crispin porter bogusky

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There has been recent debate on marketing blogs about the role of the “creative technologist.”  As if technologists were not creative in their own right.  Edward Broches of Mullen and Scott Prindle of Crispin are active discoursers.  A big marketer and agency challenge today is finding and creating a central point around which the creative department, media department, strategy dept. and technologists can array.   As a brand planner, I vote strategy. Messrs. Brooches and Prindle, it seems, choose a coder comfortable in the sunlight and art galleries.

But upon further thought, I’m going in a different direction.  I am rolling with a creative analytics person. Talk about head down types.  Any new agency worth its fee has analytics people in pods around the shop.  They are overworked, natively digital and not particularly creative – though they may snowboard.  What they aren’t, are invited to the creative briefing meetings. And if they are, tend to be the quite dude in the corner.

These Analgesics (analysts who can find the pain) are seers of patterns. They may not be able to come up with a selling idea, TV spot or first user experience, but they can and should be in the room and allowed to contribute. Perhaps not the central figure, but in the room. Analgesics munch numbers like nobody’s business, plus they are real consumers.  Bring them to the table. Let them talk without being derided.

Analyzing success metrics, seeing patterns and predicting patterns will be the new black in creative development.  Peaceful!

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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Fast Twitch Media and twitch point planning, and from the quality of the responses it seems I’m on to something.  Faris Yakob of KBS+P is in the fast twitch neighborhood when he refers to our low latency culture, and others who talk about integrating transmedia solutions are similarly on the trail.   It’s a nascent practice but quite exciting. One key to effectively getting people to twitch from one media type to another, with the goal of taking them closer to a transaction, is to create intrigue. Especially in a low-interest category.  If we are talking Gillette razors, you don’t need to twitch me to a treasure map or man-scape video game, but you do need to get me to think, feel and do – within the context of a brand idea. Go Daddy got this years ago, albeit shamelessly and sans selling idea.

As the mobile online experience improves, and it’s not there yet, a twitch to a website is only a pants pocket away. A twitch to a hastag. A QR code to a video. A geo-check –all within arm’s reach.  Print ads are already becoming short form billboards using a call to twitch. Check out the new Kobo e-reader ad in The New York Times paper/paper today.

The RGAs , Crispin Porter’s and 72 and Sunny’s are thinking twitch point planning — they just don’t call it so. And they are trying to decide who is responsible for it. Media people, creative, geekuses?  The answer is yes. Peace!

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Bing may be a better search engine; it may not be.  If you listen to Microsoft insiders it certainly is. If you listen to SEO nerds it’s a toss-up or a no.  If you try Bing, it appears to be a new skin with better pictures on the same algo.

Bing’s initial advertising straddled the fence on 2 ideas: the decision engine and information overload. The latter was fun and made for great advertising and a great launch. It set the stage for an implicit benefit: make better decisions. The benefit was not explicit, though the tagline was. Microsoft recently moved the Bing business to Crispin Porter Bogusky from JWT and is running a new TV ad talking about Facebook integration. (Integration is a word techies use when at a loss for other words.) The new work is cute and will appeal to fast-twitch media consumers (millennials) but it feels idea-less.  I’m not getting information overload or decision engine.

Though not everyone who searches is looking to make a decision, decision engine is a good strategy. Tying the wagon (Could I be more of a geezer?) to Facebook or Project Glee is a borrowed interest approach to marketing. It’s a tactic. The nerdiest softies in Redmond know their search algo is better than Google’s. Someone just needs to find out why. And how.  Then take that how and wrap it English — with song, pictures and video and sell some clicks. And the real softy nerds know this. “Why are we singing, when we should be saying?” Decision engine is the idea.  Organize the proof. Peace!

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I say brand plan you say________? Right.  No one really knows what a brand plan looks like.  That’s not to say Proctor and Gamble and L’Oreal don’t have brand plans. Or that Publicis, Ogilvy or Crispin Porter don’t have them. They do. But what they’re called and how they are organized are all quite different. 

