Great Ideas, Not Media Channels, Create Brand Momentum
Advertising executive Jeff Hicks shares secrets of success.
ANN ARBOR, Mich.—What is the future of advertising? There isn't one, according to Jeff Hicks, CEO of Crispin Porter + Bogusky (CPB)—an award-winning ad agency based in Miami. Hicks recently spoke as part of the Yaffe Center for Persuasive Communication 2006-2007 speaker series at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business.
In his talk, "Brand-building in This Cluttered 21st Century Media Environment," Hicks said the future of advertising is more about great products and embedding marketing into them. He outlined CPB's business model, which has propelled clients like Burger King and Volkswagen into the media spotlight, boosted sales and reinvigorated the brands.
"Great ideas, not channels, create momentum for brands. The content should be so valuable that consumers won't want to live without it," he said, adding that it's important not only to analyze the competition, but also to look at what other great brands are doing.
"Google is a great marketer, but they don't advertise," said Hicks. "I look at how I can inject marketing into the product without paid media."
Hicks said Burger King was on the verge of bankruptcy three years ago. The company wanted to inject emotion and relevance back into the brand. To do this, CPB focused on the content, not the medium in which it was delivered.
"Let ideas find a medium," he said, explaining the inverted creative process at CPB, which includes developing ideas based on research, filling a room with them and working backwards to a media plan. "The agency business is changing. It's more about ideas now."
CPB's knack for developing cutting-edge content, finding nontraditional media outlets and pushing the creative envelope has produced such memorable ad campaigns as the Burger King Subservient Chicken Web site (it has received over 18 million unique visitors since it launched over two years ago), the "Wake Up With the King" breakfast TV spots (a man wakes up to discover a large, plastic-headed king in his bed handing him a breakfast sandwich) and the more recent Miller Light "Man Law" radio and TV ads (a roundtable discussion among famous men like Burt Reynolds addressing questions such as how long to wait before dating a friend's ex-girlfriend and if the high-five is still cool).
The BK King, a fixture of the chain's marketing in the late 1970s, also is part of CPB's strategy to "use advertising to inspire public relations," according to Hicks.
"Consumers find more credibility with a brand when they see others talking about it," he said, touting the King's photo shoot with a well-known Hollywood actress as an example of good PR. Photographs of the duo in various places around Los Angeles popped up on the Internet and in celebrity gossip magazines, providing free publicity.
Hicks told the audience of students, faculty and local marketing professionals to get comfortable with consumers messing with their brand. "The consumer is now the brand manager," he said, citing YouTube.com and other user content-generated Web sites as examples. "It's happening more and more."
Hicks, who joined CPB as president in 1997 and became CEO in 2004, said it's possible to find emotion in all great brands. "You just have to look for the great ideas. They’re there."
And, if you were wondering what CPB has brewing in its self-described "factory," look for the resurrection of popcorn icon Orville Redenbacher on the TV screen soon. He will be brought to life through computer-generated imagery special effects.
When asked by an audience member if he worries about ever being copied, Hicks said it isn't an issue. "Assume everything is obsolete when it runs and move on to the next thing."
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