Is Crispin Porter + Bogusky the only “creative” ad agency left

The next person who says branding doesn’t count in business to business advertising should be shot. (Not that there are many nay-sayers when it comes to branding- but there are a few).

There are thousands of ad agencies in this country- and all of them would love to be able to take a stab at work for the premier consumer brands- like Nike, Apple, Burger King, Dominos, BMW, Ford etc…

But, when it comes to choosing an ad agency- Chief Marketing Officers seem to have tunnel vision. The list usually looks like this:

Crispin Porter + Bogusky, Wieden + Kennedy, TBWA Chiat/Day, Fallon, Arnold, Martin, Deutch, Goodby + Silverstein, GSD&M - you get the point. Maybe 50 agencies make the list- the rest, fight for the scraps.

Considering it can take at least a year before an agency can (or should) be comfortable enough to take a client in a new category (ad people don’t know everything there is to know about the shoe business- unless they’ve worked in it before) to a new place, with an on target strategy, changes like the following one, make me wonder:

Advertising Age - Nike Moves Running-Shoe Account to Crispin
Nike has officially transferred the creative work for its running-shoe business, as well as the Nike Plus and its Nike ID Web site accounts, to Miami-based Crispin Porter & Bogusky, a Nike spokesman said.
Nike’s running-shoe business was the first account expected to move from Wieden.
‘Proven track record’
“Crispin Porter & Bogusky has a proven track record for delivering creative, breakthrough ideas and we are excited to begin working with them to support these areas of business,” said Dean Stoyer, Nike’s U.S. director of media relations.
Mr. Stoyer said Nike will “continue working with our longtime creative partner Wieden & Kennedy to support the majority of our Nike business.”
Nike has been talking with Crispin for several months, and finally confirmed last month that it planned on moving pieces of its business to agencies other than Portland, Ore.-based Wieden. The running-shoe business was the first account expected to move.

While Crispin Porter + Bogusky is great at making noise, they have yet to take a brand the full course from a nobody like Nike was when Wieden + Kennedy started with them- to the power house they are now.

To abandon the date that brought you is a mistake of major proportions for Nike. If Wieden could afford it- telling Nike to take a walk on the whole shooting match would be the right move. Kudo’s to Roy Spence for rejecting WalMart’s invite to rebid the account after the Draft debacle. Loyalty and longevity in a client/agency relationship are valuable business assets, a part of the “goodwill” number on a balance sheet that shouldn’t be ignored.

The thing that baffles me is that both W+K can have the pick of ad talent (hiring)- if anything has stopped Nike from getting the work they think they are going to get from Crispin- it’s been on their side- not on the W+K side. However, if W+K had moved into a bunker mentality- worrying about losing the account (since it is a major part of their business) and the relationship changed from one of trust- to one of uncertainty, and stopped presenting the riskier, more volatile ideas because they thought that Nike wouldn’t be happy? Nike should look internally for their answer here- because from my perspective- they are trading down for an agency.

Why good design matters

One of the first design and advertising books that really spoke to me was Pentagram’s Living by Design (long out of print). Its basic premise was that design extended to more than graphics, architecture, advertising- but was the entire consumer/brand experience- long before people were talking about experiential marketing.

I was lent the book by a former employer, who had been given it as a gift by one of his professors. After I read it, I tried to talk to him about it, his response: “I don’t read books.” I didn’t stay at that job very long (probably because I did read).

I went to Pentagram’s London office to find a copy, several years later. They were nice enough to give me a copy- that had a section removed- and she copied the missing pages. I later got a complete copy from an art book store in Santa Monica- it’s one of my most prized books.

So, when I stumbled onto Pentagram’s blog- and saw this logo- I was instantly reminded of why I believe design does make a difference.Logo for One Laptop Per Child by Pentagram

Take a look at this elegant logo- then read their description:

New at Pentagram: New Work: One Laptop Per Child
Pentagram has designed the identity and website for One Laptop per Child, the non-profit organization with the goal of providing laptop computers to all children in developing nations.

The identity is a hieroglyph, designed to be universally understood, that utilizes the icons of the OLPC laptop interface, also developed by Pentagram. The website design employs these symbols as the basis for navigation. Each icon leads to a corresponding section of information: the laptop to a section about hardware and software, the arrow to a section about participation, and so on. The site launched in English but is currently being translated into many languages.

For all the companies that don’t think they can afford to do a proper logo on start-up, just remember, you can pay now, or pay later. A well designed brand mark can make the difference between having a corporate identity- and becoming a lifestyle brand, ala Nike, Apple, BMW, Mini etc.

