You heard us.
At The Johnson Group, we specialize in teaming up with fighter brands that are being outspent by the Giants in their categories.  We launch smart, unexpected ideas that stand out in the marketplace and beat the odds.
That’s Giant Slaying.


Joe Johnson
President & CEO

Joe is a Chattanooga native who graduated from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. He began his advertising career in Chattanooga. Raised his family in Chattanooga. And in 1996, founded The Johnson Group in Chattanooga. So naturally, his first priority was to provide national-level branding and strategy to the Chattanooga brands that would be instrumental in helping the city achieve its world-renowned renaissance.

Under his guidance, The Johnson Group has provided branding and advertising to virtually every major initiative during Chattanooga’s historic turnaround including; the branding and launch of the nation’s fastest Internet—Chattanooga’s EPB Fiber Optics, the brand positioning and creation of the most successful tourism campaign in the city’s history for the Chattanooga CVB, the brand positioning and advertising for the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga—the world’s largest freshwater aquarium, the branding and launch of the city’s stadium, host to the NCAA Division I Football Championship and the branding of Chattanooga’s “Can Do Campaign”—a massive economic development initiative that helped lure Volkswagen’s first U.S. manufacturing plant in over 20 years to Chattanooga and, along with it, thousands of jobs.

Today, Chattanooga, a classic fighter-brand success story, is considered the thriving, vibrant, high-tech capital of the Southeast and the city outside magazine dubbed the “Best Town Ever.”

And under Joe’s continued leadership, his Chattanooga agency works with fighter-brands from cities as far as Anchorage, Alaska; San Diego, California; Binghamton, New York; Fort Wayne, Indiana; Hays, Kansas; Waco, Texas; Coeur d’Alene, Idaho; and Waynesboro, Virginia.

Joe’s specialization in brand positioning and strategy for fighter-brands was honed through years of conducting research and leading account planning for brands across the country. He trained in marketing research at Burke Institute and has personally conducted and analyzed more than 100 qualitative and quantitative research studies for both consumer and B2B clients. He worked with Jim Emery to develop the agency’s highly effective brand positioning process—the same methods proven worldwide for Coke, Kraft, Colgate-Palmolive, Brown Forman, Campbell Soup and a scores of other top-tier brands.

Sandy Buquo
Partner & Account DIRECTOR

Sandy is an expert at structuring and managing large, multi-location accounts for success at both the brand and customer activation levels. She staffed and led the account management of 5,000 Conoco retail and franchisee locations from offices in Tennessee, Texas, Oklahoma and Colorado. Her success then made the agency the logical choice to organize and manage Conoco’s launch of Alternative Fuels.

Sandy led The Johnson Group’s planning and management of Cricket Wireless’s first market launch. And, repeated that success 42 separate times in markets across the nation while simultaneously staffing and managing field marketing reps in multiple satellite offices throughout the country.

A true marketer can market any brand—retail or B2B. Sandy proved this when she planned and managed the marketing for products including chlorine, caustic soda and hydrochloric acid for Olin Chemical in Tennessee, Alabama, Louisiana and Niagara Falls, New York.

Another challenge? Leading the planning that identifies and recruits over 10,000 truck drivers with cross-platform digital, in an over-saturated market with 100% turnover.

In her spare time….what spare time?

Pat Buckley
Partner/Creative Content Officer

He’s a writer with a graduate degree from Oxford University.

He’s also an artist with a painting in the permanent collection of the Georgia Museum of Art.

Pat’s always using both sides of his brain. Consequently, he has an uncanny ability to transform almost anything into unique, highly engaging brand content. He turned Krystal’s hamburger packaging into a mobile scan code to create fast-food’s first 3D Augmented Reality App. He created traffic-stopping, live-performance billboards. He helped produce a feature-length documentary of the Tennessee Valley Authority. Then, after it played in theaters throughout the Southeast and aired on PBS, he helped produce a mobile site that allows TVA visitors to scan exhibits and view documentary segments during tours.

Pat specializes in creating content that actually generates its own content. He created a full-scale UFO that traveled across rural America on a flat-bed army truck to promote Viasat Satellite Internet, generating thousands of consumer photo, video and shares on social media channels. His adaptation of a phone app created the first virtual reality bank grand opening (in the palm of your hand) that allowed customers in Russia, Africa, Europe and across the U.S. to join in a ribbon cutting celebration in Tennessee and then share it.

Pat’s unique creative executions have lined his award shelf with 100’s of the American Advertising Federation’s local, regional and national awards and provided consumer and B2B brands with one-of-a-kind executions and results.

His immersion into content creation and Certification from the Content Marketing Institute provide powerful and highly effective creative leadership to the content marketing plans we create for our clients.

Before joining us in Chattanooga, Pat was a creative director in Atlanta and Houston where he produced award-winning work for leading brands such as Apple, Hitachi and ConocoPhillips.

Mike Polcari
Partner/Creative Director

Mike loves playing guitar…and walking to the beat of a different drummer than most creatives. For starters, he graduated from a top business school, Indiana University. After being recruited to Washington, D.C., his career became even more unusual, including ghost-writing for Barbara Bush, recruiting for the National Security Administration (NSA…we’re not kidding), and his creative for the U.S. Mint and Selective Service System was even discussed on the floor of Congress. Best of all for a die-hard Redskins fan, Mike produced a long-running Pizza Hut TV campaign that was hailed by The Washington Post as the “The Best Use of the Redskins.”

