|We Know What We Do. Does Anyone Else?
By: Brian Keller
Most people respond to your answer, “I work in advertising,” to their question of “What do you do?” with “Do you get your ideas from “Mad Men”?
You politely explain about strategy, branding, creative, media, social media, account planning, production, digital, et cetera, and all that goes into a structured and successful effort. They respond with:
One: “Did you do the duck for Geico?”
Two: “No, the duck is Aflac.”
One: “Are you sure? I like the cavemen. Do they still have the cavemen?”
Two: “Have you seen the Camel? He walks around an office. You guys make a lot of money for doing nothing.”
One day while walking away from questions, we started thinking about all the work that goes into what we do and how even clients don’t get it all the time.
We knew an agency that came up with ideas for an international brand. The brand made items like fax machines, labelers, printers, and more. They had no real brand identification and asked for a global position.
Over a year, one team worked almost only on this assignment and developed an interesting take. After realizing how dependable their products were, the agency suggested the position of “Works Every Day.” It was an appealing nod towards the dependability and work ethic of this Japanese company.
The campaign was to break with TV featuring Cal Ripken Jr. (Baseball — who played in an astounding 2,632 straight games), Charlie Watts, (Rolling Stones) and Stephen Hawking (theoretical physicist) who were to represent, via mini documentaries, work ethic, dependability, and genius. The creative who “birthed” the idea presented at a global meeting. He and the agency included speculative TV commercials, the media, the account plan, the digital rollout, the strategy, the research, and facts as to how the campaign could go global.
As the creative finished his presentation to an impressed audience, a voice in the crowd asked: “What happens if something breaks?” A year later the company dropped the first word in their old position and that became the new global brand identifier.
We knew an agency that had an international logistics company. They wanted something different and the agency created an animated film that consisted of a clever conversation between three characters that consisted of a human, a fairy, and a bird (the company mascot) and the script was plotted as was “Pulp Fiction.” The story crossed time barriers and related back to logistics and the time problems inherent in shipping across multiple time zones. The CMO killed the script because: “I don’t like Quentin Tarantino.”
We know an agency that came up with a good idea for an integrated campaign based on “Everyday People.” Again, the start was a series of TV spots that would give way to “everyday people” creating material as well. Along with the huge TV and digital push, a number of ancillary pieces such as radio and print were to be created. This was a large effort for a signature product. The song “Everyday People” was negotiated and the agency and client developed the strategy of getting this message out. A number of speculative communications were tested. Focus groups gave great scores as the idea of “everyday people” resonated. A young woman in charge of something at the client company decided the coda should be written as “Everyday. People.” which took the idea of empowerment away. The music was “killed” and needle drop was used. The idea turned as the young woman wanted.
True: A French director was hired. The commercials were shot in Vancouver. The material was brought to the U.S to one of the better facilities and editors in the states. After one day of editing, the director told the young woman from the client side that a commercial was “like a baby.” He convinced her the editor and creative director were “killing the baby.” The edit went to Brazil along with the director and the young woman and was edited for three months during a Brazilian summer that coincidentally took place during a New York winter. The young woman killed the digital campaign but she did let the “baby” live in print and radio. She is still with the company in another position.
We know a digital agency that planned a complicated campaign for a university where prospective students, out of range of a campus visit, were invited to campus by creating their own avatar. The population of the university was invited to participate in this virtual experience to impart knowledge and interact with the visitors. Avatars were created and all was “doable.” The Director of Marketing felt the avatar concept was out of the grasp of “young people” and insisted on a newspaper campaign.
Clients and regular people depend on lawyers, doctors, accountants, plumbers, mechanics, etc. without much question as they can relate to their own knowledge of the job. Clients and regular people sometimes don’t really grasp what we do. To some we are too close to them; to others we are mad men and women. We say to all of you, go on “The Google” and look up what we do. It’s not that easy.
We know someone who wrote a column about TV commercials. Within that column there were fake commercials and real commercials. One of the fake commercials was for Speight’s beer and revolved around Rugby action cut to AC/DC’s Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap. Since the commercial would never run the writer decided to replace Tony Kaye as the fake director of the fake commercial. He chose his friend (who has never directed anything, not even an imaginary commercial) Jeri. Jeri would be the person who would not direct the commercial that would never be made. Jeri’s first remark was, “Does it have to be AC/DC?”
And that’s what we do. Your stories welcome.
Brian is the Creative Director at teeny agency in Baltimore. He graduated from the University of Maryland (English),went to grad school at NYU (Cinema Studies), & attends University of Baltimore School of Law.
Brian's been working, primarily, in the digital space for years but enjoys all communications avenues.
He has built the creative departments at two agencies.
He likes skateboarding with his son. He also falls off his skateboard and amuses his son.When not amusing his son or riding bikes or playing basketball or working he writes for Beyond Madison Avenue & that's why Beyond Madison Avenue appears twice in this sentence.
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