Brand Strategy Statement.

My brand plans are simple to understand.  They contain a brand strategy statement which I tell clients is a suit strategy.  It’s not very catchy, not creative or tagline-worthy, but it tends to hit the CMO and CEO right in the solar plexus.  It may be contextual and/or contain metaphor but it’s certainly a quick, decisive statement of the brand value. 

Brand Planks.

Beneath this simple statement are three planks. Brand planks. Borrowed from Bill Clinton’s first election campaign when the mantra was “It’s the economy stupid,” a brand plank is a product development and messaging directive.  My planning process begins with the gathering of formation. Then I boil it down into its most powerful, tasty flavors and those flavors became the planks.  Of course, I make sure the planks are key consumer care-abouts and key company strengths (or potential, attainable strengths). 

But lately I’ve been analyzing the planks to see if they share any formula for success.  Thinking about what makes good brand planks before I fill the stock pot with data and get sidetracked is (sorry Bud Cadell) what consumes me. 

I haven’t gotten there yet but here’s a quick start: 

One plank should educate (it’s what leaders do). One plank should engage (motivate preference).  And one plank should personalize (create a personally meaningful connection between the brand and consumer — bring the consumer closer to the brand). 

This stuff is mapping the branding genome hard. Or not. But when I finish, it’s going to be exciting.  Peace!

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In a recent blog post, Paul Gumbinner, a friend and advertising recruiter, suggested NY unemployment in our sector is around 15%.  At one point I read there are 275,000 advertising jobs in NY which suggests about 40,000 are on the beach.

Between that, reduced budgets and digital and earned media shops rightfully requiring pie, one can safely say there has been a retrenchment in the ad biz.  As hard as it is to say, it has improved the business. The work product of ad agencies is improving; it’s more creative, meaningful, idea-based and friendlier — with the exception of all those ads about hitting on the Super Bowl.  Even the new work out of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese’s new agency Crispin Porter seems more wholesome. Roots! (Perhaps it’s all the bicycles and mountain air in Boulder.) And if you are watching a good TV spot and smiling, there’s a good chance you’re watching something from JWT. Quite a renaissance for them.  

It seems that all the pink slips got rid of many marginal players and a ton of haters.  The latter group can now be found commenting on Adweek and Ad Age posts.  Disruption (sorry Mr. Dru) has given way to heartfelt selling and that’s a good thing.  Money is creeping back into agency pockets and human resources calendars fill up — let’s hope we hire higher up the food chain. Peace.  

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Pepsi and Arnell.



First off, Peter Arnell of the Arnell Group is one of the leading lights of branding today. He’s an artist, he has taste, he’s daring and though I’ve never seen him in action is probably larger than life in a room filled with marketing executives. The late Peter Kim of JWT and McCann was that way, minus the artist part.


But I will go on record as betting against his ability to turn around Pepsi. Nice, exciting new logos? Yes. Excited Pepsi drinkers, sucking down cases of bev, I think not. “Smiles” is an ownable branding idea (that’s what the new logos are all about,) but "fun smirks" would be better. Personally, I would give the smirk campaign to Crispin Porter Bogusky or TBWA/Chiat Day and see if they can reenergize the sweet seeking masses.  Crispin has learned some important lessons in selling (or not) soft drinks, so I think today they can nail Pepsi.  Pepsi needs energy, not merchandising tactics. It needs an idea that mobilizes drinkers. It needs a killer ad campaign first, then the merch and promos and digital games can follow.


