A Legend in His Own Mind

May 19th, 2008 by Bob Bly

The June 2008 issue of Fast Company features a cover story on ad agency Crispin Porter and the much-talked-about Apple campaign “PC vs. Mac.”

On the cover is a photo of the agency’s creative honcho, Alex Bogusky, doing his best to look smug, self-assured, and ultra-cool.

The article praises the creativity of Bogusky and company on their ad programs for anti-smoking (“raw, awarding-winning”), Burger King (turning its King character into an “unlikely icon”), Orville Redenbacher, and others.

The article, which starts on page 64, goes on and on about how innovative and revolutionary and cool Bogusky’s campaigns are.

But I had to read to page 70 before I found any specific numbers on sales results — which said that sales of VW, whose ad campaigns are created by Crispin Porter, have fallen 6%.

Alex Bogusky and Crispin Porter are all about branding, of course. Clients, consumers, and the ad industry may love their work, talk about it, and give it awards.

But can anyone demonstrate that Bogusky can move product, whether cars or PCs, out of the showroom and off the shelves?

If not, I have no problem with that, but then why would Fast Company put his smug mug on the cover and write a hero worshipping article treating him as a marketing genius … when the only proof of such is purely subjective?

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23 responses about “A Legend in His Own Mind”

  1. Joel Heffner said:

    Perhaps companies with art departments (ad companies) go by different rules. To them, if it looks good, it must be successful. Stuffy folks like you Bob…think about silly things like actual results. Obviously, they are right and we (stuffy folks) are wrong. It must be, because it’s in Fast Company. :)

  2. Hmmmmmm said:

    Wow. Don’t know where to begin, Bob Bly… your blog is so full of inaccuracies. Whoops.

    First of all, Crispin did NOT do the Mac vs. PC for Apple. That was done by Chiat Day in LA. Crispin has just won some Microsoft business to try and help them brand counteract those Apple spots.

    Next, Alex Bogusky is so far from smug. He’s a very smart, kind and funny guy. Even self-effacing. But you wouldn’t know that. You assumed you could make an assessment of his personality purely from viewing a photograph.

    Finally, a lot of the work Crispin has done has been effective and measured. From helping Florida’s youth turn from tobacco in the Florida Truth campaign, to boosting the sale of the BK Whopper double digits by the Whopper Freakout campaign last winter. (see this link to the Wall Street Journal.) http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120244090812952965.html.html?mod=blogs
    To assume so much and blog about it is not so credible. When you assume, you know what that means. You make an ASS-U-ME.

  3. Bob Bly said:

    Hmmm: I did make an error about who creating the IBM vs. Mac campaign. But I stand by everything else in my blog post. If he has not a smug egomaniac, he would not have agreed to those ridiculous Fast Company poses. As for the results of his ad campaigns: not a single metric is quoted in the long Fast Company article except the drop in VW sales. So yell at them, not me.

  4. Hmmmmmm said:

    Here’s one more example of the success of Crispin Porter + Bogusky and Alex Boguksy, as you complained it was “purely subjective.” Crispin launched the MINI Cooper in US. Here’s a quote after the launch:

    MINI USA Launch Exceeds Expectations Jack Pitney Credits Innovative Marketing, Enthusiastic Dealers On Road to Success
    Detroit, MI — May 7th, 2003… One year after the MINI brand was launched in the U.S., its brand awareness has more than quadrupled and sales have exceeded expectations by fifty percent.

    Here’s the link:
    http://www.mini2.com/2003/05/07/mini-usa-launch-exceeds-expectations/

    You should do you homework, Bob Bly.

  5. Earl Howell said:

    Many marketers cater to the “client”, not the “product”. I was approached by a collegue several years ago about my thoughts about a new ad campaign for a client. As a professional, he wanted my honest opinion. I let him go on and on about it for about an hour. When he was finished, I told him that the idea was fairly sound and may very well work. Let’s set up a test to measure against the control and see what happens. He looked at me like I had 2 heads! His reply: “Who cares if it actually works or not. I know I can sell this to the client and he will buy……”

    See what I mean?

    These types of agents are only in for the short term money. Yes, the client bought and my collegue made some money. And, yes, eventually the collegue was dropped from his client’s roster due to the fact that it wasn’t producing any measurable results.

  6. Bob Bly said:

    Ticks me off that you can’t go back and edit typos out of comments — should have been “created” not “creating.”

  7. Hmmmmmm said:

    Bob,
    Ironically the fact that Alex Bogusky posed the way he did, shows his humor — and self-effacement. Not egotism. That’s just his sense of humor. But, I guess most people, including you, wouldn’t know that.

  8. Bob Bly said:

    Hmmm: how do you know it was the advertising that sold the Mini? What about the unusual appearance? The dealers? That’s the problem with your argument: you general and brand advertisers can’t measure ROI. So you don’t know for certain what you are talking about.

    As for homework, reading a 6-page Fast Company article to comment on that article is sufficient due diligence. As I said, if the article is incomplete or inaccurate, complain to them, not to me.

  9. Dianna Huff said:

    Bob, I actually snail mailed you this article. As soon as I read it, I thought of you.

