Welcome to the Rumble

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What it is

According to FCB, the Rumble is an agency-specific procedure whereby eight creatives from around the network's global offices convene in one location for five days to beat one client brief into submission. The Rumble is designed to bring productive and collaborative creatives and potentially new insights to a specific marketer and project. In the case of Taco Bell, Rumble-born ideas have already manifested themselves in actual campaigns, including the recent Big Bell Value Menu and "I'm Full" efforts.

How it Works

The FCB creatives congregate at one agency, prepared to devote five days to working nonstop on one client brief, guided by a senior creative leader. The participating client (no client, no dice is one of the rules of fight clu ... er, the Creative Rumble) along with an account director and planner, brief the assembled creatives on Monday morning. Creatives absorb the brief, ask questions and then split into teams. The teams work through ideas the remainder of Monday through Wednesday. Ideas are narrowed and distilled through the creative leadership and on Thursday, some of the best ideas are discussed in an informal presentation to the client. On Friday-the final presentation.

Present at the Taco Bell Rumble Number Three

Jeffrey Fox, chief creative officer, Taco Bell Corp., and FCB worldwide creative director Jonathan Harries. From FCB Chicago: ECD Tom O'Keefe, who will act as the leader, or creative referee; David Jones, ECD of emerging platforms; Jonathan Richman, copywriter; and Alex Zamiar, art director. From FCB California: creatives Cooper Olson and Teddy Brown. From FCBi New York: Marc Hartzman, senior copywriter, and Nat Jones, senior interactive creative. From FCB Chile: Rodrigo Gomez, ECD, and Miguel Angel Cerdeira, creative director. From South Africa: Marthinus Duckitt, ECD, FCB Impact, Johannesburg; and Glynn Venter, ECD FCB Impact, Cape Town.

The Scene

A sign in the lobby greets the creatives assembling for the first meeting, Monday at 9 a.m.: "For those about to rumble, we salute you." Physical representations of the subject of today's brief-and the week's obsession-appear on the way to the conference room, which, like the rest of the office with its alluringly industrial finishes, catwalks and surfboard-based design elements, is textbook California Agency.

The chosen teams gather in the room with planner David Hattenbach, account guys Sean Hardwick and Mateo Rando, and the Taco Bell contingent, which includes Martin Hennessey and Shawn Chapman and lead client, Fox, an Al Pacino lookalike whose trim frame throws some doubt on his assertion that he eats Bell fare four times a week. The conference room walls are plastered with assorted words and pictures that provide a snapshot of the Taco Bell brand essence and illustrate the gist of the brief and its potential media implications. And the brief? It's a doozy.

Taco Bell, best known for its product-centric, food shot-heavy TV spots, is exhorting the agency to move the marketer into new media and cultural territory by exploiting one aspect of the Taco Bell dining experience. With FCB, the fast food company has successfully made "Think Outside the Bun" the memorable center of its brand identity, and now, says Fox, it's time to "Think Outside TV."

First, though, Fox and Hattenbach roll up key Taco Bell brand values like a more easily digestible burrito for the assembled group, in a succinct overview using a mix of brand wisdom, pictures, cultural references and personal stories. "We're incredibly proud of the Taco Bell brand," says Fox, "It's one of the brands that people root for." Taco Bell is a choice brand, Fox reminds the group. Its customers-the marketer describes them as "passionate, charismatic, creative"-are opting for something outside the standard.

Fox also reminds the creative teams to think outside the dude-this is not just about 18-24 males. While creative ideas must pass through the different drummer brand filter, they must also appeal to everyone from the young male chowhound to the 43-year-old mother of four. "Everyone is a heavy fast-food user," says Fox.

The Rumble assignment goes to the heart of that different drummer positioning and takes it further, challenging the agency to bring that brand essence alive in a larger cultural context. "We don't' have the opportunity very often to do a big branded effort; we typically have to focus on new products, on food," Fox acknowledges. Then, he adds what every creative surely longs to hear: "This is an opportunity for us to say, 'We don't have to worry about selling tacos directly.' It's about building a relationship with Taco Bell that over time will sell tacos." This Rumble, says Fox is about "giving us ideas in the spaces we don't usually play in."

What happens next

After the briefing, O'Keefe crystallizes everything for the creatives, reminding everyone about core Taco Bell brand values and the project at hand. The teams are split into twos and threes and they scatter to all corners of the agency to work through the specific segments of the brief. All ideas are in play-later they'll be culled down by O'Keefe and Jones and worldwide chief Harries. But for now, creative development is "four days of working at a head-snapping pace," as O'Keefe describes it.

Wednesday sees the introduction of a team of L.A.-based comedy writers to work on one specific aspect of the campaign. On Thursday, the creatives reconvene with the client. "Even though we were technically presenting, it became a brainstorm with agency and client kicking out ideas and collaborating in a way where you forget who's who-another key component of the Rumble," says O'Keefe. A few key directions that need continued focus emerge from this briefing, which the creative teams rally around for the remainder of the exercise. The final presentation to the client takes place on Friday.

If there are any surprises in the process, it's the client's reaction to some of the work from the international teams, specifically the team from Chile. "They definitely pushed the envelope with some of their interpretations, to the point where some of us who are close to the brand got that good nervous feeling of 'This is great, but is it too far?' " says O'Keefe. On Friday's final presentation, the international team gets a big reaction complete with laughs and thunderous applause. "It's always the guys with the accents, they steal the show every time," says O'Keefe.

Why do the Rumbles work

According to O'Keefe, "They automatically start you at the best part of a pitch-the last week. You don't have time to overthink, you just jump into action, and you feed off the energy of everybody working feverishly to prove that you can do a month's worth of work in four and a half days. It's inspiring, and it reminds you of why you got into this business in the first place. Just as long as you don't have to do it every week."

The Upshot

So, did this Rumble yield any ideas that the fast food-consuming public will be seeing? O'Keefe says, while details are still being sorted, the short answer is yes. "Hopefully, by the time this article is published some of the work that came directly out of the Rumble will already have been unleashed on the public. I'd like to say more, but my staff of legal advisors have advised against it."

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