Tell Clients to Stick It, Then Watch as New Biz Floods In

Cramer-Krasselt Picks Up Three Sizable Accounts, Most Recently Porsche, After Messy Split With CareerBuilder

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Who knew publicly telling a client to perform an anatomically impossible act on your way out the door could be so good for business?
Cramer-Krasselt CEO Peter Krivkovich did precisely that to CareerBuilder after being told the No. 1 jobs site was putting its account in review following a poor performance in the USA Today Super Bowl Ad Meter poll.

"There are a few times in your life when you have to tell someone to fuck off and mean it," Mr. Krivkovich said in an interview shortly after the memo leaked.

At the time, many agency and marketing executives thought Mr. Krivkovich's public outburst would make a bad impression on prospective clients who might be reluctant to sign up a potentially volatile partner that might embarrass them when the relationship eventually deteriorated.

Six months later, it's clear they were wrong.

Getting 'conviction and passion'
"If anything, it was a positive," said David Pryor, VP-marketing at Porsche Cars North America, which awarded C-K its creative and media accounts last week. "I had a lot of respect for them standing behind their work and conviction. At Porsche, we want an agency that has conviction and passion."

The Porsche triumph gives C-K three sizable wins since the CareerBuilder split; heartburn drug Zantac and Bissell vacuums were the others. Its fall win of the consolidated Corona beer account, which it had handled in part since 1993, will boost revenue this year. And things could get better yet: C-K is one of five finalists in the ongoing review for shoemaker New Balance's $25 million business.

"At the time, I thought there might be some [backlash]," Mr. Krivkovich confessed in an interview last week. "But the result has been that [potential clients] know that we believe what we say and that it's not just what we think they want to hear."

In all, Mr. Krivkovich projects that the agency's revenue will be up between 15% and 22% this year. That follows a record 22.3% growth in revenue to $118 million last year, according to Advertising Age's agency report.

Past successes
The public nature of the split also served to remind marketers that C-K was the force behind CareerBuilder's popular "Office Monkeys" campaign, and it flashed the spotlight on the shop at a time when it was hitting its stride creatively.

The agency's work on the sleep aid Rozerem, featuring Abe Lincoln, a deep-sea diver and a talking beaver as dreams that miss an insomniac, has penetrated popular culture, being featured in episodes of "The Sopranos" and "The Simpsons," and robust sales for Corona are increasingly attributed to the brand's consistent, vacation-in-a-bottle positioning and ads.

"It put a spotlight on a campaign a lot of people liked, and it put a spotlight on the agency that did it," said veteran agency search consultant David Beals.

Of course, CareerBuilder and C-K killed the chimp campaign before this year's Super Bowl and replaced it with the hectic and cluttered "Office Jungle" spots, which didn't score nearly as well with critics or consumers.

Poll problem
C-K resigned the business as soon as CareerBuilder cited the weaker Super Bowl ads as grounds for calling an agency review, and Mr. Krivkovich said he was told that the unscientific Ad Meter poll was the sole reason for the decision.

CareerBuilder -- silent at first -- has since said that there was more to its decision to put the account in review than a middling performance in the Ad Meter poll, but Mr. Krivkovich's version of the events seems to have been the one that's stuck in the market's mind. "There's a sense that they did great work and got arbitrarily dumped," Mr. Beals said.

While there's been no business-loss fallout from the CareerBuilder breakup, comments in the media by Mr. Krivkovich may have played a role in the only bump the shop has suffered since that affair: its split with Effen Vodka, which shifted creative duties to Euro RSCG, Chicago, in July.

Executives at Effen, one of C-K's smallest accounts, with only $312,000 in measured-media spending during 2006, were said to be rankled by an interview Mr. Krivkovich, a vodka collector, gave to Crain's Chicago Business' lifestyle section for a story about high-end vodkas. In the story, he mentioned that he buys Effen but also some of its pricier rivals such as Grey Goose and Belvedere. He further questioned whether ever-more-expensive super-premium vodkas were worth the money.

"Frankly, there's a level at which the nuances stop," Mr. Krivkovich told the publication. "There's an awful lot of marketing attached to brands that overpowers the true value of the product."

Effen typically sells for between $25 and $30 per standard bottle.
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