Karl Lieberman and his creative partner, Brandon Henderson, had been working on the brief for Dos Equis beer for months and had work in production, when they were told to come up with more ideas, a mere two hours before a meeting with the client.
With 30 minutes to go, they landed on “The Most Interesting Man in the World” and his famous line, “I don’t always drink beer. But when I do, I prefer Dos Equis.” The spots close with the signature sign-off: “Stay thirsty, my friends.” They were actually taking the brief, which they didn’t like, to an extreme- they didn’t believe that drinking beer made you interesting, but, that’s what the brief was searching for.
It also sold a lot of beer, and made the actor, Jonathan Goldsmith, famous.
Luckily, Lieberman and Henderson weren’t just working on a project for time and materials pricing. The value of that idea and the amount of beer it sold, priceless (to steal another tagline from another great campaign.)
The creative brief was pretty similar to all beer briefs- brands make a statement about the drinker, young folks still lean on these brand identifiers to help project their own personal brand. The same type of brief led Crispin Porter + Bogusky to devise “Twin Label Technology” for Molson- an ad campaign that was more than just a campaign, for Molson and one of our favorite examples of true Marketing • Innovation. This is the beauty of creativity in solving business problems. Do research, develop insight, and then find new ways to connect, often using what we call a “fundamental truth,” to create an emotional response that evokes trust and creates lust.
It was years before Nike had “Just do it.” Yet to many, it defines the brand. Three words took years to come up with. Those three words changed the brand forever.
For BMW, many would say “The Ultimate Driving Machine” was the perfect tagline- yet, for a few years, brand management moved away from it- before bringing it back.
When advertising is done right, it looks easy, it feels comfortable, and it immediately makes a connection with a consumer. That’s the value of creativity, and it should never be valued by time and materials.
AdWeek tell us that influencers lead to more sales than celebrities. 22% of consumers have bought a product or service because of recommendation on social media, whereas only 12% have been persuaded to buy thanks to a celebrity endorsement. It’s across all age groups, although younger consumers are even more likely to pay attention to some social media star over a jock, actor, famous conventional person type.
That’s all well and fine, but, influencers are just as susceptible as celebrities as doing something stupid. If brands haven’t learned from OJ Simpson, Tiger Woods, Kobe Bryant, Bill Cosby, Michael Vick (notice all these examples are black men who fell from grace) or Ryan Lochte, Michael Phelps, Jared Fogle, or Donald Trump for anything… they will start to learn that you can’t buy a perfect endorsement from a human.
When the flow of information was limited, publications like “Consumer Reports” or “Stereo Review” or “Car and Driver” were the go-to platforms for comparative insight in the purchasing process. Now, consumers are more likely to trust an anonymous amateur posting unvetted reviews to Amazon or BHPhoto.com in making their purchasing decision.
When it comes to restaurants, it’s not just the Michelin or Mobile guide, it’s Yelp, Trip Advisor, FourSquare, Google reviews etc. Everyone is a critic. And, since we’re all consumers subjected to a barrage of marketing and advertising, we’ve all become experts at that too.
Except we really haven’t. The best marketing, advertising, campaigns, word of mouth and sales growth aren’t any more accidental than before the age of the internet in your pocket. Smart marketing still grows out of better insight into what makes the consumer lust for your product or service. Universal truths still hit home. Selling someone without making it obvious still outperforms the most expensive campaigns.
How do you find that secret sauce that propels your brand to the forefront? By knowing your customer and making sure you solve the problem they perceive they have better than anyone else. It’s why you are in the business you are in. You should be the expert.
Once Nike figured out they were in the aspirational motivation business instead of the sneaker business- everything else fell into place. Apple wasn’t in the computer business- they were in the bicycles for your mind business (wish they’d rediscover that lately). Barack Obama wasn’t a politician as much as he was the promise of Hope and Change. Donald Trump (for equal time) was in the “Make America Great Again” business.
We’re not in the advertising business- we’re in the Trust and Lust business. What business are you in?
