It’s the size of the idea, not the budget that counts

Screen Shot of “The Slog” site from Horizon AirWhen friends send you ads because they think they are “clever” – your faith is restored in our profession. Before I did a quick Google search on the ad, I already suspected it was the work of WongDoody out of Seattle. Not that it was stylistically identifiable- but because it was clearly an amazing use of a small budget to create something that was worth passing around.

That, my friends, is the mark of a great ad agency, one that understands our mantra of “It’s our job to make you more money than you pay us,” – that seems lost on many of the mega-agencies.

Here is the synopsis of the ad campaign from AdRants:

Adrants » Horizon Air Convinces Sloggers The Slog Is Not the Best Way to Travel
But the way WONGDOODY crafted the site – a collection of videos highlight each of “the slog’s” oddities and frustrations Old West-style – lends a certain attraction to the road.

In addition to the site, the campaign also includes print, radio and a branded truck with a museum-like diorama of the road that makes stops along the highway. Brochures will also be handed out to travelers on the road convincing them Horizon Air is really the way to go. In all, it’s one of the best airline campaigns we’ve ever seen.

To briefly explain how the campaign works so well on a limited budget:

  • The campaign connects with consumers based on a fundamental truth: commuting by car can really suck.
  • The small video clips aren’t video at all- but sequential stills with a solid voice over. This saves considerable cost to the client, yet delivers a comparable effect.
  • The short vignettes are funny- “the suicidal marsupial, the speed bump possum” doesn’t make it into every campaign.
  • No matter how entertaining, the stories connect back to the consumer/commuter to parts of their regular journey in a way that almost can’t but remind them that “I could have taken the plane.”
  • The campaign was supported by other low budget yet highly visible media to connect to the site.

There are of course a few flaws in the strategy- one being that while the time you save from your I-5 Slog by flying over all those dead possums- you now have to deal with the TSA and their less than friendly shake downs, not having a car when you reach your destination (not as bad for destination Portland where you can find decent public transit- not good for Seattle bound folks where it’s still car culture).

From a delivery standpoint- WongDoody hasn’t made the site as search friendly as possible- and have totally failed on accessibility standards. That’s the norm for almost all agencies today. Without costing the client, Horizon Air a dime more, the site could have been built in a way that met all 508 requirements and had exactly the same effect- only being much more search and consumer friendly.

For instance, there is no way to send you a link to just one of the funny stories- like the one about the dead possum in the middle of the road. I also abhor any site that starts playing audio without specific instructions for it to- just in case I’m looking at something somewhere where I shouldn’t be (like watching this at work).

All that aside, working with a smaller creative shop like Wong Doody can definitely get a client much better results than working with a mega agency. Not only is the work top-notch and yet affordable, they are genuinely nice people as I remember setting an appointment with Pat Doody on my last visit to Seattle on a moments notice.

So, next time you are looking for a big bang for a smaller budget- look to agencies that deliver high value concept- not high dollar production expenses. Making your advertising budget work hard is the mark of a true hot creative shop, and when that happens- friends and strangers will start sending out emails about your last campaign calling it clever.

It's the size of the idea, not the budget that counts

Screen Shot of “The Slog” site from Horizon AirWhen friends send you ads because they think they are “clever” – your faith is restored in our profession. Before I did a quick Google search on the ad, I already suspected it was the work of WongDoody out of Seattle. Not that it was stylistically identifiable- but because it was clearly an amazing use of a small budget to create something that was worth passing around.

That, my friends, is the mark of a great ad agency, one that understands our mantra of “It’s our job to make you more money than you pay us,” – that seems lost on many of the mega-agencies.

Here is the synopsis of the ad campaign from AdRants:

Adrants » Horizon Air Convinces Sloggers The Slog Is Not the Best Way to Travel
But the way WONGDOODY crafted the site – a collection of videos highlight each of “the slog’s” oddities and frustrations Old West-style – lends a certain attraction to the road.

In addition to the site, the campaign also includes print, radio and a branded truck with a museum-like diorama of the road that makes stops along the highway. Brochures will also be handed out to travelers on the road convincing them Horizon Air is really the way to go. In all, it’s one of the best airline campaigns we’ve ever seen.

To briefly explain how the campaign works so well on a limited budget:

  • The campaign connects with consumers based on a fundamental truth: commuting by car can really suck.
  • The small video clips aren’t video at all- but sequential stills with a solid voice over. This saves considerable cost to the client, yet delivers a comparable effect.
  • The short vignettes are funny- “the suicidal marsupial, the speed bump possum” doesn’t make it into every campaign.
  • No matter how entertaining, the stories connect back to the consumer/commuter to parts of their regular journey in a way that almost can’t but remind them that “I could have taken the plane.”
  • The campaign was supported by other low budget yet highly visible media to connect to the site.

