Wanted: More Passion Brands

Once It Was Enough to Be Passionate Only About the Work. Not Anymore

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Millie Olson Millie Olson
As a young copywriter I had to muster enthusiasm for Artificially Flavored Blueberry Muffin Mix with Real Wild Maine Blueberries Inside, Cheese Slices with More Real Cheese (huh?) and Minute Gourmet, a medley of ingredients that came in a bag resembling the one you find in your airline seat pocket.

I learned to focus my passion on making good ads. The products advertised were less important, as long as they did no harm.

That's all changed.

I blame it on Kashi, whose agency we've been for five years now.

For most of Amazon Advertising's 12 years we've focused on finding gutsy clients with interesting marketing challenges and budgets to match. I mean, there are things we'd never advertise, like cigarettes and Ripple and stretch-mark cream.

Kashi brought us something more. Instead of crowing about increases in household penetration, they celebrate the number of households introduced to healthy living.

Once that might have raised a cynical eyebrow or two. But they walk the talk. They're the Pied Pipers of healthy. They make it a "wanna do," not a "gotta do." We summed it up as "seven whole grains on a mission." And gradually realized we'd signed up for the mission as well.

No more sugar-coated cereals for our families and friends. Soon the office pantry was packed floor to ceiling with seven-whole-grain cereals, granolas, snack bars and frozen entrees, which we distributed far and wide.

We drank the Kool-Aid -- or maybe the spring water.

Not only did it make our employees feel proud to work at Amazon, it helped us attract new ones. And it began to affect new business.

A while ago, a well-known cookie company asked us to participate in a pitch. It would be a fun account, and a visible one.

One of our creative teams poked around the company's website and discovered it was touting one of its pastries as a healthy breakfast. How can we work for a client who would misrepresent itself this way, the creative team asked? Ultimately, we bowed out. It didn't fit our growing desire to work for "passion brands."

Whew, it does narrow the prospect list. Out with our unequivocal embrace of the Fortune 500. No lusting after big car companies (unless they're rolling out fleets of hybrids). No sugary soft drinks, no overly processed foods. You know, all those companies with the big budgets. Maybe we won't burst out of our office space so fast after all.

Reminds me of a saying by one of my first creative directors, Keith Reinhart: "A principle isn't a principle unless it costs you."

Is this any way to grow an agency? Well, it might be.

We did get hired by Peet's, whose coffees inspire such passion that 200,000 "Peetniks" actually have it delivered to them all over the world, despite the ubiquity of you-know-who. And we've been entrusted with advertising the wines of Robert Mondavi, the man most responsible for bringing the civilizing effects of good wine to the American dinner table. Now there's a mission I can sign up for.

No Super Bowl commercials here. But the joy is, you're not making anything up. It all comes straight out of the client's DNA. And the passion comes straight from our hearts.
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