The BK King Would Be Proud of This 'Hoopla'

Crispin's Oeuvre Is a Feast For the Eyes, But Mr. Bogusky Leaves His Method To the Reader's Imagination

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What can be said about Crispin Porter & Bogusky's rags-to-Cannes Lions story that hasn't already been said in Advertising Age, The New York Times Magazine, Business Week or any of the other major news outlets that have covered the agency's ascent from Miami-based regional shop to the hottest agency in the land?

Well, are you familiar with the agency's position on dog crap in the office? Back in February 2003, Chief Operating Officer Eric Lear issued an agency-wide e-mail asking folks not to bring dogs to work, a rule prompted by a few carpet soilings. Alex Bogusky fired back with a common-sense, almost Solomonic defense of man's best friend. "I have a big problem with this idea of no dogs. ... But the point that don't bring dogs that poop is a good one. If your dog can hold it 99 percent of the time and for some reason you need to bring it in then do it. Just use your head...."

The internal exchange is one of dozens reprinted in the new book "Hoopla." Others deal with everything from the agency's growing profile to stolen coffee, reminders to always carry cellphones to Mr. Lear's choice of music -- all told, an unconventional and amusing way to narrate the agency's now-familiar story. Overcoming that familiarity is one of the challenges in making a book like this work, one that the authors are only occasionally up to.

To say the e-mail chains are the high point of "Hoopla" -- a book that's 99 percent Crispin oeuvre -- isn't a shot at the work on display. Actually, it's probably a compliment. After all, the folks at Crispin have been so good at creating attention-grabbing campaigns -- and then making sure that attention is fully grabbed -- that so much of the work is completely absorbed into culture. Which is kind of the point of creating ads in the first place. With Crispin, there's no good work that's been undersold or underpopularized, so apocrypha like those e-mails is what you're left with.

That popularity doesn't make the tough task of capturing a brilliant ad agency's hoopla in the often-petrifying form of coffee-table book any easier. The agency, nevertheless, makes a good go of it, successfully capturing its media-neutral point of view.

Not that you'll hear Crispin put it that way. Smartly, Mr. Bogusky is often resistant to going too deeply into the agency's processes. "Hoopla" offers no exception. The little exposition that is here lies in a hot-pink page of black-type—a nearly illegible combination that I'd like to believe is a deliberate attempt to screw with the reader looking for things like "best practices."

The work -- familiar campaigns for Burger King, Volkswagen, Molson, Truth -- fares better and is displayed lovingly and doesn't suffer much in translation from TV, the web, and package design to this stodgy medium. Thankfully, the best Crispin ideas are designed to live multimedia lives. Even a strong TV program works well in other channels, and many of them look good in a tome like this one.

So, yeah, even in an oversized book with a jacket of black sandpaper, the King is still pretty sexy.
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