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August 16, 2007: CP+B Pushes the Creative Envelope

About the Agency

This Miami-based agency is best known for work like the Subservient Chicken; learn about CP+B's philosophy and meet its superstars.

"The future of advertising is that there isn't any."

That's quite an audacious statement, but even more eyebrow-raising when you learn it comes from the mouth of Jeff Hicks, CEO of Miami-based Crispin Porter + Bogusky (CP+B).

Those remarks were just a few snippets of wisdom offered by Hicks in Chicago at last October's Forrester's Consumer Forum.

But since the company's inception in 1965 (started by Sam Crispin; his name is still on the door even though he departed in 1991 and his son, Charles, sold out in 1993), and especially in the past few years as CP+B has consistently rolled out a number of award-winning campaigns that have spanned a wide variety of media platforms, shaking things up has become a key part of the creative mix.

The full-service ad agency now has annual revenues of more than $1 billion and more than 600 employees in Miami, Boulder, CO and Venice Beach, CA. Services include creative, media, research, planning and print/broadcast production. Big name clients include Burger King, Coca-Cola, Sprite, American Express, Haggar, Geek Squad, Nike, American Legacy Foundation and Volkswagen. 

CP+B's philosophy, noted Hicks, "is turning great marketing into great results for clients."

Hicks said the role of advertising is to push consumers towards products.

"At the center is the product. Advertising is at the periphery, with packaging and customer relationship management and distribution as the layers between it and the product. Our job is not to interrupt but to create content that's entertaining."

Hicks added that marketers should get comfortable with consumers messing with their brand.

"The best marketers are realizing this is a foregone conclusion. We encourage our clients to participate."

Many of CP+B's clients would add that the content has also contributed to the bottom line.

Some innovative campaigns

Client: Burger King
Media: Internet/interactive/integrated

Campaign: "Subservient Chicken"

The goal was to introduce the new 'Tendercrisp Chicken Sandwich' to Burger King's target market -- males 18 to 34 -- and drive traffic into stores while reinforcing the overall "Have It Your Way" brand positioning. CP+B created a website so consumers could interact with the product and overall brand. At the site, visitors entered what seemed to be a cheaply decorated living room. A chicken, the size of a grown man, dressed in Victorian-era lingerie, stood ready, waiting for commands from viewers to tell it what to do: sit, stand, lie down, dance, et cetera. A TV campaign supported the site.

CP+B launched a beta website by emailing the URL to a small group of friends of the agency. Within 24 hours there were more than 193,000 unique visitors and more than 8.2 million hits, with each visitor averaging seven minutes on the site. Two weeks after the launch, there were more than 100 million, 7 million broadcast impressions, 30,000+ number of results from a Google search of 'Subservient Chicken,' 63 broadcast segments and 20 print/online articles. To date, the site has had more than 459 million hits and over 19 million unique visitors.

Client: Method
Media: Internet/interactive/integrated
"Come Clean"

CP+B created the "Come Clean" viral campaign for Method's 'Holiday Cleaning Kit.' The website lets people start the New Year fresh by allowing them to confess (come clean) about anything they may have done during the past year that they wish they hadn't. Once on the site, they have the option of making their own confession or listening to someone else's. A woman with a pleasing voice reads the person's confession, and then washes her hands, washing away whatever the person has done wrong. The viewer can also view and buy the Holiday Cleaning Kit on the site. The campaign won this year's Interactive Grand Prix at Cannes, France.

CLIENT: Volkswagen
Media: Internet/interactive/integrated
"Project Fast"

For the launch of the fifth-generation Volkswagen MK V, CP+B focused its efforts on the GTI enthusiast base: young, mostly male "tuners" who had been with the brand for years. Prior to the launch of the GTI, the agency sent a series of emails to a few thousand loyal enthusiasts. The emails directed users to At the site, users were asked to answer questions about things like the shape, size and color of their "Fast," the idea being that from these comments, VW would create the perfect incarnation of "Fast."