Mike’s background also has an international flair, working on projects with Dentsu, Young & Rubicam in the Far East for clients including Lufthansa Airlines and Miller Brewing Company. In another unusual twist, Mike happened to visit Chattanooga, fell in love with the Scenic City and later became a founding member of The Johnson Group.

Mike helped put us on the national map with our launch of Cricket Wireless, which propelled them into 42 markets and was praised by Morgan Stanley as the key to the brand’s growth. Similarly, he changed the landscape of truck driver recruitment advertising by winning creative awards in a previously mundane product category. Speaking of awards, Mike has a closetful of ‘em, including heaps of ADDYs, multiple national EFFIEs and a One Show award, the most prestigious creative award in the world.

Roger Vaughn
Partner/Executive Creative Director

There are certain must-have criteria you search for in an Executive Creative Director. Creative awards are certainly among them. Roger’s work has won well over 100 American Advertising Federation ADDY Awards including Regional, National, Best of Show and Judges’ Choice Awards. He’s also earned Show South, Print Magazine, ADWEEK Icon Award for Technology, Mercury Awards for radio, Healthcare Marketing Awards, Wireless Industry Awards, etc.

Another key criteria? Proof that all of this great creative gets results. Roger has led the agency in winning prestigious National EFFIE Awards for advertising effectiveness. (That’s effectiveness as objectively judged using verified results compared to a wide range of national competitors in the same industry category.)

Was this great, effective creative developed for clients you might be familiar with? How about AirTran? Krystal? Sunbelt Granola Bars? Sprint? Dean Foods? Rubbermaid? Volkswagen? Blue Cross/Blue Shield?

Finally, it’s interesting to know what your Executive CD does in his spare time to hone his craft and remain contemporary. Roger, of course, spends his spare time winning awards! His music video concepts for artists like Eric Church, Florida-Georgia Line, Lady Antebellum, Josh Turner, Thomas Rhett and Sara Watkins of Nickel Creek have received numerous CMA, CMT and ACM awards and nominations. Not to mention the song he wrote for Chattanooga’s TV regional campaign to promote tourism—a campaign that has proven to be the most successful in the city’s history.

Antonio Minuta
Director of Digital Strategy and Media

Antonio provides our clients with a comprehensive digital perspective. From app development and publishing to advertising and digital media strategy, he’s worked extensively across the entire digital ecosystem. During his time with Nielsen Vizu’s Online Ad Measurement Division, Antonio helped brands consistently monitor, optimize and improve campaign performance with the use of real-time reporting of online ad performance by medium, frequency of ad exposure, creative execution and targeting.

While working with Smaato, the world’s largest independent mobile ad exchange, he gained an unmatched understanding of mobile, real-time-buying, demand-side platforms (DSP) and supply-side platforms (SSP), bringing our clients an advanced level of mobile advertising opportunities and effectiveness.

Antonio is fluent in Spanish and has worked extensively with digital properties in Argentina and Brazil. He earned his MBA at Dublin City University, Ireland.

Ken Smith
Director of Web Development

Ken’s innovative thinking in IT has been featured in Inc., Vanity Fair, the Tennessee Business Journal and newspapers across the country. It also caught the attention of the Bush/Cheney campaign, Fred Thompson and the Republican National Committee where Ken spearheaded the introduction and implementation of the highly targeted online campaigns that are still prevalent today.

Ken is comfortable in virtually all programming languages including Visual Studio .NET, VB, C#, SQL Server, Visual C++, JavaScript, CSS, HTML, AJAX, RPG, ERP systems, Window, Linux and AS/400. And his database expertise was called upon to develop one of the largest databases in the country.

He’s a Microsoft Certified Trainer, Developer and Site Builder whose programming, coding and strategic thinking talents have been accessed by clients and IT professionals across the country.

Chris Luke
Director of Technology

Chris began his digital career at age 18 at a small tech startup in Utah that grew from $3 million to $78 million in revenue during his 4-year stint. During this time, Chris earned his MBA and Certified ScrumMaster Certification. He was chosen from over 13,000 teacher-nominated students nationwide as winner of the Wheatly Leadership Award for exceptional leadership and management.

Chris was then recruited by the world’s number one bank, Goldman Sachs where he received further best-in-class training, experience, and knowledge. There he managed a team dedicated to increasing conversions (sales) through data-driven analysis, user experience, design and creativity.

At the same time, Chris started his own business specializing in helping small entrepreneurs fuel their growth by creating and optimizing their online presence.

At The Johnson Group, our clients access Chris’s expertise, leadership and never ending search for innovation to make the best decisions for their business online.

Tim Hanners
Director of Content Marketing

Tim began specializing in content marketing long before it had a name and as a result has an unmatched level of experience and expertise in this rapidly evolving—and ever important—discipline. His analytical focus on identifying and engaging the right audience has attracted brands in arguably the most complex, consumer and B2B category: healthcare. Tim has worked with major, national health systems like HCA and Catholic Health Initiatives as well as specialty brands such as Cook Children’s Hospital to engage highly diverse audiences of consumers, physicians and businesses. Over his 20-year career, he’s developed best practice, content marketing strategies that drive leads, conversion, SEO and loyalty for over 100 clients.

His study of the evolving process and his continuing education as a graduate of the Content Marketing Institute, The Disney Institute and Southwest Airlines University ensure he brings the latest thought leadership and innovation to content marketing.

Tim hails from Texas (and as any Texan, will proudly tell you that immediately) where he earned his Masters degree and once swam the Rio Grande to Mexico.


Giant-slayers tend to be a bright, energetic breed who play as hard as they work. Here are some of ours, caught in the act.


Have a few Giants of your own to battle? Contact Dixie.