AGENCY OF THE YEAR: Crispin Porter + Bogusky

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Looking back at the history of the agency, there's a nice symmetry to the circumstances of Crispin Porter + Bogusky's latest giant leap to creative superstardom. After all, Miami's CP+B was built on Florida business before the partners vowed to take it national. That a locally based client, and a seemingly problematic one, would propel CP+B into virtually its own category seems kind of fitting (OK, it's a Florida client only in the headquarters sense, but still).

Burger King "Wake Up with the King"
And Burger King did put CP+B over the top for our agency of the year purposes and for most everyone in the business who will readily point to the agency as perhaps the leading creative force in advertising now. After effectively being made with the American Legacy Truth work -- the campaign that most would identify as the agency's national recognition tipping point -- and changing the game with its work for Mini, Ikea and Molson, naysayers still questioned the agency's wherewithal in the wider world of big ticket national advertisers. The $335 million Burger King win and the resulting work went way above the call of duty in silencing the doubtful. And the agency still managed to crank out innovative work for American Legacy, Molson, Borders, Method, Virgin Atlantic, Mini, Giro and Ikea (the latter's departure from the agency just before press time, marked the year's significant account loss).

The shop produced its share of fantastic commercials, certainly. For Burger King alone, CP+B turned out several of the year's highlights, with the Subservient Chicken spots "Vest" and "Pencil"; "Blingo," for the new 99 cent menu; the stylish salad shiller "Ugoff"; and, of course, the brilliant "Wake Up with the King," which demonstrated both classic product sell and post modern culture groove in a delightfully weird, yet gastric juice-stirring sensation. But when it came to assessing the work, the spots -- and the traditional print ads -- were truly just a portion of the notable, agency of the year-winning work, an exceptionally rare (arguably unique) claim. Much of CP+B's creative footprint this year was defined by innovative and integrated campaigns like "Subservient Chicken," "Chicken Fight," and Mini's "Men of Metal," which enticed a particular set of potential fast food and car consumers to go further than giggle at a 30-second commercial and to spend quality time with the brand.

Burger King "Ugoff"
The latter foray into interactive fiction featured one Dr. Colin Mayhew and an experiment with Mini-derived robots and included elaborate websites supporting the myth and a book distributed through stores, magazines, car shows and dealerships. Other work for Mini was spread across innovative print, print-related and outdoor executions, like a fake milk carton/excuse for motoring insert and filling station-top posters. The BK "Ugoff" campaign included not only the Roman Coppola-directed TV spots, but also a web component and live appearances, and the launch of a new Angus Beef burger saw the introduction of the character Dr. Angus, complete with website and actual diet and lifestyle book. BK work also extended into packaging design.

For Molson, the agency introduced "fake back covers," whereby a male consumer's meathead titles like FHM can be flipped when the occasion demands to display archly female-appeasing titles like Groom and Animal Rescuer.

Rarely did the agency put a foot wrong in terms of integrity of voice, relevance, or straight up fun. Most recently, the agency created a nifty viral effort for Borders (previously handled out of the agency's L.A. outpost), the Giftmixer 3000. An array of challenging new work is in progress, including a TV show, a feature film, and a doll (see Creativity, November, 2004). The year's work demonstrated nicely why CP+B has become synonymous with the idea-first, targeted, channel-promiscuous marketing approach that's being touted with various degrees of sincerity far and wide, and why "Give me a Crispin" must surely be the monotonous chorus ringing in review consultants' ears from coast to coast.

There was, of course, other standout work from stalwarts like Wieden + Kennedy and TBWA. W+K continued its pioneering ways with Nike "Battlegrounds" and innovative work like the Sharp "More to See" effort out of the now Ty-less New York office, in addition to the typically strong Nike commercials. TBWA anted up with great work for Fox Sports and adidas ("Plastic Ball" and the recent "Unstoppable" are highlights), with New York kicking in some notable campaigns, including new Skittles efforts (and, of course, Nextel "Dance Party" is one of the year's gems).

TBS "Ink"
Publicis, under the stewardship of David Droga is already starting to reflect the huge creative changes the determined Worldwide CCO has affected across that network. New work for Heineken, TBS and T-mobile has augured well and meant that this agency's progress over the next year will be hotly anticipated. The same can be said for BBDO/New York, which put its metaphorical balls out with the industry's biggest creative shift. With the formidable leadership team of Andrew Robertson and Dave Lubars and content written into the job mandate of new hires like ECD Jimmy Smith, it should be a breeding ground for interesting new work. The question is, how long will it take to get that work off the ground.

Our very special runner-up citation this year though, is reserved for Fallon. Again, 2005 will be a crunch year for the shop as new CD Paul Silburn makes the gigantic London- Minneapolis leap to fill Lubars' position. But the past year's work has been cause for recognition. From Minneapolis, new iterations of Citi "Identity Theft," a beautiful United campaign and work for Lee, including a nice piece of Buddy Lee branded entertainment stood out. But perhaps most notable was the showing from Fallon/New York, an agency that has gone from virtually shut a few years back, to producing some of the smartest work in the industry now -- from Starbucks "Glen" -- to several series of Virgin Mobile work, each better than the last, to the election-themed Time "Pendulum" outdoor blockbuster. We look forward to where Merkin, Silburn et al go from here.

(This article appears in the December 2004 issue of Creativity. For more about our agency of the year, including an interview with Alex Bogusky and profiles of the agency's key players, see the print edition.)
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