05 July 2010

Advertising Whiz Bogusky takes his Leave

The Globe and Mail

Alex Bogusky wanted to ruin things for every other advertising agency.

The wildly influential creative, who helped shape agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky and the rest of the industry, has arguably done just that. On Thursday Mr. Bogusky announced he was leaving advertising.

“I want people to say ‘then CP+B came along and changed things and now nobody does it that old way any more.’ I want to be the agency that ruined it for every other agency in the world,” Mr. Bogusky wrote in an internal e-mail to CP+B employees in 2002. “… I’m afraid to be mediocre.”

Under his creative direction, the team at CP+B created such campaigns as the “Subservient Chicken,” a website that underscored Burger King’s promise to deliver chicken “any way you like it” by showing a man in a chicken suit who would follow any visitor’s commands, typed into a box on the screen. The site generated huge traffic and helped kick off the trend of viral marketing.

Mr. Bogusky relinquished his creative duties at the agency two years ago when he became co-chairman with Chuck Porter. In January, he left CP+B to join its Toronto-based parent company, MDC Partners Inc. as “Chief Creative Insurgent”. On Thursday, MDC announced Mr. Bogusky had chosen to leave after seven months in the position, to work on other projects outside the industry.

“We have enjoyed a long and tremendously productive partnership over the past ten years and have the utmost respect and admiration for Alex,” the company wrote in a statement.

“He’s an immense talent and he leaves a huge legacy,” said Andy Macaulay, chairman of the Toronto-based agency Zig, which is also part of the MDC network.

Under Mr. Bogusky’s creative direction, CP+B was noted for a 2002 Mini Cooper campaign that sought to introduce the European car to the American market – without the aid of a big TV buy. In the bigger-better car era, the agency mounted the tiny cars on top of SUVs and drove them around 22 cities across the U.S. The little car towered above the sport utility, and along with a number of other stunts, raked in publicity for the Mini.

CP+B became known for taking large international brands and giving them bold campaigns, said Andrea Southcott, president of ad agency TBWA\Vancouver. According to the book Hoopla, about CP+B, Mr. Bogusky encouraged his staff to ask the following question: “If there were no TV and no magazines, how would we make this brand famous?” Ms. Southcott said that thinking represents a shift in the industry over the past 10 to 15 years..

The Subservient Chicken website represented another trend CP+B helped to define.

“It shook the industry,” Mr. Macaulay said. “It showed where we were headed digitally before an awful lot of people were there … Their view was always, if the idea is great enough, in a world that is intensely connected through the Internet and social media, the idea will run wild through the population without us having to pay for media.”

On a conference call in February, MDC chief executive officer Miles Nadal told analysts that Mr. Bogusky “really is the Steve Jobs of the advertising business.” Projecting the image of a creative genius was undeniably good for business; as news of Mr. Bogusky’s departure circulated, some observers questioned whether the agency would function as well without him.

But Mr. Macaulay pointed to the talent of other creatives at the agency, many of whom Mr. Bogusky helped to mentor. Last week at the Cannes International Lions Advertising Festival, CP+B was named Interactive Agency of the Year, for work done after Mr. Bogusky handed the creative direction over to Andrew Keller and Rob Reilly.

“The agency he built and the work they created really got people to think about things in bold ways,” Ms. Southcott said. “That’s a place where everyone is going now … You can’t execute in a routine way any more. You have to find a sharp way to engage.”

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