Note: I originally wrote this back in 2007 and it was published by the SDAF on the their website back in 2008. With the news of Mr. Bugosky announcing his resignation today, I though it deserved a revisit. Enjoy. Jim Mathis
Alright already, enough with the Alex Bugosky worship. Crispin Porter +Bugoksy is the hot shop in the US nowadays. Every time advertising wunderkind Alex takes a poop, somebody hands him a Clio. Frankly, just once I’d like to open ADWEEK without seeing AB idolized. So I am publicly coming forward and saying that Alex Bugosky can eat my shorts. If he wants a challenge, try fighting it out in the low-budget trenches of small market advertising.
Does that mean I think CP+B is doing bad work? Nope. Some of their stuff is downright brilliant, really breakthrough advertising. The Mini, IKEA, Truth… all outstanding creative, worthy of every bit of praise it has received.
Then there’s the creepy guy in plastic Burger King helmet. Breakthough? Hardly, they dusted off an old tag line and put a guy in Mardi Gras costume. The only stroke of genius—hiring Mark Mothersbaugh to recut the tagline, thus harkening back to his Devo* days—was lost on the average consumer. It will make a nice trivia question 10 years from now. But I have yet to talk to a soul who didn’t find the guy waking up next to the King creepy. I tried hard to think of another word to describe the plastic-headed King, but creepy just seems too right.
What about the Subservient Chicken, you say? No one can deny that was some really out-there advertising. But in an ADWEEK article as well as an article in Fast Company, reporters dared to ask whether or not it worked. Nope. Cool creative, but it didn’t make anyone buy chicken sandwiches.
Despite Alex’s hard work, BK is continuing to get their asses handed to them, not just by the Golden Arches, but perennial also-ran Wendy’s. Had it not been for a finger in a bowl of chili, the little girl in pigtails would have wrestled the number 2 slot away from the King.
I should admit a little bit of bias. ADwërks is a regional McDonald’s shop. But “I’m lovin’ it!” works! And Mickey D is kickin’ ass. While quick service restaurants in general are growing, the King flounders.
Here’s the thing. In the end, if all of our clever marketing and advertising doesn’t make the cash register ring, then we are in the wrong business. If ads are entertaining, but don’t sell products, they are bad ads.
Many of us here in the SDAF spent the month of December preparing our ADDY entries. Feverishly sifting through a year’s work, picking out the pieces worthy of the $41 entry fee, but the awards don’t matter. My clients would much rather sell a few more widgets than get a framed certificate proclaiming their Silver ADDY.
So on the odd chance that Alex Bugosky Googles himself and stumbles across this article, I’ll say it again. Eat my shorts, Alex. You may have a shelf full of Gold Lions, but if you want to show us what you’ve got, spend a month selling hamburgers in Sioux City in January. The vast majority of the hard-working advertising professionals out here are working with small budgets in small markets. Give any of us in Sioux Falls a big-ass production budget and a cool client like IKEA and we’ll make magic. The challenge we face everyday is making small budget magic for a used-car dealer in Topeka, Kansas. Now that takes some creativity.
Every year I get to spend a weekend or two judging ADDYs, most often in markets similar to Sioux Falls. And every time I see work that amazes me. In places like Waterloo, Iowa and Great Falls, Montana there is outstanding work being done. And when I look at what’s being produced here in South Dakota, we are doing work that truly competes on a national level. And frankly, I think it’s a much bigger challenge to make a local Volkswagen dealer stand out than to spend millions of dollars shocking us with a “Safe Happens” campaign.
Come to think of it, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out the whole Wendy’s “finger thing” was another shocking promotion idea from Alex Bugosky! Now that would be clever marketing.
*For those too young to remember, Devo used to do a really hot rendition of the Burger King Have It Your Way jingle in their live concerts. The irony of having the Devo front man re-sing the tag was a great inside joke.
By Jim Mathis