Starbucks pours great ad agency down the drain

Starbucks print ad from <a title="Link to W&K site for Starbucks ad" href=There are a few ad agencies that really understand relationship marketing and building brands based on emotional ownership over rational decision making processes- Wieden & Kennedy is one of them.

Since 2004 they’ve worked with Starbucks, a brand that’s been known as a poor client. When your agency fires you as a client, it’s time to do some introspection. Especially if you are a marquee type client.

Getting fired means you are doing something wrong, and Starbucks’ senior VP-marketing seems to be the first candidate for the introspection couch:

In a statement, Starbucks’ senior VP-marketing, Terry Davenport, said Wieden’s decision was a response to Starbucks’ recent move to ask a number of agencies it works with, including Wieden, to “provide ideas to move the brand forward. … And, as a result, Wieden has decided to opt out of the process,” he said.

While Wieden is Starbucks’ primary agency, the retailer has worked with a number of other agencies in recent years on co-branded products. Interpublic Group of Cos.’ DraftFCB, New York, is the primary shop on its grocery coffee business. Starbucks has also worked with Omnicom Group’s Goodby Silverstein & Partners on the bottled Frappucino beverages it co-markets with Pepsi and Energy BBDO for the coffee liqueur brand it co-marketed with Beam Global Wine & Spirits.

But Wieden, which also handled media buying and planning for the coffee roaster, as well as much of its in-store graphics work, had been responsible for the first large-scale advertising in Starbucks’ history, including its first TV push last winter.

Wieden Parts Ways With Starbucks - Advertising Age - Agency News.

Starbucks is a brand that’s a love it or hate it brand. Their market penetration is incredible, as I’m constantly reminded when I pop up my “Starbucks finder” on my iPhone and almost always find one nearby when the coffee urge hits my companions.

And here is where the fundamental problem exists: The best marketing and advertising that Starbucks can do- isn’t marketing or advertising in the traditional sense of the words- because it’s just not necessary. The focus should be on refining a voice through the brand touchpoints and building very tight relationships with their customers through Customer Relationship Management tools. This is hard for both a VP of Marketing to understand and hard for an ad agency to caculate a compensation program for.

Modern marketing techniques don’t come with conventional media billings- and for a company like Starbucks, they shouldn’t. But, an open mind of how to build relationships with customers should be the first order of discussion with any agency who is bold enough to take on this “difficult client.”

Cincinnati agency hits the big leagues! BBDO Buys Barefoot

It’s good to see one of the local agencies get recognized for doing great work, but it’s even better to see them cash out. Barefoot has been on our list of agencies that aren’t The Next Wave for a long time- however, at least for right now- they seem to be the next wave.

Cincinnati-based Agency to Become Part of BBDO’s Proximity Network

NEW YORK, JULY 14, 2008 – BBDO Worldwide announced today that it has acquired Barefoot, Cincinnati’s premier creative advertising agency. The 15-year old agency will become part of BBDO North America and a member of the Proximity Worldwide Network, BBDO’s award-winning global direct and digital marketing network.

Barefoot >> Press >> BBDO Buys Barefoot.

We’ve had a few pleasant e-mail exchanges with CCO Doug Worple- including about his iPhone data roaming charges- and to update their url, since we were one of the main sites that sent them traffic (when it comes to digital- we can still give them a run for their money).

We wish them all the best. Although, in our book- Cincinnati’s premier creative agency is The Creative Department. But, BBDO didn’t ask us.

PodcampOhio- another perspective on viral campaigns

I was in a session on launching viral campaigns with a bunch of non-advertising people (and a few ad people)- all very web savvy, and it was interesting to me that campaigns were being talked about without any reference to the agency that did the campaigns.

Yeah. Believe it or not, no one cares who did the campaign except those of us in the business. But, out of the examples, 2 were Crispin Porter+Bogusky work.

First was the story of Subservient Chicken. The amazing penetration of this site were evident when probably 80% of the room raised their hands when asked if they’d visited the site. The idea of trying to get a major US corporation to post a site that has a guy in a chicken suit wearing a black garter belt, a la online porn peep show was a gutsy move by CP+B. The presenter knew BK’s sales went up- but didn’t know if it specifically sold chicken.

To confirm that: here is a bit from an AdWeek analysis of the campaign:

Dissecting ‘Subservient Chicken’
But, aside from Web traffic, did the campaign actually drive customers into stores to buy the sandwich? About a month after the TenderCrisp sandwich debuted, BK reported that sales had steadily increased an average of 9 percent a week. Since then, Geis says the company has seen “double-digit” growth of awareness of the TenderCrisp Chicken Sandwich and “significantly increased” chicken sandwich sales. And the TenderCrisp does sell better than the Original Chicken Sandwich.

The second mention was the “Safe Happens” tv spot for the Jetta. Not necessarily a “viral” campaign, since it ran on broadcast TV- but, it did make an impression through viral sharing.

