Episode 59: Alex Bogusky of Crispin, Porter + Bogusky on Culture Jamming, Hermie the Pygmy Elephant and Telling the Subservient Chicken to Go "Pluck" Himself
Hear Alex deny awareness about the YouTube satires that poke fun of him. (I don't believe it for a second!) He gives opinions about "the death of TV" and how to use social media. He waxes poetic about the importance of account people in making campaigns pay off and how to hire and care for people with "imagination."
He talks about the lure of P.T. Barnum's marketing strategies and how a stuffed, pygmy elephant became the company's mascot. And Suz must know...what is the ratio of smutty requests (I know you are thinking of a few ideas right now) for the Subservient Chicken vs. sweet requests like "River Dance" or "flap your wings?" Find out on the show and get the Easter Egg command to make something unusual get revealed in the Chicken clip on my blog at http://DishyMix.com.
After being on the cover of Fast Company, all DishyMix listeners wanted to know about the Microsoft account status. But listeners went beyond asking questions about making Microsoft cool and gave their opinions about how to manage the opportunity - now that CP+B has a tidy $300 million to work with... Find out what everyone is asking -- and what Alex plans to do to "coolify Microsoft."
This is a relaxed yet insightful interview with a man who has done as much to change the face of advertising as those Mad Men from the '60s. And he's giving away CP+B swag to DishyMix listeners. Do you want a Hoopla bike shirt? Listen in to hear how you can get the goods.
Susan Bratton: Welcome to Dishy Mix. I'm you're host Susan Bratton. And on today's show you're going to meet Alex Bogusky. Alex is co-chairman of an agency called Crispin Porter + Bogusky or plus Bogusky if you look at it literally. And on today's show we're going to talk about lots of things including YouTube satyrs, mantrippy, the importance of account people, making Microsoft cool, PR stunts as branding, and hopefully a little fun time. Everything on two wheels.
Alex Bogusky: Well, I learned something that the cruelest thing you can do to people is give them a choice. I thought it would be so nice but it made people miserable. When we assign an account person I pretty much know the level of the work that we're going to get, and it wouldn't matter how talented the creative person is. If that account person isn't as talented or more talented, you're not going to see the work ultimately being great. What we look for is really thinking that it's more akin to culture jamming and less like advertising in the advertising craft. The biggest mistake people will make when they come here, is they'll try to do what they think we've done before, or what they think we like because we've done it before. And, in fact, our attitude is well, we already did that, we don't want to do it again.
Susan Bratton: So, welcome, Alex. How are you today?
Alex Bogusky: I'm great. Thanks for having me.
Susan Bratton: It's my pleasure. So you and I got connected through Wendy Lee of the Chatham Group who I also had on Dishy Mix. She's a personal friend of yours and a personal friend of mine, and sometimes that's the best way to connect. And she speaks so highly of you, mostly because she's had an opportunity to meet you in person and hang out with on a social level, and also I think she loves you because you're a Boulder booster, and she loves Boulder.
Alex Bogusky: Yeah. I think we both share that and love bolder. She's part of the folks that just kind of connect people within Boulder with other like-minded people. It's really nice moving here kind of discovering this really tight-knit business culture that supports one another, and booster is probably the best word. But I hadn't really experienced that before, and it's been fun.
Susan Bratton: Well in 2006, so about two years ago, you decided that you wanted to move part of the office to Boulder. Was it you, personally, that wanted to make the move to Boulder?
Alex Bogusky: Well, I think that started it. Because I had walked out of the hospital when my son was born and I thought I wanted to live out west when he was 12, and I don't know why. I do actually know why I pulled that random number out, because that was sort of when my father engaged with me, and it seemed like an important time for fathers and sons. And it turns out, boys are kind of fun when they're nine too. And I've got a daughter who, at the time, was seven, and I thought maybe I can sort of move up a little sooner in life, and started to explore it. And again, thinking about the agency and what that might mean for the agency, it seemed like it could be something that was pretty positive for a lot of people. Because most of the creative part that has been with me so long wasn't from Miami. A lot of weren't from the east coast. We always had for whatever reason a very west coast culture within the shop. And it seemed like a way to get those people those people back to their roots as well and put them into a lifestyle that they were more accustomed to.