The agency sent the final email blast introducing the VW "Fast" to coincide with the launch of the car. The "Fast" took the form of a small black totem with rabbit-like features (a nod to the original Rabbit GTI) and a mischievous red smile (suggesting the signature red grill stripe of the GTI). Then VW and CP+B invited enthusiasts to "make friends with your Fast."

In addition to this email, a television campaign depicting the "Fast" as the GTI driver's maniacal alter ego began running. "Fast" debuted at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino. CP+B also allied with Vice Magazine's guerrilla marketing team to strategically place 50 limited edition "Fast" totems in high-end boutiques and specialty stores. Each totem sat on a platform with an engraved plaque that read, "Inside most, but not all of us, there is a Fast. We believe it may look something like this. Rub it for good luck."

In dealerships, GTI brochures include a "Fast"-compatibility quiz. Brochures also include a 16-minute interactive DVD in which a German engineer discusses tongue-in-cheek Project "Fast" research and shows the accompanying research techniques and how they were performed. In terms of the cars, about 17,000 vinyl "Fasts" were produced as a standard feature for the GTI. Each GTI comes with a "Fast," a "Fast" care and feeding manual and four interchangeable tails.

The launch of the GTI MK V was one of Volkswagen's best ever: CP+B said sales exceeded expectations by 80 percent.

Agency stars

Four CP+B principals have played an integral role in all this creativity and growth. Some snapshots:

Chuck Porter

Porter joined the Crispin agency in 1988 as creative director and partner after a long career as an award-winning freelance copywriter. The agency was renamed Crispin & Porter and within three years, it doubled in size, was profiled in Communications Arts, and was named as one of the top 15 creative shops in the country.

Porter grew up in Minneapolis and graduated from the journalism school at the University of Minnesota. He's on the board of directors and is the chairman of the Creative Committee, American Association of Advertising Agencies.

Alex Bogusky
Chief Creative Officer

Bogusky started at what was then Crispin and Porter Advertising in 1989 as an art director. He became creative director of the agency five years later and was named a partner in 1997. Bogusky has been profiled and his work featured in a number of business publications and newspapers, some of which have included The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Newsweek, Wired, and Advertising Age, as well as on national television and radio. In 2002, Bogusky was inducted into the American Advertising Federation's Hall of Achievement.

Jeff Hicks

Hicks joined CP+B as president in 1997 and became CEO in 2004. During his time at CP+B, the agency has grown from $40 million to over $1 billion in annual billing. Prior to CP+B, Hicks was with Leo Burnett for 10 years, where he worked in the United States and Latin America. In 1994, at the age of 29, he became one of the youngest vice presidents in Leo Burnett history. He received his MBA from Harvard Business School and his BA from Amherst College.

Jeff Steinhour
Partner/Director of Content Management

Steinhour manages a significant portion of the agency's key clientele and has built and oversees a department of more than 100 content management personnel. He joined the agency in 1992 after beginning his career with two regional shops in Florida. After four years as an account supervisor at CP+B, he was named director of account management in 1995 and became a partner in 1997.

Maintaining that "edge"

Jeff Benjamin, vice president/interactive creative director, spoke of the agency's "media agnostic" philosophy.

"It doesn't matter what medium a great idea lives in," Benjamin said, "so when we're initially thinking about campaigns, we aren't really thinking about TV scripts or print ads. It's about generating great ideas. We find the medium they live in later."

Benjamin added that interactive campaigns, for instance, aren't treated as a specialized medium that only a few people are capable of grasping and coming up with ideas for.

"It's just another ad medium that needs great ideas. So at CP+B, everyone in the creative department is responsible for the interactive work that's done. This approach has given way to some of the real fresh thinking we have seen in the work."

Benjamin said clients have become more excited about interactive campaigns and are finally starting to see the promise of the internet and how powerful an advertising medium it is. 

"This trust and excitement will allow for better and more innovative work and we're going to begin to see interactive take new shapes coming out of the monitor and into other parts of our lives."

Neal Leavitt is president of Fallbrook, CA-based Leavitt Communications, an international marketing communications company with affiliates in Brazil, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India and the United Kingdom.

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