KETCHUM BOMBS, BUT AT LEAST CLIENT WON'T SEEK NEW SHOP

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Risky strategy. Poor overall execution. A single flash of brilliance.

Ordinarily, that is a prescription for failure. But, for reasons we'll get into later, we can't quite predict that the unusual campaign from Ketchum Advertising for Ketchum Advertising will fall entirely on its face. For now let's just say that this advertising is unlikely to turn the agency's advertising fortunes around.

There are reasons, of course, that agencies seldom create campaigns for themselves. For starters there are the clients who perpetually feel underserviced and are said to bristle at precious agency talent being exploited, redirected and generally misappropriated for new-business promotion while old business pays the bills.

And the better the advertising the agency creates for itself, the greater the potential backlash. This could certainly happen with the best of the six Ketchum 10-second spots, which opens with a reverse-type title card:

"Karl Marx said advertising people are just the maggots that feed off the bloated corpse of capitalism." Then the next card and the payoff: "Let's do lunch. Ketchum Advertising."

That is a hilarious and brilliant twist. No doubt some Ketchum client will see it and say, "Why can't they do work like that for us?"

The second reason agencies don't advertise a lot is that advertising is expensive. It is funny how the people who routinely advise their clients to think of media bills as an investment, vs. an expenditure, suddenly see things differently when the investment reduces the agency bottom line. Funny, too, that the clients' production budgets are in the big dollars, but this campaign was cobbled together for about $7.95.

Thirdly, there's the question of efficiency. In any given year, there are limited accounts in limited categories for any reasonably well-stacked agency to pitch, so agencies prefer to target self-promotion resources at particular prospects. A broadcast campaign therefore suggests an extremely thin client roster and a certain desperation.

Finally, there is the obvious: If the advertising is bad, then it is bad advertising. And in this case, the Karl Marx gag excepted, the copy speaks for itself:

"They say creativity is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration," says the setup. "Geez, it's like a sauna in here."

"Great advertising always has one eye toward the latest technology," begins another, which runs with no sound track whatsoever. "Notice, for example, how ineffective your mute button is right now."

"If you're still awake at this hour, you should change your coffee," starts a third. "Or your ad agency."

The very best thing you can say about those ostensibly witty observations is that they aren't especially. The ads aren't necessarily dreadful, but if they appear at the risk of irritating the present clientele, they offer no corresponding opportunity to impress the daylights out of new-business prospects.

And if this were any other week, we would have to presume the result would be a resounding failure. However, as we've seen, risky strategies poorly executed-"genocidal racism"?!-sometimes can pay off big. And on that subject, just one final thought: While O.J. Simpson has been found innocent in the eyes of the law, he still must answer to a higher authority.

We refer, of course, to the Hertz Corp.

You can e-mail Bob Garfield at EFPB35A@prodigy.com. His reviews are also available via Ad Age/Creativity Online on eWorld and the Web at http://www.adage.com.

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