Susan Bratton: So that was one of the things that I wanted to ask you about were the cultural mores between an office in Miami and an office in Boulder. And you just said that a lot of your team had a west coast culture. What do you mean by that?
Alex Bogusky: I grew up as a kid racing bicycles and spent a lot of time in California and on the west coast. I think when we built the agency and grew the agency, for whatever reason, those types of people gravitated towards the shop and the approach that the shop had. And it was a little more laid back. Very serious about the work but laid back and wanting to have fun while we're doing it. And so we brought in a lot of people that I don't think would have considered a shop in Miami. That, for whatever reason has sort of stuck with us. And when actually when you'd walk into Miami I think it felt like you were leaving Miami, and you're walking into California, when you'd walk into the office. And that was something that a lot of people noted. So it was just kind of a natural, culturally it was a nature move for us.
Susan Bratton: So I see you offices now, not just in Miami and Boulder but also L.A. and London. When you originally moved to Boulder, you said: Whoever wants to come can come. And you kind of left it open as to where people wanted to live. What's the distribution now across those four offices with your 700 employees?
Alex Bogusky: Well I learned something that the cruelest thing you can do to people is give them a choice. I thought it would be so nice.
Susan Bratton: A lot of hand wringing?
Alex Bogusky: Oh, it made people miserable. And also because they think it's difficult to go home to your spouse and say: I'd like to uproot us and move us half way across the country. Instead of saying: You know what? My job requires that I move. So it was difficult on a lot of people. We came out with 40 people by the time we moved which was exactly two years ago now. And now we're 400 in the Boulder office, and about the same in Miami. And have about 900 total in the agency. So the rest of the people are scattered in Spain and Germany, a couple of people in London and L.A.
Susan Bratton: What do you need people in Spain, Germany, and London for?
Alex Bogusky: We service BK International and some other international work.
Susan Bratton: I got you. That makes sense. So I think it's probably worthwhile at this moment to go through your clients. Let me see if I've got them all correct. I show right now you're working with Burger King. You've got the new Microsoft $300 million dollar branding, corporate branding program. We'll talk about that later. We've got a lot of listener questions about that. Volkswagen, Dominoes Pizza, Coke Zero, and the Geek Squad. Am I missing anybody on that list?
Alex Bogusky: There's some small ones. We still got Guerrero and Shimano were bike brands that kind of got us going back in the day. And we're sort of proud of the fact that even there may be one four hundredth of the size of some of our other clients, we keep working on them and we love the association.
Susan Bratton: Yeah, absolutely. Well, and it's a part of your DNA with all of the biking and everything that everyone does.
Alex Bogusky: Yeah, and it's important that you work on things that if you're going to spend your life doing something, you want to love what you're doing. And so amongst the partners we have a rule that you can have pretty much any reason for wanting to pitch an account or work on an account or accept a piece of business other than money. That isn't really a reason that holds water. So that's helped us. There has to be passion in it.
Susan Bratton: One of the things that you said in an interview with the Ad Club was that account people have a bigger impact on the success of the business and the work that you do with your clients than do the creative people. People think about your agency as being so creative driven. So it surprised me when you talked about the account people really being the make-or-break on any relationship. Can you talk about that more?
Alex Bogusky: Yeah. I've never really been able to explain it other than the obvious because they often are the point person on the relationship. But when we assign an account person I pretty much know the level of the work that we're going to get. And it wouldn't matter how talented the creative person is if that account person isn't as talented or more talented, you're not going to see the work ultimately being great. That's something that I think is maybe a bitter pill to swallow as a creative person. But it's also reality and helpful, and I think anytime you're dealing with reality it's a good place to start.
Susan Bratton: Well, if you have to deal with reality.
Alex Bogusky: Yeah, if you have to.