And, by the way, if you aren’t familiar with the One Laptop Per Child initiative, you need to read more about it- it’s truly something that could change the world.

Recycling taglines- what is old, is new

I’m finally getting around to reading “Juicing the Orange” by Pat Fallon and Fred Senn. (btw- the site sucks if you are blind- or Google, or even a reader looking for the material they reference). I’m withholding my opinion till I finish, but I did note something- Fallon convinced Timex to go back to “Takes a licking and keeps on ticking” with some new executions.

So, before Crispin Porter + Bogusky brought back “Have it your way” for Burger King- other agencies have done the same thing. Which leads me to the question: Why didn’t Crispin bring back “Tastes Great- Less Filling” for Miller Lite? Especially once they were in trouble with “Man Laws?”

Is it because in taste tests Miller doesn’t beat Bud (I’m not a beer drinker)? That would make the strategy fundamentally flawed- and then the ads will actually hurt the brand.

When the VW marketing chief asked for a return to an umbrella theme- shouldn’t Crispin look back at “Drivers Wanted” and see if the connection can be made?

BMW hasn’t abandoned “The ultimate driving machine” through several agencies (although the motorcycle division isn’t smart enough to use “The ultimate riding machine”)- and the concept still resonates.

A well known brand is shorthand for a set of emotions and conditioned responses from the consumer. The tagline, if it is closely identified and well known with your brand- is equity that shouldn’t be thrown away just because you are tired of it. The real creativity comes from being able to keep creating interesting executions that connect to the brand.

Apple has stood for ease of use in the consumers minds for years- but until the “I’m a Mac, I’m a PC” campaign came, they had a hard time getting people to look at them as serious business computers (granted, being able to run Windows has also helped). Nike has “Just do it”- a tagline that could live forever and never be topped. (And to the person who called me on the phone and asked me who wrote it- and I drew a blank- it’s Jim Riswold).

The book “The Brand Gap” by Marty Neumeier covers branding better than any book I’ve read. The hand test and the swap test are probably two of the simplest, most obvious tools a marketer should pass.

The hand test asks if you cover the logo- can you tell who did the ad? And the swap test is equally cool- could your logo and someone elses swap and work better- he shows Polaroid and Nationwide Insurance (I should grab a scan and put it in here).

So- does your tagline instantly identify your brand- and no one elses? If it does, consider yourself lucky- and be really careful about changing it unless you have a really good reason and know it will work.

If you know of other resurected taglines- feel free to add them to the comments.

Big agency hires little agencies for big client. The next agency model?

Ad Age is looking for innovative strategies for the next advertising agency model. In their first article, “How Toyota got in touch with the heartland” they look at how mega-agency Saatchi & Saatchi partnered with 4 small agencies and 5 freelance creative consultants to work on the new Toyota Tundra campaign.

Now why would Saatchi do that? And why would Toyota agree? It’s called diversity- maybe not in the traditional sense of minority hiring, or Service Disabled Veteran Owned Business- but in diversity of ideas. Big agencies, in big cities are sometimes insulated from the reality of the rest of the country. As Ad Age points out- the difference between calling that thing under the back bumper a “tow hitch” or a “receiving hitch” would escape most creatives in LA.

It’s also a form of creative out-sourcing- not in a bad way, but in a forward thinking way like the way Eli Lilly and Company went Open Source in their search for answers to create new drugs. Saatchi can hire an agency where 80% of the employees actually own pick-ups(Brothers & Co) as opposed to the yuppie-mobile favored by people in LA. The perspective on the consumer is different out here in the “fly-over” states.

A recent trip to NYC gave me insight on the BMW motorcycle account. Walking around NYC I saw BMW’s everywhere. The agency is in NY, the client in NJ- this is what they see. The only time you see more BMW’s than Harley’s in the Midwest is when the weather sucks- and we BMW riders are the only ones on the road. Our reality is that the dealers are going under left and right- from lack of interest generated by advertising created in an alternate reality- where BMW’s rule, and dealerships are plentiful.

Saatchi also doesn’t have to carry as many people by using this strategy. Why buy the cow, when you only need the milk? The cost of a creative team is more than just salaries and benefits- overhead for office space, computers, support personnel all add up.

Is this the model of the future? Is this the beginning of the end of the Mega-agency and a return to small creative shops? Are there creatives outside the spheres of advertising that can do good work? Whoever heard of creative in Minneapolis, Portland or Miami before Fallon, Wieden + Kennedy and Crispin Porter + Bogusky?

