cumulative effect of multiple advertisements."
Perhaps that's why CP+B's BK spot spoofing the Janet Jackson Super Bowl fiasco (it shows a man wearing the same nipple ring) ran only once. And even that may have come too late—weeks after the hooplah had faded. "We weren't as fast as we could have been," Keller admits. Still, he says, the speed with which the commercial was produced—five days from shoot to airing—speaks to the reaction time of today's campaigns.
Similarly, in June, Fallon in New York put together a campaign for Virgin Mobile to air on the MTV Movie Awards that played off the network's overcautious approach to the event. After what happened during the Super Bowl halftime show, which MTV helped produce, the network taped and edited the movie awards instead of airing them live. In about a week, Fallon put together ads that showed pictures of bunnies and toys with copy describing risqué scenes the ads would have shown were it not for the sensitivity factor.
While David Perry, director of production at Saatchi & Saatchi, notes that total production time has gotten longer as layers of bureaucracy have grown, it is possible to sometimes bypass time-consuming testing. "If you want to take advantage of an incident on the Super Bowl, you can say, 'Everybody get out of the way. We have to do this by Friday,' and the normal processes are skipped," he says.
Of course, agencies can bypass trend-chasing altogether if they create the trends themselves. CP+B tried that with the "Subservient Chicken" Web site for Burger King, which allowed visitors to type in commands and watch a man dressed in a chicken costume obey them. "Subservient Chicken represents a new idea every five seconds," Keller says. Even if one group of consumers tires of the chicken, another is waiting in the wings—regionally, nationally, internationally—to discover it, Keller adds. "It's about how to give a brand a sustained life in a world that turns over constantly."
But tread carefully, warns Fallon creative director Ari Merkin. "It's a small window," he says. "If you miss your opportunity, your brand can look a bit silly. It's sort of like sending a belated birthday card."