There are a lot of choices these days in picking an ad agency. Back in the pre-Macintosh days, an agency had to have a whole lot of moving parts to make it work. Sure, you could present your ideas on a napkin, over the three martini lunch back then, but, the process of crafting an actual ad required keyliners, typesetters, color separators- shooting a commercial often involved film, lights, sound studios. Now you can shoot a commercial on your cell phone, edit it there, upload it and run it. An Instagram post can be billed as an ad. The lure of the one-person agency, jack of all trades, digital magician is great. You could even have that person on staff! It could be your kid- at least if your company is privately held and your gross revenues are less than 5-10 million a year (and you’re ok with them staying there).
Real offices, a listing in the Yellow Pages, membership in the “Four A’s” were considered credibility builders when The Next Wave was founded. Now, we produce a more up to date directory of ad agencies in Dayton, Columbus and Cincinnati than you can find anywhere else, including the dreadful “Book of Lists” published by the Business Journal network. We update it almost weekly. We leave the agencies that come and go- so people can find the wreckage (especially of the imaginary agencies that seem to pop up like flies- mostly, the one person, between jobs type, who thinks they are the next David Ogilvy- until they realize that doing the invite for their sisters wedding didn’t really impress anyone except the AAF Addy awards judges last year).
We do a lot of competitive analysis. You know like JC Penney follows what Kohl’s and Target do (or tries to at least). We look at these imaginary agencies and try to figure out who really is the next wave in advertising- and most of the time, we just shake our heads and hope no one gets hurt.
The first clue is almost always a focus on vision and mission statements. It will be prominently displayed front and center. I remember going to a Cincinnati Ad Club meeting where the presenter, a former new business guru for the Martin Agency, spent an hour comparing these pompous, long, statements of bullshit- and showcasing the similarities.
Here’s two (and we’re not citing them- to protect the guilty):
“The most effective branding goes deeper than just designing the active components of a marketing campaign; it requires building a relationship. Clients look to us for creative branding solutions because we don’t just design campaigns, we create engagement opportunities that build lifelong customers.”
What we do
Agency X™ (yes, trademarked- ooh.) is a think tank; a collection of brilliant minds, inspired souls, and sizzling creativity.
In this chaotic world of relentless change, it takes a tremendous amount of effort and insight for a brand to clearly articulate a meaningful message through all the noise and confusion of a global marketplace. As seasoned branding consultants, we believe the answer is to create a rigorous learning organization. An organization of life-long students fascinated by business, strategy, design, and branding… students fascinated by life.
From Fortune 500 companies to the frenzy of dot-com startups, we have the invaluable experience of working with and for some of the world’s most recognized and respected brands. In the some of the world’s most recognized and respected branding agencies. In the wake of this unfortunate economic apocalypse, we were… well, inspired, to take our collective experience, all our hopes and dreams, and begin our own branding company.
And you know what? We’re having the time of our lives!
It’s a collection of sizzle alright, on the personnel page, only the founder, an adjunct college instructor, bothered to update his LinkedIn account as actually working there. He includes people who still work at other places, including an “SEO expert” (who shares his last name and is probably his daughter) who is a bank teller, and even his wife- listed as a “Creative Director” is listed in Linkedin as working somewhere else. Just because Don Draper fabricated his backstory back in the make-believe version of Madison Avenue in the sixties, it’s a little harder to do it now.
It’s always been a problem to tell what was really done in an ad agency by the current staff at the current agency. So many startups are showing work that they did at other agencies, with other senior people handling the clients, the strategy, the concept. Sure, you “wrote the ad” but, the real question is who wrote the brief, who sold the client the strategy, and did it work?
Agencies are supposed to grow your business, improve the bottom line, help guide your strategic direction. “Sizzling creativity” is wonderful, but if it’s fueled by burning your budget on the wrong things, your life expectancy will decrease to the length of time that this agency will be around- usually until the next job offer with a steady pay check comes along.