There are of course a few flaws in the strategy- one being that while the time you save from your I-5 Slog by flying over all those dead possums- you now have to deal with the TSA and their less than friendly shake downs, not having a car when you reach your destination (not as bad for destination Portland where you can find decent public transit- not good for Seattle bound folks where it’s still car culture).

From a delivery standpoint- WongDoody hasn’t made the site as search friendly as possible- and have totally failed on accessibility standards. That’s the norm for almost all agencies today. Without costing the client, Horizon Air a dime more, the site could have been built in a way that met all 508 requirements and had exactly the same effect- only being much more search and consumer friendly.

For instance, there is no way to send you a link to just one of the funny stories- like the one about the dead possum in the middle of the road. I also abhor any site that starts playing audio without specific instructions for it to- just in case I’m looking at something somewhere where I shouldn’t be (like watching this at work).

All that aside, working with a smaller creative shop like Wong Doody can definitely get a client much better results than working with a mega agency. Not only is the work top-notch and yet affordable, they are genuinely nice people as I remember setting an appointment with Pat Doody on my last visit to Seattle on a moments notice.

So, next time you are looking for a big bang for a smaller budget- look to agencies that deliver high value concept- not high dollar production expenses. Making your advertising budget work hard is the mark of a true hot creative shop, and when that happens- friends and strangers will start sending out emails about your last campaign calling it clever.

Agency 2.0- Zeus Jones

Fallon may be winning the battle as the womb of new agencies – as I’ve stumbled upon yet another spin-off: Zeus Jones. This agency popped onto the scene March 1, 2007 (and deserves extra credit for not naming the agency after themselves).

While we’ve not been very complimentary of Brew: A creative collaborative, or Barrie D’Rozario Murphy and the way they started off online (weakly)- the crew at Zeus Jones scores a B+ for “getting it.” The front page is just a series of places you’ll find them online- starting with their presentation on Slideshare (see below). Very cool stuff.

Zeus Jones Welcomes You.
Zeus Jones approaches marketing differently.
View our credentials to see what we mean by “Marketing As A Service.”

They also have a separate blog: From the head of Zeus Jones which for some odd reason, they didn’t decide to build on their own site- but using Blogspot- which is what stopped me from giving them an A+

The idea of a blog, separate from a site, is old school. Ideally, while having all those places online as place to hang out is great- the fulcrum of your online (the de facto realization of your brand these days) in 2 places is a mistake.

What I had time to look at on ZJ’s sites looked good. They’ve decided it’s not advertising brands need- it’s more of a reason to like a brand- utility. We’ve always thought of our solutions for clients as one that makes the relationship between customers and our clients one of mutual joy, as opposed to a one-way shouting match.

There are some smart, small agencies out there- but, finding and identifying them will take a new kind of filter. With agency search firms still clueless about what makes good web strategy, and Ad Age and everyone else so fascinated by Crispin Porter & Bogusky (us included)– what has been slipping under the radar is agencies like Zeus Jones who seem to have a true Unique Selling Proposition- and the smarts to make it happen in our Web 2.0 world.

Common sense tip for launching "the new big thing in advertising"

To all the über creatives out there about to launch your new “hot agency”- a few words of advice: launch a site before you send out your press release telling the world that you are open for business.

Unfortunately, most trade press doesn’t bother to publish your url, your phone number or your address so potential clients who are dying to hire a spin-off of Fallon, Wieden+Kennedy, The Martin Agency, Crispin Porter + Bogusky, TBWA Chiat/Day etc.

If I was a client, I’d assume that an agency is the first to realize that people can’t buy from you if they can’t find you, so, start off with your best foot forward.

Please note: this also means, don’t waste your money on a fancy Flash site- save that for when you are too big and don’t want business (unless you are really smart and know exactly how to make a Flash site that is both accessible for the blind- and search friendly- which few of you do). Google doesn’t like Flash much- and so all those people googling to find start-ups like Goodness Manufacturing, Toy, Barrie D’Rozario Murphy, and Brew Creative are ending up on some upstart agency site like this to find a link to your site.

There is also a bit more to it- web 2.0 and search require more than a brochure site- you have to continually add and update content to make your site relevant to search. If your agency doesn’t understand this, we’re happy to offer our consulting services to help you get the results you want.

Advertising Age needs fact checking. New agency needs site.

