How Kapowza made air filters entertaining

Making “unsexy” companies fun is a point of pride for the ETC-based creative agency, but don’t call it a niche.

Kapowza caught this reporter’s attention with an email with the subject line, “World’s Funniest Air Filter Commercial.”

Dan Schepleng, founder of the creative agency, admits there’s a bit of trick wording involved. After all, how many funny air filter commercials are there?

Still, it succeeds in standing out. The commercial, which is for the company FilterBuy, looks to surprise in the same way.

Schepleng acknowledges it was a challenge to create, but that’s the idea. There was a lot of learning involved.

“We got to learn a lot about air filters. Things that you wouldn’t have thought that exist,” he said. “There’s whole businesses and trade shows and ecosystems around those businesses.”

So, is taking such “unsexy” companies and making them interesting a niche? Maybe, but that doesn’t mean it’s their “thing,” Schepleng said. He doesn’t want to have a niche.

“I really like not having a niche,” he said. “We’re able to come into an industry and say something fresh because we bring experience from all of the other things we’ve done.”

That’s evident in the rest of the portfolio for the ETC-based agency. They’ve worked with startups like Baltimore-based Whitebox, Point3 and Notice&Comment, and built the website for the Maryland Venture Fund.

Having worked in web, creative and indie film locally, Schepleng also keeps it local. On the FilterBuy commercial, Kapowza worked with CharmCineproduction house. Owner Martin Whittier was the director of photography, and built a set in his Havre de Grace home. Catonsville-based Studio Unknown handled audio editing.

“The amount of film industry that’s here — people don’t even realize,” he said.

Since Schepleng founded the agency in September 2015 it has grown to three employees. He decided to make the jump and start his own agency — even though some friends warned against it. But he quickly found work, and grew.

“There was a time I could keep the entire company’s to-do list in my head. Now it’s far from that. I can’t handle it by myself,” he said. In February 2016 he brought on Sean Sutherland as account executive and Christopher Chesterto handle design work. With the growth, Schepleng focused on building culture as well as the work.

“I think what we do well is we have an environment where everyone’s comfortable throwing out ideas,” he said.

The agency expects to add more employees in 2017.