Conversation, characters, and lots of ideas: CP+B's winning approach.
There were a number of agencies that turned in star performances at this year's One Show, but no one generated more buzz than Crispin Porter + Bogusky. If this was the year of the integrated campaign, as many of the One Show judges seemed to feel, then it was also the year of CP+B, which seemed to show the world how integrated can and should be done, by way of multi-faceted, interactive campaigns for Burger King (including the Best of Show/Interactive 'Subservient Chicken'), MINI, Virgin Atlantic Airways, Molson, and the American Legacy 'Truth' campaign (which CP+B co-creates with Arnold Worldwide). A few days before the show, one caught up with CP+B creative director Alex Bogusky
to discuss what has been a groundbreaking year for the Miami agency.
A lot of people at this year's One Show were talking about Burger King, which was named 'Client of the Year' in One Show Interactive. Obviously, the success of the Subservient Chicken campaign was a big part of it, but people also seemed to be struck by the scope of the work CP+B produced in its first year on the Burger King account, it just seemed like ideas and characters were coming from all directions, in contrast to traditional fast-food campaigns that hammer on one slogan or character again and again. Do you think your BK campaign might signal the end of the 'one idea' approach to fast-food marketing?
I don't know if it's the end of that. It just happens to be the way we think, not just on Burger King, but on other accounts, like MINI. There are so many different iterations of the work. One of our philosophies is to think of a campaign as a continuing conversation or correspondence. Typically a campaign is like getting the same letter Xeroxed from a company and they keep sending it to you all year. We try to keep writing fresh letters, because that's how correspondence should be.
The key for Burger King, and for most brands, I think, is to have momentum in the marketplace. It's not so much about awareness anymore; it's about which brand has the momentum. Consumers now look at it that way: If you do research, they can tell you which brand is going out and which one is coming in. You're really never static. And one thing we believe about momentum is, you've got to keep hitting people with things.
And one of the things you hit them with is a lot of characters. On BK alone, you?ve introduced several continuing characters. Why so many?
One of the things we're trying to do is to create intellectual property, because we can do different things with a property. And with media getting so fractured, you need to generate PR, but you're not necessarily going to get press on the same properties over and over. So for Burger King we created Dr. Angus, (Euro fashion designer-type) Ugoff, we brought back the Burger King, and there's Subservient Chicken, and Spicy Chicken, and each one of these properties allows us to take it places beyond the advertising. With Dr. Angus, we created a Dr. Angus diet book, which can actually be ordered off the Web site. It's a full-length, 140-page book and we wrote it in about two weeks, which was fun. Meanwhile, the Burger King character is appearing on Leno, the chicken's been on 'Good Morning America'. And each of these intellectual properties has a different job to do, the Burger King's job is to show up in places where people wouldn't expect Burger King, so he's been doing a lot of breakfast and late-night kind of stuff. He's designed to be surprising.
Isn't there a temptation for the client to gravitate toward one successful character or approach, to say, for example, 'Hey, the King is really working great, let's find a way to get him into ALL the ads'. How do you get around that?
We have a good client and they understand we have to be careful with the equity of that character. There are certain things that make the King intriguing, and you have to protect that. He taps into something you kind of remember from your childhood but when you take him out of that context and put him in a message for adults, as we have done, it has a weird, interesting effect; you get a glimpse of your own culture and you're both drawn to it and freaked out by it. And that's where the tension comes, culturally, from that King character. But you can't put him in everything, because then he would naturally migrate to the kids advertising. And then he would no longer be interesting. He has to just pop up unexpectedly in places. But every day there's a suggestion to use the King in this or that, and you have to resist it by explaining, or by creating tenets about where a character can be used or not. By the way, he's not a pretend king to us, he's actually a king, so he can only show up places where a king might show up. He can't go to a little league game.
The Subservient Chicken seemed to set a new standard for interactive advertising, but it also created a phenomenon that became like a perfect storm, in terms of media coverage. Were you expecting that?
Before it launched, we were testing it and playing with it in-house, and you get a pretty good sense that, wow, this is really fun. You know when technology kind of approximates magic? It had a little bit of that going for it, and I felt it was going to be really, really successful. But then it became more like a phenomenon. And I don't think you can predict those things. A lot of people want, and obviously we want, another Subservient Chicken. But it's the same thing as wanting a 'Waaasssssup?' I'm sure Budweiser would like another one of those, but it's hard.
To read more about our interview with Alex Bogusky, pick up a copy of the summer issue of one. a magazine.