Susan Bratton: So here's a question from one of our Dishy Mix listeners. A lot of times when I have someone on, I like to give our listeners an opportunity to send me questions that they'd like to ask you, and I'd like to honor that. And here's one that really goes with this flow. Mrinal Desai, who is business development and a product evangelist at a company called Cross Loop Incorporated, wants to know how you hire people with imagination and then sustain that imagination as they grow within their job and as your agency as a business grows?
Alex Bogusky: I wish I knew that. We'd be so much better.
Susan Bratton: Really? There must be something that you're doing to foster that.
Alex Bogusky: It's so hard. I have a very funny way of looking at portfolios. And I've always pretty much disregarded video. I tend to look at print. And I have very strange tastes. So when people ask me to review their books, I don't like to do it. And I will also disclaim it by saying: Most of what I like will be very different than what other people are going to like. And it's not my second guessing; it's actually true. When I have commented on books, and I'll say: I'd take out this, this, and this; I'd leave this, and most people will say: Wow, that's the opposite of whatever else told me. So what we look for is really thinking that's more akin to cultural jamming, and less like advertising than the advertising craft. So I always look at the advertising world as there's the craft and it's sort of the state of advertising as it exists and great work is done within the craft where it's the finest art direction, the finest copy, and just the state of the art as it is done really well. And that's great and I really appreciate that. I tend to be more excited about changing what the state of the craft is. So if advertising's like this, I like to imagine well could it be like this. Can we jam culture in a different way that hasn't happened before. Most people aren't thinking that way in the business and don't necessarily want to think that way. And I don't blame them because it's our thing; it's not for everybody.
But finding those people and then bringing them in, it's challenging, because the biggest mistake people will make when they come here is they'll try to do what they think we've done before, or what they think we'd like because we've done it before. And, in fact, our attitude is: Well, we already did that. We don't want to do it again. Trying to convince people and give people the confidence to go into new spaces that at CPB haven't gone, but actually the industry hasn't gone. It's really difficult. It's especially difficult for young people because they maybe don't have the holistic history. The people that do best here are actually the people who have spent two to four years in the industry at another shop and just had the spirit just beaten out of them. And they're nearly dead, and they crawl into the shop, and they're just happy to be here. And they realize that, wow, we want what they wanted to do. But that's always challenging, and we're always working on how to convince people that you really want great work and you're not just saying you want great work.
Susan Bratton: I liked your phrase: culture jamming. And I noticed that -- I would have maybe called that unusual publicity combined with media, kinds of turning things on their head. Examples being how you got Molson to retool their beer label production facility, or making the Mini Cooper the transformers. Like taking cars and putting them in all these random places. Or even the yellow staples you used in the fold for the Rolling Stones ad. Or the Virgin Atlantic ads in the hotel porn channel that you did. Or even the most annoying thing that you've probably ever done which is covering the book about your company called Hoopla in sandpaper. Which is just irksome. Like the first thing I did was go: Oh! I can't stand to touch this book. I have to take this cover off. I literally was so pissed at the cover of your book that I threw it in the trash.
Alex Bogusky: Well, you'll be happy to know the first coffee table it ever ruined was my own.
Susan Bratton: So you've done a lot of these things that really make people think, really make them stop, and that's what you're known for. That's your cultural jamming, right?
Alex Bogusky: Well, usually the cultural jamming might sit on a level above those specific --
Susan Bratton: Those are tactics that support the culture jam?
Alex Bogusky: Yeah. The culture jamming would be largely with Mini Cooper. There's a lot of culture jamming around small cars versus SUV's. So playing that tension was the space that we thought a lot about and spent a lot of time on. But, I don't really read the industry trades but I will read Ad Busters.
Susan Bratton: I like him. It's interesting, isn't it? He's slammed me a few times.
Alex Bogusky: Yeah. I just think Ad Busters is more akin to -- obviously I'm coming at it from a different direction, but I think the approach is more akin than most traditional advertising. Most advertising tends to be, you find a trend and then you try to lie about your product to convince people that it actually fits within the trend.
