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Crispin, Porter + Bogusky

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Label Brewers
Reed Carlson, Jim Poh, Rachel Walker and Rachel Kulynych

What distinguishes Crispin, Porter + Bogusky's award-winning media plan in the under $10 million category, says Jim Poh, the agency's vp/director of creative content distribution, is that the campaign's primary media vehicle wasn't really a media vehicle at all but rather messages included on the client's product, bottles of beer.

Canadian brewer Molson remained a market leader at home but had experienced recent sales declines in the United States, so it enlisted Miami-based CP+B to revitalize the brand here and renew its relevance among its core target of men 21 to 27.

CP+B's research showed that Molson drinkers used the brand of beer they consumed as something of a fashion accessory. Thus, the label on a guy's beer bottle said as much about who he was as the car he drove, the logo on his sports shirt, or the watch on his wrist. Thus, Molson and the CP+B team, which included associate media directors John Herman and Reed Carlson; media planner Rachel Walker; and assistant media planner Rachel Kulynych, came up with the idea of bottle label as badge, to let the product help men say something about themselves—mostly to the opposite sex. Eye-catching, clever messages on the so-called "twin labels"—used only for bottles sold in bars and made to resemble the familiar Molson label, with type and styling that echoed the company's logo—included such bon mots as "100% Available," "Hottie Magnet," "On the Rebound," "Guess Where My Tattoo Is?" and, perhaps most to the point, "I'm Not Wearing Any Underwear."

"Typically, beer companies make enormous investments in time and money to get their labels to say the right thing about these guys," notes John Herman, the agency's associate media director. "Unfortunately, we did not have a lot of either." CP+B and Molson distributed more than 400 messages via the cheeky labels, right at the point of sale. "We said, 'Wait a minute. Why not just make a label that says something and bypass years and millions of dollars to make a label say something?'" says Poh.

The multimedia Molson campaign, budgeted at $8 million, also encompassed conventional media: television, radio, newspapers and magazines. After the bottles themselves, out-of-home was a key medium chosen by CP+B to communicate with Molson's target in neighborhoods that are home to popular bars. One problem: Many such districts presented few outdoor-ad opportunities, and those were already taken by Molson's rivals. CP+B's solution: window clings placed in storefronts throughout bar districts. Where out-of-home venues didn't exist, the agency created them.

The campaign also included radio spots. Poh, acknowledging the current Federal Communications Commission crackdown on indecency and shock jocks like Howard Stern, says that Molson was careful about "crossing the line from fun to tasteless." One radio station ran a contest inviting listeners to log on to Molson's Web site and create their own funny labels. The winner was an entry from a young woman featuring a drawing of former President Richard Nixon and the message, "Sorry I laughed at your Dick."

The CP+B campaign also marked Molson's return to print, a medium it had shunned for several years. The agency bought a single, full-page ad in the May 2003 issue of Cosmopolitan, of all places—admittedly an unusual destination for a marketer going after young men. The ad featured a hunky, blonde model clutching a cold bottle of Molson along with two adorable puppies.

Then came the clincher. During the same month, the agency bought spaces in leading men's magazines including FHM and Playboy for a text-heavy piece that went about explaining the thinking behind the Cosmo appeal: "Hundreds of thousands of women. Pre-programmed for your convenience." The male-targeted ad, which carried a small reproduction of the Cosmo ad featuring the dude with the puppies, went on: "As you read this, women across America are reading something very different: an advertisement scientifically formulated to enhance their perception of men who drink Molson. The ad shown below is a perfectly tuned combination of words and images designed by trained professionals. Women who are exposed to it experience a very positive feeling. A feeling which they will later project directly onto you."

According to CP+B, the overall campaign produced significant results, boosting Molson's annual sales in the U.S. by 37 percent and making the brand the fastest-growing top-25 imported beer. Furthermore, brand awareness among heavy consumers of beer rose by 26 percent and purchase intent by the same group shot up by 27 percent.

Kurt A. Kane, brand director of Molson USA, called CP+B's work on its behalf "most effective," pointing to the way the agency "captured people's imaginations. Everything is not just about the 30-second TV spot; there are different materials and different ways to reach consumers and get them excited about your brand."

Kane says the CP+B campaign served Molson's desire to go after its target by "getting their attention first, then giving them the information they needed to get them excited about Molson." He adds that the CP+B team "always looks at an ad challenge as just that, not a preset solution. The team there is always looking at what you're trying to communicate and looking at the best way to get that across. They think about the creative content out there and focus on a plan to get [the client's message] out in the world. They truly embody that spirit and live it every day." Tony Case is a contributing writer to Mediaweek.