My father was a copy editor for a major newspaper. Facts counted back then- apparently, that skill has been lost- when Ad Age continues to ad to the legend of Crispin Porter + Bogusky by saying an office that opened on Sept. 10, 2001, was “shuttered in the 1990’s.

Advertising Age – Five Crispin Refugees Set Up Shop in L.A.
There’s a new creative boutique gunning for Crispin Porter & Bogusky’s hotshop crown — and it’s staffed with five of the agency’s own.
Setting up shop in Venice, Calif., just blocks from an office Crispin opened (and later shuttered) in the 1990s, are a cadre of the agency’s former staffers — some of the minds behind a handful of the shop’s most high-profile and envied campaigns for Burger King, the “Truth” anti-smoking movement, Best Buy’s Geek Squad, Miller High Life and Ikea. Their fledgling agency will be called Goodness Mfg. and led by three former Crispin creative directors who resigned last week, along with two others who left previously.

The natural evolution of great creative shops should be the spawning of more creative shops. When I visited Portland Oregon about 10 years ago, it was clear that the caliber of the entire market was elevated by having Wieden + Kennedy in the ‘hood. It’s interesting to see that CP+B is spreading its seeds all over- with Alex Bogusky stating that Toy in NYC as a CP+B offspring- and now Goodness Mfg. in Venice.

Mr. Bogusky put the number of Crispin employees at 600, with 80 in the creative department. He also pointed out that this is not the first shop to break away from the agency — the first was Stick & Move, based in Philadelphia. Mr. Bogusky also considers Toy, under Ari Merkin, to be inspired by Crispin. “I think of myself as the father and Chuck [Porter] as the mother.”

However, for the kings of new media- it’s going to be hard for them to land new business- since they don’t seem to have a site up at either www.goodnessmfg.com (16 July 07 update- holding page is up) or goodnessmanufacturing.com and have cloaked their identities through the registrar. Another question arises in a google search where it seems that there is already a “Goodness manufacturing” out there- and it isn’t anything to do with advertising.

Considering that Crispin Porter + Bogusky is considered a leading new media agency, it’s odd that they, or their spinoffs don’t practice what they preach.

Fallon spins off yet another agency.

When I first started in this business, a very smart group of people were just breaking the national scene; Fallon, McElligott, Rice opened in 1981 in Minneapolis Minnesota- far away from Madison Avenue and the whole “ad scene.”

It seemed almost as stupid as opening a small ad agency in Dayton Ohio in 1988- the only difference was that these people had all worked at some bigger agencies, and weren’t starting from scratch.

In fact, most agencies start by mitosis (splitting of cells). And, it seems it’s happening again, as some former Fallon people are hanging their own shingle, taking Fallon’s star client; United Airlines with them.

Personally, I find this repugnant. It’s called biting the hand that feeds you. If you can do such great work for the client on your own, why can’t you do it for the company that brought you? I’ve never met Pat Fallon, but, I’ve met some of the people he’s mentored in this business; Luke Sullivan, Sally Hogshead and former business partner Joe Duffy, three of the classiest, nicest, most talented people in the ad world. (Note, I’ve also met another former Fallon/Duffy employee who started his own thing- that was a total jerk, but very talented as a one-trick pony). So, while I’m sure these guys that Ernie gives kudo’s to are all nice guys, I’m wondering what Pat Fallon has done to deserve having so much business and talent- slip out the door lately?

Ernie Schenck Calls This Advertising?: Rhapsody In Minneapolis
Barrie D’Rozario Murphy’s star just went from on the ascent to full zenith mode with United Airline’s decision to go with the fledgling but oh so talented Minneapolis shop, thus ending a long-standing relationship with beleagured Fallon. Am I surprised? Yes. Am I surprised? No. Bob Barrie and Stuart D’Rozario and the work they did for United when the airline was in its darkest hour continues to be one of the classiest and tasteful campaigns in the business. So while I honor all that Fallon has done for United, these guys deserve much of the credit.

The site for Barrie D’Rozario Murphy is www.bdm.net (and like most recent Fallon spin off agencies- it’s in Flash and can’t be found).

While I try to keep up on the superstars of advertising (sometimes it gets a little difficult), I have to wonder: of the great ad agencies in this country- which agency would get the honor of being the best breeding ground for superstar talent? Which agency has spun off the most “hot shops”- and, where are the best places to hone your skills?

I’m also wondering how clients like United, can believe that a small start-up can take over a major account and do a truly better job, just out of the gates. Fallon has demonstrated over the years that they “get it” and are as forward thinking as any agency on the planet.

Is loyalty absolutely impossible in the advertising world anymore?

Any thoughts?