We’ve watched the horrific impact of bad advertising advice, like the local salmon smokers who spent a ton of money on a very tame branding package, and advice to spend their Saturdays trying to peddle their lox at the local farmers market, instead of working to find distribution channels for super premium seafood, carefully smoked to perfection. Or even a client of ours, who was ready to sell his business the morning it was set to open, because he had hired his marketing consultant after signing a ridiculous lease at a local shopping mall, instead of finding a low rent private location and investing his money in advertising his new product (what worked for Asda, WalMart in the UK, isn’t the model for a small startup here).
We’re working on updating our site, because, well, we keep doing new things, have new stories to tell and the way we approach advertising now is different than we did 5 years ago, or even three. Of course, the first thing we do is study our competition- just like we do for our clients. We try to find the sweet spot, the positioning that clearly makes us different. As to new mission statements, or taglines- nope, we don’t need to change them, update them, add more to them, because after 25 years in the business, we’re still The Next Wave and we still know what’s really important and can say it succinctly.
We Create Lust • Evoke Trust. And our job is to make you more money than you pay us. And, no, we don’t have to meet you in a coffee shop- we have a real office that people come to everyday- even without appointments. It has our tools of our trade- computers, printers, video and photo gear, and most importantly, our library. Come visit.
The hint of what was to come in the ending was summed up in this very short exchange in the episode before the finale. Don is asked to fix the coke machine
His response: “Don’t they do that”
Coca-Cola is one of the top brands of all time, and they, for the most part, outsource the “fixing” of their brand to guys like Don. They make the Coke- but, the few, the proud, the brave, come up with the ideas to sell it, which Don proceeds to do in the last scene of Mad Men, sitting on a hilltop, meditating, Ommmmmmm…… ding!
Clients often their ad agenices “to give me a new one” when what they really need is a new way to connect emotionally with their customers.
We have a favorite quote from Guy Kawasaki that fits: “advertising is the plastic surgery of business,: a procedure to make ugly and old products look good” from his book Selling the Dream, and that’s what Don does.
How the big ideas come, is still the magical part of advertising. The really big ideas, almost always fit on a cocktail napkin.
We’re giving up on the drama and the editing of “The Pitch” in our discussions now. It’s pretty obvious to us that the editors are more interested in using a formula to build a 42 minute show that builds to a crescendo to “you’re hired” in the style of “The Apprentice,” It’s not the way advertising agencies should or would be picked, because clients can always say, sorry, none of the above and continue their search. That’s probably what Clockwork Home Services should have done here, but didn’t.
In the real world, the client would pick agencies to invite a lot better. They might even hire an “Agency Search Consultant” to help bring a semblance of order to the process and add an outsiders unbiased opinion to the discussions and evaluations of the presentations. That way, the agencies might actually have experience that brings value to the table. In this case- neither agency would make the long list- never mind the short one.
The assignment was the hardest to date. The only people who would think of combining three brands under one umbrella like this and think it would work are MBAs. YUM brands owns Taco Bell, KFC and Pizza Hut and while they may put together franchises in a location- they wouldn’t tie the brand message together in advertising (at least I don’t remember anyone being that stupid- I can see it now, the Col. walking a Chihuahua into a pizza shop…) The three brands: Mr Sparky, Benjamin Franklin and One Hour Heating have about as much in common as the various members of the Village People- and that was supposed to be a joke.
fkm had a secret weapon- the “new girl” – Philippa Campbell, was a ringer they brought in for the show on a short term contract. She’d worked for Goodby and had the right insight to begin with: customers don’t really like calling for service companies when it comes to plumbing, electrical or HVAC repair. How happy are you when your AC doesn’t work, or the toilet’s overflowing. She was probably the only bright spot in this show. Unfortunately, her advice was lost on the sleep deprived minions of fkm when they decided to create “Help +” as the strategy- costing the client extra money for the 30 extra minutes of “free service”- and making that plumber who just showed you his butt crack stick around and try to cut the customers hair… uh-huh.
