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M+V Event Features Subservient Chicken, a Bear and Tears From the Stage

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LOS ANGELES ( -- Seattle's Rainier Brewing Co., which found a tape of long-lost beer commercials and developed them into a marketing program that turned around a long-declining brand, has won the grand prize in the first annual ANA/AICP Battle of the Brands.
Photo: Gilles Mingasson
On hand to greet Battle of the Brands attendees was Subservient Chicken herself. Ms. Chicken represented Burger King in the competition.
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Yesterday's live contest, done in the style of American Idol, was the newest addition to Advertising Age's annual Madison + Vine conference, held at the Beverly Hills Hotel in Los Angeles.

Four finalists were selected from branded content submitted by dozens of advertisers, said Matthew Miller, president-CEO of the Association of Independent Commercial Producers. Along with the AICP, the Association of National Advertisers also produced the event.

Each of the four finalists presented a case for strategy, creativity, production ingenuity and business performance before four judges. Some 200 marketers and Hollywood executives in the audience used handheld computers to vote in each category. The grand-prize winner was selected based on a compilation of voting scores in the four categories.

Burger King
Contestant Burger King's Subservient Chicken campaign for its TenderCrisp Chicken, from MDC Partners' Crispin Porter & Bogusky and production company Barbarian Group,

Subservient Chicken generated 52 million hits during its first week online.
discussed the creation of the chicken footage, done inexpensively at the apartment of a friend of one the agency executives. In an effort to make the eventual Web site appear to consumers to have "live" responses to commands for the subservient chicken to dance or lie down, an actor dressed as a chicken performed the same move in a number of different styles. Results included 52 million hits in its first week, extensive media pickup and an increase of 38% in chicken sandwich sales nationally.

Most judges praised the concept, but one, Geoffrey Front, chief marketing officer for Motorola, noted the campaign's strength because people invited it into their lives. Another judge, John Costello, executive vice president of merchandising and marketing for Home Depot, said the challenge was to keep the chicken "fresh."

Sega's Beta-7
Sega's Beta-7 integrated campaign from independent

Beta-7, the hoax site promoting Sega produts.
Wieden & Kennedy and production company Chelsea Pictures detailed a fourth-month viral campaign that created an elaborate web of three Web sites, live stunts, e-mail and blogs based on the supposed problems of a young video-game tester. Included in the hoax were letters sent by Sega lawyers to a number of consumers who had received a faux unauthorized copy of the game.

Judges praised the project for its creation of a drama -- and as Mr. Frost put it, as a "multidimensional mind screwer" -- but Mr. Costello noted the campaign treaded a fine line between fiction and reality.

ESPN and Miller Lite
The third contestant tugged at the audience's heartstrings. Court Crandall, creative partner at independent

ESPN's bit brought tears to the eyes of a judge.
agency Ground Zero, discussed the ESPN Shorts for Sears and Miller Lite, a series of 90-second mini-films intended as content and not as commercials. One detailed the story of a man who dies before the Boston Red Sox won their most recent World Series. The films, which were presented as content on ESPN's flagship SportsCenter program, had its sponsors playing only a supporting role. Mr. Crandall took to the stage to describe how he cried since his childhood in Boston each time the Sox lost, but how he met a man on a plane who said his father had died just before the final game of the World Series. Judge Katie Lacey, vice president for colas and media at Pepsi-Cola North America, acknowledged the presentation brought tears to her eyes. But she added: "The big question is, I don't know who I'm evaluating in this? How Miller performed or how ESPN performed? I didn't see as much in it for Miller. It was great for ESPN."

Rainier Brewing Company
But the house was brought down by the tale of Rainier Brewing Co. WPP Group's Cole & Weber/Red Cell, Seattle,

Rainier's 'R' logo is a symbol of the city of Seattle.
and production company Maidenhead were charged by Neal Stewart, brand director for Pabst Brewing Co. to come up with a way of revitalizing a 130-year-old brand in Seattle. Its trademark red neon "R" is as much a symbol of the city as the Needle and once had a market share at 48% in the 1970s. A victim of the microbrewery craze, Rainier was in steep decline. But the Cole & Weber/Red Cell marketing effort, produced for less than $500,000, turned the brand around, with executives now claiming that it is growing in its market at a faster rate than the major breweries.

Creative included a TV show that garnered a 0.6 rating despite its showing at 1 a.m. Sunday. In a lucky coincidence, a bear in a local park selected Rainier to drink as it binged on campers' food, creating a big media boost for the brand, and was included in Rainier's marketing. In fact, Rainier's own version of the bear, an actor in a cheap bear suit, appeared on stage as did another Rainier character, Ranger Heartfelt. Judge Mr. Frost called the campaign's "cheesy, low-budget anti-establishment" production "great."

The Rainier campaign won in voting in three of the four categories, strategy, production ingenuity and business performance. Subservient Chicken won in the creativity vote.

The AICP's Mr. Miller said all of the finalists and the winner had campaigns based on original content, and not product placement or other methods of squeezing a marketer's brand into an already produced piece of content.

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