    The thing that struck me most is that the agency and its employees are a complete “Apple” shop — yet they now have to prove why people should use Microsoft. How come they use Apple and not MS?

    I think they have a tough row to hoe. How will they convince people like them to use MS — especially now with the Vista fiasco?

  10. Hmmmmmm said:

    Bob,
    As for MINI, I was just quoting the BMW (MINI) Vice President, Jack Pitney from the article:

    MINI USA Launch Exceeds Expectations: Jack Pitney Credits Innovative Marketing…

    Ironically, Crispin didn’t create much “advertising” for MINI, but really inventive marketing. They got a lot of free press, because MINI didn’t have the budget to “advertise” (put a MINI in the stands at a Yankees game; put a MINI on the top of an SUV and drove around with a sign “What are you doing for fun this weekend?” etc. The brand voice and other executions they created for the car was amazing.

    But, I do know for a fact that Crispin does measure a lot of what they do, so again making generalities that they can’t measure it is all assumption. They do have a major uphill battle to make Microsoft alluring. It does have to start with the product. (But, that is something that Crispin does, too — get involved with their clients even to the point of making product suggestions.) Microsoft must be desperate enough to listen, or they wouldn’t have hired them.

    No article, even 6 pages, is enough to make such blanket judgments of a company and one of its partners. If it was interesting enough to blog on, that’s where I’m suggesting more due diligence.

  11. Bob Bly said:

    Hmmm: now you are debating rule of blogging, and I disagree with your conclusions there, too. It is certainly fair play to comment on a company or public figure in response to a big cover story on them in a major national magazine, as long as the blogger clearly cites the article in question, which I did.

    I am not saying Crispin’s advertising is not good or does not work. I am saying that, since they do only branding and not direct response, they cannot know whether an ad or commercial generated sales. When I write direct response copy online or offline, I can.

  12. Sean Deminski said:

    Hello Mr. Bly, (can I call you Bob?)

    Thank you for that post. I understand what your saying, which is that the world of big business advertising is a funny-upside down world where sales don’t matter and looking good does.

    Personally, I think its silly, but I don’t really care. I don’t think the price for Macs will go down if they stopped advertising on TV. Big businesses do silly things (like that stupid Wendy’s commercial with the red wig? I celebrated when I saw they were off the air- and went to Wendy’s)

    The sad thing is that “legitimacy” is defined by the type of media. I see a commercial on TV for a mortgage or insurance company, they must be good. If I got a direct mail piece in the mail for one on those companies, how do I know its not a “scam”?

    Privately held business (who focus on sales, not image) should know when to act like the big guys, and when not to. I hope Independent business owners don’t read that magazine article for info on how to advertise.

    p.s. I don’t think the internet is an excuse to call a well-published author an “ass” without the decency of giving your own name. (Unless your name is Crispin Porter or Alex Bogusky, which then I understand why you would want to remain anonymous, I would to if the best I could come up with was a voiceover car)

  13. Bob Bly said:

    Sean: Thanks for your comment. I agree that it is somewhat cowardly of Hmmm to call me an ass and remain anonymous. And yes, TV adds a credibility that direct mail lacks. That’s why direct marketers use “as seen on TV” as a sales point in print DM and ads for products they also advertise on TV!

  14. Hmmmmmm said:

    Wow. Crispin doesn’t only do branding. They are one of the most highly regarded interactive agencies in the world (in your world, that would be online DIRECT RESPONSE.) And that is all measured. They also created Xbox games for Burger King as new media, that sold for cheap, broke all projected sales records, and sold a lot of food.

    I find it curious that when I site statistics about the marketing success of Crispin’s clients, you say that can’t be attributed to their efforts for certain. How is it, then, you fault them if VW sales are down 6%? Your logic is not consistent.

    And, by the way, I don’t work for Crispin. I’m just informed. If hitting on public figures by blogging is fair game, so is responded to said bloggers, like yourself. I find you have a very antiquated view of what ad agencies are doing nowadays by blanketing it all as “branding” and not measurable.

  15. Marc said:

    I found this article online:

    PC Sales Growth Drops to Zero, Mac Growth Soars

    http://www.macobserver.com/article/2006/12/20.7.shtml

    In the piece, the author cites the Mac ads as a factor in the growth of sales (in 2006).

  16. Bob Bly said:

    Hmmm: I am not faulting them for VW’s declining sales. I am not crediting them for Burger King’s rising sales. For the 5th time, I am responding to information in an article about Crispin published in a magazine.

    And you are wrong to say that all online marketing is direct response. Some of it is. Some of it is just branding. Many marketers use banner ads and e-mail for branding and impressions. My clients use e-mail to generate leads and sales. And we measure click through rates, conversions, orders, and revenues.

  17. Bob Bly said:

    Marc: As I noted in one of my comments, I incorrectly stated that Crispin did the Mac campaign. In fact, they did not. Bogusky and Crispin have been hired by Microsoft to counterattack, and it will be interesting to see what they come up with and the public’s reaction to it.

  18. Jim Logan said:

    Hmmmmmm makes an interesting point, although it’s by example: anonymity is the bane of the Internet.