The Hive did the unthinkable right off the bat, ignored the clients wishes- before they’d earned the respect of the client. It probably killed them, long before the pitch. How the bowling ball toilet ad managed to make it out of concept to presentation was a major suspension of belief, but also, the starting out with the “America’s On Time Hero’s” video with a Canadian flag was epic #fail. It’s never about the agency- it’s about the customers and the client.
We’re afraid that this show is doing more damage to the perception of what an ad agency does than Darrin Stephens did on “Bewitched”- we’re not bumbling fools who strut our ideas like mindless peacocks (at least not the professionals I know), we’re serious business consultants who pull off the magic of advertising- to quote Guy Kawasaki, we’re the plastic surgeons of marketing that take the old and tired products and services and make them appear young, new and attractive.
While we’re pretty sure that the producers and the editors think this formula for presenting “the pitch” as drama is good television, we’re pretty convinced that the only people watching are others advertising pros. Not a bad audience, but one that AMC will alienate pretty quickly if they don’t stop making our craft look like a playground for egomaniacs and children. We’re all hoping they change directions, turning it into more of a documentary, without the added drama, in the style of the brilliant Art & Copy: Inside Advertising’s Creative Revolutionor even Exit Through the Gift Shop
Here is our three minute video review about episode 3- and a 40 minute podcast of the conversation. Note, the podcast will have you in on us guiding our production and trying to make the whole thing come across a little better in the video. We’re still learning how to produce these docu-drama reviews.
For the most part- advertising is intrusive. If most of it went away tomorrow, few of us would miss it. Now a days if we’re interested in buying something we’re a Google search away from finding out everything we want to know about a product or service- as long as we’re aware it’s available. That’s why more and more, advertising is more about branding and awareness than hard selling. We want you to “like” our brand on Facebook, or become a “friend” or “follower” so that we can hopefully be top-of-mind when the decision comes to buy our product or service.
The Internet is an amazing tool for marketers because it gives measurable results via stats, clickthroughs and metrics that no other advertising medium has before (except maybe direct mail which could be personalized and tracked). The creativity that’s required now is to evoke some kind of emotional connection to your brand- to inspire action, if it’s only to click a link or join a group.
Here’s a portion of a discussion on APR Marketplace- which talks about how we’re now more focused on generating brand evangelists to sell our products to their friends instead of making advertising do the heavy lifting:
Boone says he hopes efforts like these will help advertisers see new possibilities for interactive ads.
Boone: By combining technology with creativity, we’ll get transformative advertising that is of a higher utility to consumers.
“Mad Men” clip: It’s a time machine. It takes us to a place where we ache to go again.
Stewart Alter: The way he transforms what the product benefit is into this emotional benefit for buyers of the product — that’s what is most fundamental about advertising.
That emotional benefit is especially crucial in the age of social media says Matt Donovan, a managing partner at McCann.
Matt Donovan: I think the old “trying to sell things” is actually not what we’re focused on now.
Wait, advertisers are no longer focused on selling things? Donovan says, no. Instead, they’re focused on inspiring consumers enough that they sell things to each other, by “liking” a company on Facebook, tweeting about an ad campaign, or Yelping a review.
Donovan: I could see a world in 10 years, where people proactively take on the responsibility of creating branded content on behalf of their favorite brand or product that they’re passionate about.
For most of us, recommendations from friends are more powerful than an ad, says Horizon Media analyst Brad Adgate. He says social media has turned us all into little advertising megaphones.
Brad Adgate: It’s no longer a top down approach where the advertiser will send a message down to consumers. We all have bully pulpits and there’s more of a give and take.
Adgate says more and more, we are using our bully pulpits to promote products to our friends. So really, the new Don Draper… is you.
We’ve been working at creating ads that people want to hang up on their walls, menus that people want to take home with them and proudly hang on their refrigerator and most of all- instill trust in our clients brands through consistent messaging about what’s really important- the customers sense of success or personal well being created by doing business with our clients.
People don’t buy because of an ad- they buy because they think their life will be better if they own this product or use this service- without that emotional reinforcement, you’re not really creating a valuable business relationship- you’re just having a one night stand.