The “Hottest” Ad Agency?

Over the weekend I read a good article at on the “hottest ad agency in the country,” Crispin Porter & Bogusky (CP&B).  They work with Burger King, Volkswagen, and other top brands.  But as the article pointed out, the jury is still out on whether or not their ads actually sell products.

I have a discussion that wraps back around to creative every week.  Usually, there is a correlation:  the more creative the concept, the less it sells your product/service.

CP&B seems more concerned about generating buzz, or PR, for its clients.  That does not mean that the audience(s) will buy the product/service.  Sure, they may know the brand, but if they don’t buy it, who cares …?

So why the continued emphasis on creative?  Here’s what I wrote to the author of the Slate piece:

Advertising/marketing today is about results and measuring the right things.  It’s about relevancy to the prospect/consumer and making an emotional impact.  Today, it has much more to do with the key tenants of direct response marketing than with traditional brand advertising.

Sure, a lot of Crispin’s campaigns generate buzz.  But that’s the wrong metric to measure … sales is the only true indicator of marketing success.  Just because people talk about your product/service does not mean they will buy it.

Measurement.  It’s often lost when it comes to advertising/marketing/communications.  Why?  Because it takes work and many advertising pros can’t deal with failure very well. 

Like most things in life, failure is not a bad thing as long as you can learn from it.  If you are not failing once in a while, then you are not pushing the envelope and are likely settling for the status quo.  In direct marketing, we call this testing and it minimizes risks for those who do great marketing all while allowing them to try some innovative creative and techniques.

I also add these comments from Steve Gardner, a public relations pro here at Johnson Direct:

Somewhere along the line, many agencies and the companies that hire them hit upon an incorrect assumption … and it has cost them.  That assumption is that being funny (or trying to be) sells product … that being clever is somehow going to translate into sales.

The Miller Brewing “Man Law” campaign created by CP&B is another spot-on example of how “killer” creative rarely works.  Were the “Man Law” spots funny?  Sure.  Were they memorable?  To some degree.  Did they meet the company’s needs?  No way!  Maybe they won some creative awards for the agency.  How nice.  But they didn’t help sell Miller’s outstanding product, which is what marketing is all about.

All creative doesn’t need to be ugly, although a great number of agencies need to think about how they can “ugly down” their creative and focus on helping their clients do more business.  Creative needs to work, whether it’s pretty or not.  And it’s only part of the story.

The message is king, not the cute creative.  “What’s in it for me?” is what really draws attention and sells product.  Ask yourself:  “What will make me want to try this beer?”  Is it because some group of semi-recognizable celebrities makes jokes?  Or is it because of something else … like what’s in it for you?

“Killer” creative rarely works.  Let’s hope more people get that message before the next wave of smarmy political ads comes rolling around!

(You know something is going right when your PR people start thinking like marketers!)

Cute and clever does not pay the bills.  I’d be happy to show you how our approach does.  Put us to the test …

Grant A. Johnson 

Johnson Direct LLC