Mr. Keel, 43, vividly remembers conducting the 1986 positioning session in which Bill Backer of Backer Spielvogel Bates fame conceived the "smart" line for user-friendly electronics products with features consumers wanted. For TV sets, those features included an automatic sound dampening device for too-loud commercials.
The position proved a hit. Research showed "tremendous improvement in key brand image areas," Mr. Keel says. But it was a commercial from new agency Fallon McElligott that sold another one of those Magnavox features, a remote control finder, along with a bunch of 27-inch TVs.
"We sold out [of the model with the remote finder]. That's a wonderful situation to be in," says Mr. Keel.
The commercial, selected as one of the Ad Age Best for 1994, shows via hidden camera how the TV remote can be lost, including the "sucking sofa theory" and the "poltergeist theory." But when the TV owner pushes a button on his Magnavox, the remote's beeper tells him Big Foot, hiding behind the curtains, has it. He meekly turns it over.
Fallon was brought aboard in July 1994, and the agency credits Mr. Keel with enabling it to get the Big Foot spot on the air by October, in time for that key fourth-quarter sales period.
Mr. Keel believes research is a useful aid in judgment but thinks his own creative background helps as well. He spent his first years in the business "influencing copy" and introducing carcare products for Du Pont Co., then logged some small-agency time before joining Philips.
"I probably drive the creative guys nuts," he admits. "After the strategy is hammered out, I start thinking creatively about how to express it. It helps me judge."