This spot is the absolute antithesis of the typical car glamor spot that Detroit favors. Showing a real life situation and the car having an accident would make Detroit uncomfortable (although crash test dummies and a test sled have been standard fare for years). It makes you wonder why Detroit never approved this type of work- especially since their main knock on foreign “small cars” was always that they aren’t as safe as the boats from GM, Ford and Chrysler. There was a lot of discussion over the graphic nature of this spot on broadcast- which effectively multiplied the effect of the buy. Some even argued that the fact that the Jetta’s brakes squealed and didn’t stop like ABS, avoiding the wreck - could backfire.

But, once again, everyone in the room knew the spot. How many agencies get the nod two times in an hour by a non-agency pro. Case closed, Crispin Porter + Bogusky is doing memorable, discussable work and that’s worth a lot more to a client than the mundane dreck most settle for.

The other campaign that got mentioned was the Dove Evolution spot, that’s known by all in advertising-

but, the penetration of awareness in the room was at least half that of the CP+B work. (granted, the room was probably 65% male). Also note, the Evolution spot (from Ogilvy and Mather, Toronto) cost considerably more to make than Subservient Chicken (which reportably cost $30K). Unilever has since caught flack for being disengenuous for promoting Dove as the anti-sexification of women, while also running ads for the testostorone overloaded AXE body spray sites. Watch the following disection of Unilevers hypocrisy:

The description of the session, (which was so popular they had to move rooms):

“Everyone wants the benefits of a viral campaign, but few people really understand how to put the pieces together to create the best chance for success. Find out the most common mistakes companies make when aiming to go viral and how a little bit of brainstorming can set you up for success. Jennifer Laycock will walk you through the actual brainstorming process she uses with clients to help you gather information needed to put things together. She’ll also help you learn to identify “key influencers” within your industry and will offer concrete tips on the best way to approach them with your campaign.”

I was impressed with Ms. Laycocks reasoned approach to generating low-budget viral campaigns, and her worksheets for assessing how to put a plan together, however, there is no guaranteed formula for creating viral campaigns. Crispin launched Subservient Chicken by asking it’s own employees to write everyone they knew to check out the site and spread the word and it worked beyond the wildest expectations.

There is one thing that is guaranteed about good viral- that traces back to an old adage- there is noting that will kill a bad product off faster than good advertising. If your viral campaign is based on deceit, a poor premise, or isn’t able to be verified- you will have more problems than you started with (see GM’s effort for the Chevy Tahoe- when gas was only $2.50 a gallon).

We’re currently tasked with creating buzz and hopefully a viral for a re-launch of a retailer online and off, and it will be interesting to use Ms. Laycock’s process along with our own ideas in the coming weeks.

One thing is for sure though in creating viral campaigns, the winning ideas aren’t the safe ones.

How big can you get before things go bad?

Well, way back in 1988- “how big van we get without getting bad?” was the question on Guy Day’s mind- because Jay Chiat had famously asked “I want to see how big we can get without getting bad.”

Because, creativity isn’t something that comes with a formula, or on demand- and sooner or later, everyone runs into “Creative block”- or can’t come up with the one, really, insanely great idea that carries through for ever- you know, like “Just do it” or “Hello, I’m a Mac, And I’m a PC” etc.

So when über hip, super hot, Crispin Porter + Bogusky landed a piece of the Nike business from the super hot, über hip, old standby agency- Wieden + Kennedy, the ad world gasped. Was no relationship sacred? Were CMO’s so cutthroat as to divorce the one that brought them fame and fortune?

Well- today, after 13 months, and ONE tv ad, Nike pulled the plug on CP+B and went home to the old standby according to AdAge:

Nike, Crispin Partnership Ends After 13 Months - Advertising Age - Agency News
Just more than a year after widening its roster to include hotshop Crispin Porter & Bogusky, Nike is shifting its running-shoe and Nike-Plus business back to lead agency Wieden & Kennedy, a spokesman for the marketer said.

Crispin CEO Jeff Hicks confirmed the split in a statement, citing a mutual decision to go different ways: “We will forever be in awe of the company that is Nike and wish them nothing but the best.”

A Wieden spokeswoman could not be immediately reached. A report of the split first surfaced on George Parker’s blog Adscam/The Horror.

Nike first stunned the ad world last April by adding Crispin to an agency roster long exclusively dominated by Wieden. The pairing of one of the most iconic brands of all time with the hotshop was seen by many as a harbinger of trouble for Wieden, but the collaboration thus far resulted in a single TV ad, for the iPod-integrated Nike-Plus brand, which ran in December.

While Crispin Porter is still a wildly successful group of talented people, they aren’t the answer for everything, as Nike found out. With Burger King, VW, and now Microsoft- the burden of being a genius on so many major accounts, requires great management expertise to go with the creative. Growing an agency can be tough. Need proof- look back at Jay Chiat and Guy Day’s questions from way back.

Note to Chief Marketing Officers- there is a lot to be said for institutional knowledge, and a lot more to be said for treating your agency as a trusted partner. When the work isn’t good, remember to check out your own brief and assignment?

