With a sense of relief, Chuck Porter counted 48 babies and small children at his agency's annual holiday party last month. In hindsight, the 57-year-old CEO's decision not to lay off any of their parents was a smart one.
2002 turned out to be a payoff year for Crispin Porter + Bogusky. In February, the Miami shop snared Ikea's $40-50 million account. In March, it won Molson USA's $8-10 million creative business, following a shootout. Two top brands in two new categories in two months.
"They are our demographic," Molson marketing vp Steve Breen says of the CP+B team—meaning, young adults. A month after winning creative, the agency added the brewer's media business.
"Media and creative cannot be separated," says agency president Jeff Hicks, 37. "The play between the two departments creates the creative content."
The year also brought the shop another anti-tobacco account, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, and two media Lions at Cannes for client Mini.
"The budgets were so small, we couldn't outspend the competitors," says Jeff Steinhour, 39, agency partner and director of account services. "We used the same philosophy we used with the 'Truth' advertising: 'Use surprise wisely.' "
That they did. Fans at baseball and football games sat in Minis that were sprinkled throughout stadiums in rows where seats had been removed. Thoughout 2002, Mini ads also appeared as stickers, as Playboy centerfolds and as motion-sickness bags.
CP+B broke its first work for Ikea in September. Directed by Spike Jonze and Wes Anderson, the cinematic spots are tagged "Unböring" and mock Americans' sentimental attachment to furniture.
Overall, the shop increased billings by 33 percent to $215 million and revenue by 25 percent to $25 million in 2002. For its media smarts and continued creative excellence, CP+B is Adweek's Southeast Agency of the Year for the third time in four years.
In separate interviews, Porter and executive creative director Alex Bog usky, 39, answered the same set of questions about the agency's past year and its future.
adweek: Why launch Mini without TV?
Porter: The decision evolved out of a bunch of things, partly budgetary and partly because TV is what everyone does. Our feeling was there was a smarter, more cost-effective, compelling way.
Bogusky: They couldn't afford it. I always like to appear big somewhere. To have a tiny budget and put it on TV wouldn't have worked. The campaign was going to match the car. It's a nontraditional vehicle. If that's part of the brand, it should be part of the media. Those are things you don't want to separate.
adweek: Which campaign elements are connecting most with consumers?
Porter: "The Book of Motoring" [a pamphlet inserted in magazines] really resonated with a lot of people. They liked the attitude, what the new vehicle represents and how we expressed it.
Bogusky: It's probably the nontraditional print. … I've had people comment on how we've changed how they think. I've had consumers telling me they have put posters on their walls.
adweek: What did you learn from the campaign's success?
Porter: We learned that we were right when we first started out. That imagination makes up for money, and that media [people are] a lot more creative than anyone gives them credit for.
Bogusky: There's a lot of power in doing things differently. One thing we tend to do is look at the rules of the category and try to break them. "Motoring" comes out of that. One rule is to never show the car dirty. So we did. Or never launch without TV.We did. Or, a car has value with low mileage. We talk about gaining value when you put on miles.
adweek: Was there a moment during the Ikea or Molson pitches when you knew you had won?
Porter: Never. We got to a point where we knew this was smart work and that it would work. We got to a point where we thought it was our best work.
Bogusky: There's a point where you fall in love with the product, when you want to buy what you're selling. Then you've arrived at the right place. I remember feeling it.
adweek: You convinced Molson to add a twin label on the other side of the bottle. The idea required the company to install new machinery in its three bottling plants. Did you pitch the twin-label idea at the presentations?
Porter: Yes. We tested the idea in bars. Guys would notice the twin and peel them off. [Some of the labels include phrases like "Guess where my tattoo is?" and "Who's your daddy?" Others feature lines like "Yes, but not with you" or promises like "Wild in the shower."]
Bogusky: The Molson label didn't mean anything positively or negatively. It was a total blank slate. Our thinking was, "How can we cheat?" We can make labels that say the things we use advertising to do. ... Molson was a weird pitch. They put all the work into testing. Whatever came out on top would [determine] the agency.We don't believe there's a lot that comes out of testing, though we're not afraid of it.
adweek: Was it difficult to persuade the client to add a second label?
Porter: They had to figure out the logistics. But they saw the potency.
Bogusky: We always tell clients we're going to come up with stuff that goes further into their business. With Mini, we said it would be great to do a lease that wouldn't penalize people for putting too many miles on the car. They actually took that idea and created a different kind of lease.
adweek: How did the Ikea and Molson pitches compare?
Bogusky: One thing we tried to do in terms of approach [with Ikea], and it was similar to Molson in thinking, was to answer the question, "What's really going on here?" If you can step outside your own culture, you can get an angle on what's going on inside it.
adweek: How did you come up with the notion of selling furniture as a fashion accessory?
Porter: The idea came from the planning group. They discovered the fact that in the U.S., people have exactly 1.6 spouses and 1.6 dining room tables [in their lifetime]. Our insight was that rich people redecorate every year or two, but normal people keep furniture forever. But Ikea gives everybody permission to change their surroundings.
Bogusky: It started by looking at the fact that Ikea is stronger outside the U.S. in terms of an understanding of the offering. We had to ask, Why is it that Americans feel like they need to buy colonial reproductions? We looked at other cultures and found some where every year people redesign their living rooms. … Most people in the U.S. buy something thinking, "I will have it for ever." That's a non-fashion way to purchase something.
adweek: Describe last year.
Porter: It was fruitful. A lot of things we did paid off, like not laying anyone off and upgrading in planning and media.
Bogusky:The launch of Mini being a success and the Ikea win made [staffers] believe in the process. I say [to the creatives], "Don't bring me print or TV ideas." I say, "This is your company. What are you going to do to make it famous?"
adweek: What are your priorities now?
Porter: Stay ahead of the curve so that when people imitate us, they're imitating what happened six months ago.
Bogusky: For the agency to stay ignorant and humble.
adweek: Is there a client you would particularly like to add in 2003?
Porter: I'd like one of the armed forces. I think there's an enormous sort of underlying rebirth of patriotism and service.
bogusky: It's always so interesting to see who calls, and it's always better than I imagined. Like Mini. I didn't know it existed. I'm looking forward to that feeling when people call and you think, That is so perfect.
Up 33 percent to $215 million (est.)
Up 25 percent to $25 million (est.)
WIN;LOSS PITCH RATIO
4 out of 6
ACCOUNTS WON/MEDIA BUDGET*
Molson USA/$8-10 million
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota/$8-10 million
Sirius Satellite Radio/$3 million
ACCOUNTS LOST/MEDIA BUDGET*
Two media Lions at Cannes for launch of BMW's Mini Cooper; broke into beer category with Molson USA; entered furniture category with Ikea.
*Only largest accounts included.
Sources: Adweek, agency reports and CMR.