FRANKEL AT 35: IT'S TIME TO REDEFINE CREATIVITY

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Fairfax cone, whose last name still graces the agency he helped found, once said that advertising is what you do when you can't go see somebody.

Of course he said that back in the '50s, when microchips were more likely to be a snack food and few could foresee how marketers would connect with consumers-that is, "go see somebody"-in today's interactive age.

What hasn't changed in the ensuing 40 years since that characterization is marketing's main goal: to get brands noticed, remembered and bought. But the way marketers do it surely has.

ENCOUNTERS EVERYWHERE

Brand-building isn't a spectator sport anymore. It's a contact sport. Once, advertising alone delineated a brand's value. Now it only begins to describe it. Prime time is anytime-and anywhere-a consumer encounters a brand. The point-of-sale isn't just between the grocery aisles or the covers of a magazine. It's between the ears.

We need a new definition of what creative is to reflect new ways of reaching consumers and building brands.

Creative has to include not only brand communication, but brand experiences as well. It should embrace not only compelling words and visuals, but consumer-catching ideas that add value to the brand and generate action around it. Creative needs to do more than please our sensibilities and win awards-it must reinforce the brand's image and materially augment the movement of the brand through its distribution channels and into the consumer's hands.

Under this more expansive definition, let me tell you about some of the creative work we've done at Frankel.

OLDS' BUZZ

To assist Oldsmobile with the introduction of its new Intrigue, we created a pre-launch "buzz"campaign designed to generate word-of-mouth about the car. A mobile projection vehicle in 16 markets threw larger-than-life effects and Intrigue graphics on downtown buildings and sidewalks. Outdoor displays in seven markets (including one over the entrance to New York's Holland Tunnel) have actual Intrigues suspended from them. And Sony Theaters with 1,000 screens gave away Intrigues through an in-theater promotion that ran before the feature film.

To strengthen the "human face" of the world's most popular payment card brand, we teamed Visa with Reading Is Fundamental during the Christmas holidays and created "Read Me A Story." Every Visa card purchase counted toward a million-dollar donation to RIF's volunteer literacy efforts while a 60-city bus tour featuring live storybook characters took the cause to schools, hospitals and malls. We leveraged Visa's NFL sponsorship with "Read Me A Story" halftime events at packed stadiums. Nearly four million stories were read to kids, Visa card purchase volume went up and post-promotion surveys showed Visa to be the best corporate citizen in its category.

LINE PROMO

To influence brand choice at the shelf, we created a first-ever multi-product line promotion for Kodak-an in-pack instant-win game tied to the "Jurassic Park" movie sequel, "The Lost World." For Amoco, we created a premium promotion around "Batman and Robin" featuring a valuable MagLite free with multiple purchases of premium gasoline. Both promotions resulted in measured sales increases that exceeded performance objectives.

For United Airlines, we sampled the new coach class meals (created by Parade food editor Sheila Lukins) on the ground at the Food & Wine Magazine Classic in Aspen, Colo. The business travelers attracted to this event were pleasantly surprised.

And we've brought digital marketing solutions to clients like 360 Communications and the U.S. Postal Service-from websites and kiosks to our proprietary point-of-purchase system that enables marketers to digitally create and distribute customized communication to multiple retail outlets. No ink on paper. No things to hang. Just 100% recyclable electrons.

EVERYBODY HAS A ROLE

Our creative philosophy might be considered radical by some: everybody has a role.

Clients need ideas that impact business. Ideas require content, communication and creative choices. To guide these choices, we ground our solutions in problem-solving strategies that balance the image of our brand with desired marketing outcomes. We want our many audiences to notice, understand and act because of our work. We succeed when copy and design transcend the usual while maintaining the integrity of the brand.

FROM MACS TO RETAIL OUTLETS

More important, everyone at the agency is charged with creating intelligently-not only when sitting in front of Macs but in conference rooms and at lettershops and in convention booths and at retail outlets and other places where we bring ideas to life on behalf of our clients.

Edward R. Murrow, the pioneering broadcast journalist from an earlier era, stated that "a great many people think they are thinking when they are really rearranging their prejudices."

For some, creative will always be viewed as a rectangular space with a funny headline in it.

Hey, this is 21st-century marketing. That definition of creative is obsolete.

J. Brian Robinson is senior executive VP and chief creative officer of Frankel & Co.

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