Adweek, celebrating its 30th birthday, asked some ad icons to select their favorite work from the past three decades. And i just read that Jeff Goodby of Goodby Silverstein fame selected our Budweiser work as his favorite campaign of the 1990s. Which is interesting because the campaign just about made it into the 90s. The first spot aired on Christmas day 1999 in an NBA game. So thank you Jeff. And might we reciprocate by saying how much we admired your work over the years on the brand. Frank and Louie will live forever.
in his article, Jeff repeats a myth about the campaign that i’ve seen in print several times and isn’t actually true – that the campaign only really took off when one of the spots aired on the Superbowl in February 2000. We did air a spot on the big game but it was by no means the hit of the game. It was actually ranked 22nd in the USA TODAY ad popularity poll. Not a disaster. but by Budweiser Superbowl standards it was an abject failure. But ultimately it didn’t matter. the genie was out of the bottle at that point.
Adweek just turned thirty. It can’t be easy covering an industry as bitchy and as full of aggressive self-promoters as ours is. I’ve seen what it’s like.
Anyhoo, Adweek’s Barbara Lippert has just written a piece recalling three ad campaigns that were “game-changers” over the past three decades.
You can read it here. It’s a three page article. Nike was on page one. Our Bud work was on page two. And to be honest, I never got to page three. Page two just wore me out.
One thing that struck me about all three campaigns she selected (update: page three has something about CPB and BK) is that all three were the product of great clients. I know you’re saying “duh!”. but we have had the great fortune to be the beneficiary of several truly great clients. and in case you haven’t, here’s how it works. if you’ve never worked with a great client, you might imagine them to be unquestioning but enlightened figures who are somehow in your thrall. and that would be a very wrong image. very far from the truth.
great clients are way ahead of their agenices. if you have a great client, you are along for the ride. great clients have a vision of what they want to have happen. and they challenge you to use the freedom they give you to the maximum. and if you’ve never had complete creative freedom in your life, you might not know this, but it’s kind of scary. the universe is a big place, suddenly. you become, potentially, the weakest link in the chain. now you have to deliver. what you got?
it’s a lot easier to complain about how everyone is an idiot and you’re not. but suddenly that’s not an option anymore. you’re getting a clear shot at doing something great.
And the best clients know this. so now the pressure is on YOU. you have nothing to hide behind.
I always use a similar psychology when dealing with directors and other creative vendors. i just pass on the creative freedom i have to them. make them happy. i don’t want to be a director. i make it apparent that the success or failure of the job is entirely in their hands and on their shoulders. I keep an eye on things but so long as it’s going the right way i keep my mouth shut. let them have fun for once. be the good client! they work ten times harder as a result. they get to have the same feeling i do. seems only fair.
and it works like a charm every time. everybody loves freedom and fun!
Adweek writer Brian Morrissey (who i’m increasingly a fan of) backs up a dearly-held theory of ours in an article published today.
Excuse us if this strikes you as blindingly obvious but it goes like this. In the past, brands and advertising thrived on ignorance and lack of information. And one of the huge effects of the internet and interconnectivity in general is to shine a glaring megawatt spotlight into the shadows where bulls**t and dubious advertising claims once thrived. When you think back, one of the roles that advertising actually used to have was disseminating information. albeit very one-sided information. seems funny now, doesn’t it. but it wasn’t that long ago.
Interestingly, Morrissey (the journalist, not the singer, couldn’t resist) goes on to cite Zappos as an example of a brand that eschewed advertising in favor of building community. And i quote…”For Tony Hsieh, CEO at Zappos, meeting up with a customer at a bar in midtown Manhattan was perfectly natural. Most execs with 1,600 employees and doing over $1 billion in annual sales would probably pass on having drinks with an individual customer, but Hsieh is not your typical CEO. In the past week alone he had given away shoes on Twitter, sent out an open invitation to a company barbecue and solved a service problem a customer left in a blog comment…” Which is funny because that customer was…cue Hitchcockian sawing violin sounds…ME! That’s right. Me.
I went on a tirade about a bad zappos experience over at Tangerine Toad’s blog (using my nom-de-blog Toad’s Sixth Reader). And the zappos.com CEO Tony Hsieh contacted me and gave me a substantial gift certificate for my trouble. Which was great. He also, apparently, sensibly took my advice about selling kitchenware on a shoe site. Winking smiley face.
Anyway, if you’re like me, you’ve probably had it up to here with the endless chatter about “transparency” and “community” and “brand conversations” and all that malarkey they talk about at expensive conferences, AKA common sense. But the internet’s biggest effect on what we do/used to do is now readily apparent. When i started out in the advertising biz it was all about creating a “brand image”, which implies untruth doesn’t it. Image is a controlled projection of how we’d like to be perceived. A half truth at best.
Which, with apologies to Stephen Colbert, brings us today’s ESCAPOLOGISM (TM). Instead of creating brand images we now have to create “brand realities”(TM). An entirely different proposition.