Susan Bratton: Like what? Give me an example of that.
Alex Bogusky: Well, if you were -- so for Burger King all the trends were toward metro-sexuality at the time when we started working on it. And we were actually doing a campaign with Virgin around the notion of jetrosexuality. And yet for Burger King we needed guys to feel good and for heavy fast food users to feel good about having a great savory burger. And cultural wasn't really saying that was okay. If you looked at things like -- we did a spot called manthem for Burger King a few years ago, a couple of years ago, probably. And it was a take on: I am woman, hear me roar. But it was: I am man, hear me roar. And guys burning their underwear and things like that. And getting away from tofu and getting back into burgers. So that's the space that I just have fun playing in. Generally culture is going multiple directions at any one time. And pop culture, specifically, is always having this conversation with itself about where to go. A lot of advertisers talk about relevance, but they never define it. What is relevant? To me be relevant is to be in the conversation that pop culture is having about any particular topic. But if you're going to be relevant, you're going to be somewhat controversial because culture hasn't really decided, okay, this is the direction now. And so, you have to be -- if you want to do that kind of work, you have to be okay with the heat that comes with being relevant.
Susan Bratton: Well, as an agency, you love to make sniglets. You just talked about jetrosexuals for your Virgin Atlantic. That was kind of a psycho-graphic profile of your target customer. What was great is that even if you weren't a jetrosexual, you kind of wanted to be one, and you could identify with that campaign.
Alex Bogusky: Yeah, or you want to be one every now and then.
Susan Bratton: Yeah. You do. And then you came up with this concept of mantropy for Maxim Magazine. You've done a lot of man oriented things. And I thought it would be interesting to find out if you're suffering from mantropy. So I was going to turn the tables on you and make you take the quiz for us. Can I do that?
Alex Bogusky: Yeah, sure.
Susan Bratton: So, yes or no. Do you wear pretend car racing shoes?
Alex Bogusky: No.
Susan Bratton: Oh, that's good. Do you have an issue with excessive Smoothie consumption?
Alex Bogusky: No.
Susan Bratton: How about, here's one two-wheeled. Two-wheeled transportation under 500 cc's?
Alex Bogusky: Let's see.
Susan Bratton: You have to say yes.
Alex Bogusky: Well, I do. I have two two-wheeled vehicles under 500 cc's.
Susan Bratton: And those must be bicycles?
Alex Bogusky: No, they're trial bikes.
Susan Bratton: What's that?
Alex Bogusky: But I've got several over 500 cc's as well.
Susan Bratton: So does that balance it all out, or are you starting to lean toward --
Alex Bogusky: I think I'm right down the middle there.
Susan Bratton: So it's 50/50 on whether there's some mantropy happening here.
Alex Bogusky: Yeah.
Susan Bratton: Let's ask a few more questions. Oh, here's one. Is your wallet over 150 square centimeters. That is: Do you carry a mansack or a man purse, or a murse, as they've been taken to be called now. You don't carry a murse?
Alex Bogusky: No, no. I don't. I am sort of your classic dad wallet; just way too thick causing spinal issues.
Susan Bratton: Is that right? Okay. How about a temporary tribal tattoo; any of those?
Alex Bogusky: I don't.
Susan Bratton: So I was at a burning man -- where would you be like a place where a bunch of burning man companies come together that make burning man junk you can buy?
Alex Bogusky: Yeah.
Susan Bratton: Yesterday. And I saw an interesting twist; two interesting twists on the tribal tattoo concept. This could help if you want to be mantropy-esk without actually having to have that fake tattoo. One was this kind of gauzy pull-on sleeve that looked like it could make your whole arm look like a tattoo. It was like this sheer, kind of stretchy fabric printed with a tattoo on it. You could pull that on your arm and just wear that. So kind of from a far, it would look like that.
Alex Bogusky: I've seen those.
Susan Bratton: Have you?
Alex Bogusky: Yeah.
Susan Bratton: Oh my god, I just saw those for the first time.
