is not just hawking products and clients that make people want to come home; it’s one of the reasons Lafayette’s current under-40 talent pool has stayed here.

And that list of clients and projects is impressive. Pavy has guided her firm through award-winning projects for clients like CC’s Coffee House, Johnson & Johnson and the National Research Institute. Even more impressive is the strength of voice Pavy’s team has maintained through disparate clientele with idiosyncratic needs. You know a BBR campaign when you see one. The copy sings, the images pop and the eyes are hooked. At the end of it all, you sense a wink, a nod and a wry curtsy — the polished but human touch of a master communicator. The secret to such resounding success, one that has garnered more than 300 national, regional and local awards, is Pavy’s commitment operating outside of traditional industry boundaries, leading her clients to new communicative frontiers.

At the heart of Pavy’s drive and ingenuity is her dedication to Acadiana as a community. The client Pavy believes in most is the community she’s called home since birth. Born and educated in Lafayette, Pavy has dedicated herself to the proposition that Lafayette is and can be a great place for the arts. Beautifying our places and spaces is the quest of the Acadiana Art & Cultural Trust, an organization chaired by Pavy and founded in 2015 to execute the portions of Lafayette’s comprehensive plan dedicated to fostering Lafayette’s artistic renaissance through grants big and small. But while she believes firmly in Lafayette’s future, she’s held fast to Lafayette’s past.

“I’ve found my passion, and that’s Lafayette,” she says. “I was born here. I’m from a family that’s of French speaking heritage and culture. My first boucherie was a real one at my aunt’s house. It was just a Saturday like any other day. They cooked cracklins and had the hog’s head hanging off the barn. That part of my life is something that I cherish. That part of Lafayette is precious. We have to fi gure out a way to preserve it as a city. Because if we don’t have it, who are we? Just another all-American town.”

Jillian Johnson’s legacy to Lafayette is one that teaches us to cultivate what is best about ourselves, while re-imagining tradition and heritage as a boundless possibility rather than a limitation to identity. Entrepreneurship in Acadiana, to that extent, is not just about growing businesses, but growing our community and challenging what it means to work and live in Lafayette.

In her capacity as principal dreamer at BBR and as a patron of the arts, Pavy has beautified Acadiana’s brand and brought our culture to the national market. Louisiana can sell itself, but it helps to have folks like Cathi Pavy do the leg work.

Pavy with BBR employees Burt Durand, left, and Tim Landry