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Scott McKay is a Toronto strategist, writer, creative director, patient manager, half-baked photographer and forcibly retired playwright.

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    "They had their cynical code worked out. The public are swine; advertising is the rattling of a stick inside a swill-bucket."

          – George Orwell






    "Advertising – a judicious mix of flattery and threats."

          – Northrop Frye






    "Chess is as an elaborate a waste of time as has ever been devised outside an advertising agency."

          – Raymond Chandler


    « can your voice be better? you sure as hell better try | Main | talking to the people we really work for »

    schadenfreude for Ozymandias, king of kings

    As much as I'm reluctant to comment on other agencies, this article by Seth Stevenson in Slate about the decline of Crispin Porter + Bogusky is worth your time, if only to remind you of the Golden Age of advertising – Subservient Chicken, The King, Peter Stormare acting weird around Volkswagens – that will soon only be a distant memory on Youtube, alas... sniff...


    Pointing at the mighty as they lay fallen is the whole point of this, I suppose. (Hell, I was impressed that I was able to spell "schadenfreude" without looking it up.) Now that Burger King is on its way to number three in the market, VW has moved on, and Mr. Bogusky is doing special projects in his backyard, it feel very much like it's time to point out that the emperor's suit was remarkably skintight and transparent...

    But let's be fair. It's possible that BK's sales *may* have been affected by a little thing known as the Economic Situation, as we so euphemistically call it for our clients. And they've had some leadership changes. Can you blame everything on their marketing?

    Now, I was never a fan of their "weird for the sake of being weird" approach. Admittedly it was ground-breaking stuff when it launched, but to me it felt like work done to impress other ad weasels and show judges. If that was all CP+B had been capable of, then I'd be applauding with Mr. Kane myself.

    But there was another side to Ozymandias, one that actually made me believe the hype. 

    The Whopper Freakout campaign showed real brilliance. To persuade a client to address a perceived weakness by coming at it head on at a hundred miles an hour truly was remarkably brave, innovative and absolutely turned weakness into strength. It's simple stuff, but powerful.

    Can you think of a better way to honestly show how passionate people are about your product? (I'm aware that the honesty came at the cost of a lie. That's how we roll.)

    These guys had something magic. I'm sorry they seem to have frittered it away. 

    One more thing: the Deutsch VW Passat ad with the Darth Vader kid and the remote ignition that the Slate writer likes so much? I don't get it. Isn't it a better ad for remote ignition, or George Lucas, than it is for Passat? Has our advertising really not progressed past the point where having your audience think, "Aw, that brand seems to vaguely understand me by exploiting the fact that I have kids" is counted as success? 

    At least CP+B tried.

    Maybe Ozymandias was the wrong literary reference. Maybe I should have written about Icarus.

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