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Crispin Porter is a very, very good ad agency. I don’t always agree with their creative, but more often than not it has a positive effect. As they get bigger, though, they run into client issues, category issues, and problems they haven’t seen before, making it hard to succeed all the time.
One issue they are currently addressing with the new Microsoft advertising is the corner they have been painted into by TBWA/Chiat Day’s “I’m a PC” campaign for Apple. The campaign uses a Bill Gates-like nebbishey figure to represent the PC and he is never as cool or consumer-friendly as the Apple figure. Moreover, he takes shots like a hockey goalie.
Crispin Porter has done a campaign that plays defense against the Apple campaign, in a sense whining about being mistreated and made into a “stereotype.” This defensive position is a mistake and very un-Crispin-like. They are best when on offense. Secondly, the genius of the Apple work is not in dis-ing Microsoft so much as it dis-ing the PC. Microsoft has taken the bait…focusing on the PC not the software. Microsoft needs its own idea. About software. And “Life without walls.” (the new line) isn’t it.

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Crispin Porter Bogusky’s work for Burger King, love it or not, has contributed to the fast food giant’s resurgence. I believe it’s their strategic help, especially in targeting young men, that has turned the tide more than their creative, but let’s not quibble.
A recent example of Crispin’s smarts can be found in its use of creative talent Seth MacFarlane to help sell burgers. Mr. MacFarlane, the creative force behind “Family Guy,” will be creating animated BK spots running as pre-roll for his new internet property called “Seth MacFarlane’s Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy” which will be distributed via Google.
As a believer that content is king when it comes to creative, this is a brilliant move. So long as he isn’t spread too thin, Mr. MacFarlane who really knows how to talk to BK’s core audience should kill with this creative. Watch out Mickey Ds, Burger King is winning over future fathers who in a couple of years will be driving right by the Golden Arches with the kids.

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If you are a student of marketing, fast food is a very exciting category.  It responds immediately to advertising.  Burger King is on its way back for the zillionth time and it looks as Crispin Porter Bogusky’s work is finally paying off.  Never a big fan of all the “king” advertising, I do appreciate how he is weaved into the core (youth) customer message of “eat big , eat tasty.”
On a roll since “I’m loving’ it” and especially so since the launch of salads, McDonald’s is currently pursing a pretty smart beverage strategy and has a winner on its hands with the new Southern Style Chicken sandwich. Maybe the new chicken sandwich will help win back some share lost to Burger King. And you can tell Mickey Dees is feeling a little Whopper pain because they’re launching a new promo for the Big Mac. But here’s the rub: to get younger customers interested in this dated sandwich, McDonald’s is hosting a consumer generated contest. Dohhhh!
According to an Ad Age interview: “Customers will be able to go online, create or mix their own version of the two all-beef patties jingle through MySpace,”  the best of which will be aired on TV. For those who don’t know the old Big Mac jingle it went something like this: Two all beef-patties, cheese, onions, pickles, lettuce, special sauce on a sesame seed bun. (Does it get any “funner” than that?)
This is an example of a marketing meeting gone wrong where the alpha fe/male says, “We need a promo, let’s do something with consumer generated content.” and the rest of the room does the account executive nod.
They’ll get lots of entries, I know. They’ll sell some incremental Big Macs, I know. And it may be worth a quarter’s worth of improved sales, but it’s still a lazy tactic for a fast food juggernaut.

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Good exhaust.

My first visit to Burger King was at the suggestion of my cool older cousin Tom. I was a MacDonald’s kid and we had to drive 6 miles to get there. Wasn’t impressed. I was too pissed off at not getting my way, plus I wasn’t a big lettuce and tomato fan. Not even sure if I had a Whopper.
May years later I am a Whopper fan indeed.  Whoppers are all about the flame broiling. Kings aside and billions in ad campaigns later, it all broils down to the burger and the quality and presentation of the other perfectly orchestrated ingredients. Some Whopper make me moan with delight, others are just average, but I keep coming back in search of those killer Whoppers. 
The best advertising done by Burger Kings does not come from Crispin Porter Bogusky — though they do better than good work — it comes from the exhaust fans. I can’t drive by Burger King without my mouth watering.
The new CEO of BK, John Chidsey, really gets it. Read his interview today in the Wall Street Journal.

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