Advertising that’s good for the agency but not the brand
The high profile advertising agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky has parted ways with Burger King after seven years.
Over that period CP + B have created advertisements that have been edgy and creative including, “Whopper virgins” and “Subservient Chicken,” which was one of the first mainstream online campaigns to go viral. Adweek lists fifteen of their best campaigns, all of which are noteworthy and were the subject of much chatter by marketing industry commentators.
So what went wrong? In a word: sales. At the start the relationship they increased but from second-quarter 2009 through third-quarter 2010 same-store sales declined. Technomic estimates that Burger King’s U.S. sales for 2010 were down 2.5% to $8.7 billion. Comparatively, McDonald’s was up 4.4% to $32.4 billion.
We do not want to cast aspersion on an agency that does groundbreaking work and which is the envy of pretty much every agency in the world, including ourselves. But the situation does serve to illustrate that advertising which is good for the agency is not necessarily good for the brand.
Communications that are best for the brand focus on the brand’s benefits that are portrayed in ways that are engaging for the audience. But communications that achieve this are invariably less notable and buzz-worthy than communications that in their own right are peculiar. CP + B’s advertising for Burger King and other clients has been noteworthy in the extreme and consequently the agency has been successful – phenomenally so.
One might imagine that the highest accolades go to agencies that grow their clients’ businesses most rapidly, but that is not the case. Perversely advertising that is good for a brand is unlikely to generate much interest in the agency that created it because effective marketing that increases sales isn’t much of a story. Indeed, in our case some of our clients who are growing rapidly would not appreciate us taking credit for their successes and crowing about it in public.
So if you are looking for an agency figure out whether you want notable advertising or increased sales. Sometimes you can get both at once but most of the time what is most effective is not what is most noteworthy.