    I can’t stand people who want to criticize and hold their opinion over others while hiding behind an anonymous ID.

    What Hmmmmm fails to recognize is your “hit” on a public figure was done with reference and context. And you put your name on it. Hmmmmm is just taking shots at you without the courage to to stand in the light of day.

  19. Bob Bly said:

    Jim: that was my point: everything I said was in the context of the Fast Company article I was commenting on. Hmmm’s position is that I was wrong to do that without researching other articles on the same subject. My position is that Hmmmm would be right if I were righting a book or magazine profile of Bogusky … but not for blogging. In the rules of the blogosphere, commenting on something you have read in an offline or online publication is fair game, as I understand it. Am I wrong?

  20. Bob Bly said:

    I mean writing, not righting. Damn! I need to find a blogging platform that lets the blog owner correct comments as he does posts.

  21. Brand Logician said:

    Hmmmmmm, I agree with Jim Logan. Your anonymity is disturbing, particularly concerning your willingness to so vehemently respond time and again.

  22. Ian Dunlap said:

    Here is the bigger issue that we all need to realize.

    Bob I think your of ad agencies is a little bit antiquated but before you kill me, I come from & use the hard hitting direct response techniques from the likes of Halbert, Kennedy, & yourself.

    And I have your book selling your services and to prove that I do…here is the 1st paragraph of your acknowledgments.

    “Im indebted to Dr. Jeffrey Lant, Howard Shenson, Bill Bishop, Tom Hopkins, Jeff Davidson, Patricia Fripp, Jerru Buchanan, Pete Silver..” I think you get the point.

    -Direct Marketers/Internet Marketers talk about branding as if it is a bad thing. Your personal brand is that of a tough & direct no-nonsense approach to marketing & sales. We all have a brand whether we believe it or not but you know that. Branding is important but when combined with highly effective & genius strategies a company can truly dominate. Its not one or the other…its both!!!

    -Chiat Day who did the ads for Apple (PC VS. Mac) really caused a dramatic spike in sales the week after the campaign ran because it used a direct marketing principle of… “start with the conversation the prospect is already having.” They did that and since Visa is an inferior product they were able to dominate and Mac is just a much better package and has a better brand.

    -As far as the guy being on the cover…what’s the big deal? Wouldn’t you want that exposure for your company? We all would.

    -Now ad agencies should provide higher results but there is sooooooooooo much as kissing that has to be done that you essentially cannot focus on the actually selling part and moving product until the end. Most companies who hire ad agencies think they know everything under the sun and place limitations on what can be done from the beginning. So would you rather not get the $25m dollar account? Of course not. We have all put up with crap from clients.

    -Ad agencies have posted some great results. Deutsch made the Monster brand and catapulted them to #1 in their category. Not created awareness but made them #1. Cramer-Krasselt did the same for Careebuilder and Careerbuilder canned them last year and as a result they have been getting their asses kicked since they let go of CK because they thought they didn’t need to improve.

    -Microsoft doesnt need an ad agency to fix their problems…they need a better operating system!!! But its easier to throw $60m at a problem than to actually fix the product. Sugar on top of sh*#, just makes sugary sh%#. Excuse my language but its the truth. Apple dominates because they have superior products.

    -Dont get me wrong…I love direct marketing but the clients that I have talked to want both, the branding and results elements, so why not offer both. It has always amazed me that all of the direct mail guys didn’t come together to work on big projects for Fortune 500 Companies.

    You, Halbert, Kennedy, Sugarman, Abraham, Vitale along with Frank Kern, Eben Pagan, Brady Fallon & Andy Jenkins, would making a KILLING if you worked with a company, so why dont you guys get together and work on projects. There isn’t enough structure i feel in the direct marketing & internet marketing and I dont think the goals are big enough. Everyone does their own thing and pass information. New sales letter new product goes out and the cycle continues.

    For example…I havent seen too many direct marketers use TV ads too much (since they have guarantee ROI formats) with companies like Revshare.com I dont know about you but I have used it and made out very well and talking about a flood of leads going through a squeeze capture page and follow up, most of them have never seen that type of marketing before.

    -From what I have experienced companies don’t want copywriters, what they want is a strategist who will make them more money and I dont think “copywriting” effectively conveys that. Now of course it should be apart of the mix but people dont think “copywriters are people who add gross to our top and bottom line.”

    So selecting what we brand ourselves are just as important.

    -To the anonymous guy. Come on. At least type in a fake name if you want to argue. You had some good points but not showing face takes away credibility.

    -To everyone here! Its not one or the other….its both! If you fail to use one of either, then you will have more headaches than you can imagine. But you don’t have to listen…you can fail on your own and then figure it out.

    To Bob, man I love your work. I just think guys like you, Kennedy, Halbert (R.I.P) should be MORE FAMOUS and be making much more money because of what you are able to provide.

    All feedback is welcome, even if its just from you Bob.

    Sincerely,
    Ian J. Dunlap
    Chief Executive Officer
    The Genius Marketing Firm
    http://profile.to/iandunlap/
    678.459.2561

    P.S. How can direct marketing types and agencies types learn more from each other?

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