The best soliders in the US Army, a megalithic organization, aren’t operating in the huge units- they work in teams of 12 on a Special Forces team. Maybe the ad world is starting to see that big isn’t always beautiful. After all is said and done, most “Big Ideas” come from a creative team of two.

Maybe the return of the creative team is the next big thing.

Ad Age lists the team for the Tundra campaign:

Saatchi & Saatchi LA

Agency partners:
Brothers & Co. Tulsa
Pocket Hercules, Minneapolis
VSA Design, Fort Collins Co.
RadicalMedia LA

Freelance Creative Consultants:
Eric McClellan
Ray Johnson
Andrew Christou
Charlie Tercek
Gavin Milner

If you know the links to Eric or Gavin- let me know.

Unique branding position from The Next Wave gets results

Zen Windows logoWhen we do our job really well- our clients get PR for free.
Dan Wolt was another window salesman, who knew the high-pressure business inside and out. He’d been at the top of a huge window mill- with 150 people setting appointments in a pressure cooker- and then he walked away and went solo.

But how to compete? How does a sole practitioner make enough noise to get noticed above the din of one of the most cut-throat industries known to man?

Our solution was “Zen Windows” a brand that was the antithesis of the standard positioning. His new slogan “Relax, window quotes in five minutes” opened a new conversation with customers who had already experienced the grueling three hour sessions of the competition.

So successful is his strategy, that wrote about it. (unfortunately- the link died)

Replacement Windows - Profile of Zen Windows - Replacement Window Company
Zen Windows - Doing Replacement Windows Differently

If you think your business can’t compete with the Goliaths of your industry- consider what is accepted practice- and think about how you can differentiate yourself. BMW motorcycle dealers are different because they let customers ride demo bikes. Apple built it’s own network of Apple stores- that are as much an experience as a retail environment. Target asked it’s vendors to help them differentiate the product offering with high design products at a reasonable price. What makes your business different?

Can an ad agency like The Next Wave help? Ask Dan Wolt for a reference.

Ski Bum opens new non-ad agency: note PR is important

In the art of the sound byte- anyone can be made to look like an idiot- I’ve had it happen to me, which is why we consider PR an integral part of the complete approach to marketing, advertising and especially on the Internet.

Before today- Bruce Bildsten was just a copy god in my book. He was one of the stars that came up with the great ideas for BMW Films (note- idiots at BMW took it down) while at Fallon. Fallon has always been one of my favorite big agencies that still acts like they are small.

Then Bildsten went out on his own- and sent some PR out claiming to be launching the next big thing in the advertising world- but, don’t call it an ad agency. It appeared on Ernie Schenck’s blog- which I enjoy greatly. Unfortunately, while Bruce may believe he’s the bomb, and his new agency, Brew, a Creative Collaborative, will be the shizzel, he forgot to make himself accessible.

You can read more on Ernies Blog on this link.

You can see my comments there- and read the previous post on this site here:

But- you can also Google Bruce and find this article he wrote for Fast Company- where, in his first line- he makes a PR faux pas- claiming to be a ski bum.

Which brings me to the point I want to make: What you say in print- is now forever findable in search. Does Bruce, newly minted “non-agency” owner, really want to be a ski bum now- or admit that he is in business?

And although it’s not entirely applicable, this post about conducting interviews via e-mail, and posting them on your site- with your spin, before someone else allows them to be pureed at will, might start to make more sense.

Needless to say- I wish Bruce all the luck in his new business, however, If I’m a mega-brand looking for you- I’d rather find your site at the top of Google, than something you wrote years ago where you don’t admit to being in business.

Maybe it’s time to give up skiing and start managing your brand. We’d be glad to help.

Bruce Bildsten: A Creative Approach to Communication Clutter

Bruce Bildsten works as a creative director for Fallon. Because of his work on BMW Films, Bildsten was named to Adweek’s All-Star Creative Team.

I kind of joke that I never read business magazines. I don’t like to admit that I’m in business. I like to pretend that I’m still a ski bum.

The Next Wave is in business- for business, as an ad agency. We eat, sleep and breathe advertising. We will make you a lot more money than you pay us. That’s our promise. Our corporate mission statement isn’t about being new, bigger, better, hipper, cooler-

it’s this: Create lust, evoke trust.

We hope by reading about us, our work and our ideas, you get it.

Feel free to inquire about changing the world.