Embed marketing in products: Crispin Porter + Bogusky CEO

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CHICAGO -Celebrated creative shop Crispin Porter + Bogusky CEO Jeff Hicks raised the bar for ad agencies during a packed keynote session Oct. 25 at Forrester's Consumer Forum 2006 at the Palmer House Hilton.

The future of advertising is that there isn't any. Yes, that's coming from an agency, which created memorable ads for clients like Burger King, Volkswagen and Miller Brewing.

"We think the future of advertising is great products that have marketing embedded in them," Mr. Hicks said.

Google and Starbucks both don't use much traditional media to get their message across, he said. But that's because their marketing is embedded in the brand.

The role of advertising is to push consumers toward products. At the center is the product. Advertising is at the periphery, with packaging and customer relationship management and distribution as the layers between it and the product. The agency's job is not to interrupt but to create content that's entertaining.

Mr. Hicks said it should be "content so valuable and useful that [consumers] wouldn't want to live without it."

For Burger King, Crispin Porter looked at paper cups and went beyond simply printing "Burger King" on the side. The agency wrote hundreds of clever and funny blurbs on cup wraps- including the definition of "bagglers, " straggling fries left in the bag. The copy described whose bagglers they were when they fell into the bag if there were multiple orders.

"Great ideas, not channels, create buzz," Mr. Hicks said.

Another example is a viral campaign for Burger King called Subservient Chicken. The site left the building in beta form and at its peak recorded 500,000 visitors who spend an average 9 minutes on the site commanding the man-chicken to do their beckoning.

All told, the campaign has received 18 million unique visitors and 450 million hits. Sessions today average 5 minutes. It all fit with the Burger King theme of "Have it your way." And it cost only between $40,000 and $50,000.

The agency's philosophy is "turning great marketing into great results for our clients."

Burger King, which recently went through an IPO, recorded nine straight quarters of positive U.S. comparable store growth.

Another client Volkswagen, which had declined 37 percent in the United States since 2000, may find 2006 its "first positive year in five years," Mr. Hicks said.

Questions arose from the audience addressing missteps if such risky work was undertaken. Crispin Porter thinks things out so "it never seems like a risk … it seems like an obvious thing to do," Mr. Hicks said.

Mr. Hicks said marketers should get comfortable with consumers messing with their brand.

"The best marketers are realizing this is a foregone conclusion," he said. "We're really encouraging our clients to participate."

This is not to say there is a need to take brand risk. What about content on sites inviting consumers to participate - is it filtered? It is. Crispin Porter filters every single comment on the Subservient Chicken site. Try putting something profane on the site and see the chicken's reaction.

"It waves its finger," Mr. Hicks said.

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