VW: a brand still searching for a voice

Crispin Porter + Bogusky knows how to do car advertising; the Mini launch proved it. Then they “moved up” to work with VW when their patron at Mini moved to VW. However, Kerri Martin didn’t last very long at VW as the marketing chief, and neither will Crispin until VW gets someone at the top that understands the CP+B methodology- and VW actually learns how to deliver true “German Engineering.”

These two spots are a brilliant move, trotting out the old Beetle, to get the brand back to it’s roots: affordable, reliable, quality. However, with the dollar tanking and VW really struggling to make it out of the basement of JD Power surveys, CB+P is fighting an steep uphill battle.

Supermodel Heidi Klum interviewing a 1964 black Beetle that turns red when she says German engineering is so sexy. Heidi is impressed that every VW now comes with ABS and traction control standard. Talk show format, ending with a title slide: Das Auto- which means “the auto.”

Former Indiana hoops coach Bob Knight interviewing the classic Beetle- talking about basketball records, and VW’s winning the best resale value of 2008 (which is hard to believe since 2008 isn’t over yet). The joke about “one of us winning a title this year” gets Knight mad- and he throws the chair saying he might not be retired yet.

The tagline of “The Auto” is meaningless, but eminently better than the “Once you get into a Volkswagen it gets into you” line that was trotted out right after Ms. Martin hit the job market. Somehow, I’m still waiting for CP+B to trot “Fahrvergnugen” back out- and do it right. Or for VW corporate to realize there was nothing wrong with “Drivers Wanted” which had a hint of BMW “Ultimate driving machine” for the rest of us.

Besides the dubious hints at quality (no fault of CP+B- they work with what VW builds), the only thing that stops these ads from being good is the “German voice” of the car. It’s a cartoon voice for a cartoon brand.

In the search for a brand voice, VW is still lost.

You can read the whole VW Press release here.

Crispin wins Microsoft account: Now the real test begins

Crispin Porter + Bogusky has a track record of delivering creative that gets attention. However, the old adage is nothing kills a bad product faster than good advertising may be the beginning of the end for Microsoft.

Vista has been a flop from day one. It was supposed to be an improvement over Windows XP, yet, people are still buying PC’s with the old operating system. That should be the first indication that Microsoft is in trouble. No one would want to buy the last version of Apple’s OS X.

And here lies the true test: will Crispin Porter + Bogusky chuck all their Mac’s and do the work on PC’s running Vista to prove that the machine is capable? (boot camp, parallels etc. don’t count). David Ogilvy was a firm believer in never advertising anything you didn’t use personally. My guess is they won’t.

Here are the details from AdAge:

Crispin Wins Microsoft’s Consumer-Products Effort - Advertising Age - Agency News
Microsoft Corp. today handed MDC Partners’ Crispin Porter & Bogusky a major consumer assignment promoting its Windows products to break later this year.
Microsoft has chosen Crispin Porter & Bogusky as their creative partner for an upcoming consumer marketing campaign.

Spending on the account was undisclosed, but could be as high as $300 million or more, according to executives familiar with the assignment. Microsoft spent almost $1 billion on measured and unmeasured marketing in the U.S. alone for 2006, according to the most recent Advertising Age DataCenter analysis….

“After a thorough review of several creative and strategic advertising agencies, Microsoft has selected Crispin Porter & Bogusky as our creative partner for an upcoming consumer marketing campaign,” read a statement from Microsoft. “Crispin was chosen based on their strategic approach, the strength of their creative ideas and the passionate and diverse team of people at the agency.”…

Although details of the new assignment have not been spelled out, Rob Enderle, principal analyst, the Enderle Group, San Jose, Calif., said it comes at a time when Microsoft is about to release a fix for the poorly received Vista, a so-called Service Pack 1…

“Microsoft lacks marketing skills,” Mr. Enderle said. “They can bring creative on board, but if it is not directed, you wind up with creative junk,” he said. “It’s clear to me this is not just an agency problem.”

Bruised by Apple
Microsoft has a problem with the continued embarrassment caused by Apple’s “Mac vs. PC” ad campaign, Mr. Enderle said. “It is unprecedented in this industry — and most — where one company makes fun of a competitor for a long period of time successfully,” he said. The last time that happened was when carmaker Isuzu poked fun of Porsche. But never did Porsche’s quality come into question, only that Isuzu presented a better deal, he said.

“This one does far more damage. It does go in and disparage the Microsoft operating system pretty solidly,” he said.

When Apple launched the “Get a Mac” campaign by TBWA/Chiat Day we compared it to the Crispin Porter + Bogusky “Manthem” spot for Burger King: Is your agency ego in line with your budget?

This may be Crispin’s opportunity to prove they still have the ability to come up with a big idea that can carry through for a brand- that cuts through the clutter. The last memorable effort that worked was the “Let’s Motor” for BMW mini, a brand they abandoned when they took on VW. Microsoft may be the client that frees them from keeping VW, where their champion CMO left them and rumors of their dismissal have been circulated.

But, the first step is switch the shops to Vista on PC’s and see how much work they can do.