Alex Bogusky: My son has a pair. And his hero is one of the creative directors that works here, who's got complete sleeves and tattoos up his neck and back and arms and legs. And so for Halloween last year, he actually dressed this creative director.
Susan Bratton: Oh, that's great.
Alex Bogusky: Yeah.
Susan Bratton: That's a good outlet.
Alex Bogusky: It really hurt the guy's feelings to know that he was a Halloween costume.
Susan Bratton: Ah. No, I think he was more like an idol.
Alex Bogusky: Don't worry. He's very tough.
Susan Bratton: He was more like an idol; not a Halloween costume. Yeah, the other one I saw were these like laser cut pieces of real thin latex rubber. And you could wear it around your arm and it looked like one of those travel tattoos that you could take it on and off. It was like tribal tattoo rubber jewelry. So I think that was pretty good. So do you have an inkling toward that?
Alex Bogusky: I missed all the tattoos. I have no tattoos. I'm from the generation right before tattoos.
Susan Bratton: I am too. I'm the tat free generation. So I guess we're not going to get any yes to frequent seaweed wraps or buffed fingernails?
Alex Bogusky: No.
Susan Bratton: Especially because your bio says that you frequent bloody, oozing, gashes. Like that's in your bio.
Alex Bogusky: Yeah. I was like years ago I had a pretty good run in terms of fashion, and I was voted as one of the top three most fashionable people in advertising.
Susan Bratton: Oh, really?
Alex Bogusky: Yeah. But moving to Boulder, it's just all gone.
Susan Bratton: It's all Gramici pants now.
Alex Bogusky: Yeah. Do you know what I do, a sport, which I think would probably put me somewhere on the spectrum here, is I do like the manpris on occasion.
Susan Bratton: Oh, capris. I like those too.
Alex Bogusky: Okay, it's okay for you to like them. It's not okay for me to be sporting them.
Susan Bratton: But I meant on men. I like them on men.
Alex Bogusky: Oh, okay.
Susan Bratton: You do have to have shapely calves to wear those. I find that the men who have the shapely calves tend to support those. We're going to go to a break and when we come back, I want to ask you about some YouTube satyrs. I really need to understand this current status of the stuffed pigmy elephant. And I have a personal question about subservient chicken. I'm sure you're really sick of answer subservient chicken questions, but I've got to know. And we'll talk, of course, about Microsoft equal cool question mark.
Alex Bogusky: Sounds good.
Susan Bratton: Okay, we're back, and I'm your host Susan Bratton. We're with Alex Bogusky. Alex, I want to talk to you about these satyrs that people are making of you on YouTube. Like if you Google Alex Bogusky, some of the top stuff you get are YouTube videos where you're being made fun of, or like the media bistro thing where they made fun of all the brands you use. Everybody's making fun of you out there. How does that happen?
Alex Bogusky: I haven't seen it.
Susan Bratton: You haven't seen?
Alex Bogusky: I haven't seen it.
Susan Bratton: The YouTube satyr of you?
Alex Bogusky: I haven't. The thing is I have the Google alerts.
Susan Bratton: Sure, everybody does. Don't worry.
Alex Bogusky: And so I'll see what's going on and if there's anything I need to pay attention to. There's so much press that can be good and it can be bad. And if you read the good stuff, I think you have to read the bad stuff. So I try not to read any of it or watch any of it.
Susan Bratton: Now, you've made your own YouTube satyr?
Alex Bogusky: I have?
Susan Bratton: Yeah. There's one of you talking about bicycles as creative machines, and the smaller the wheel radius.
Alex Bogusky: Oh, that was part of an awards show and they asked us to make videos I think for the awards show.
Susan Bratton: Got it. Okay. Well, you should potentially go see the satyrs of you. A couple of them are really funny.
Alex Bogusky: Yeah, it'd probably be depressing though.
Susan Bratton: It's not. It's not depressing. They kind of portray you as almost like a stoically cool guy which I don't actually think is your persona, but that may be how they considered you.
Alex Bogusky: The thing is, I got into advertising, and my deal with Chuck Porter was: I'm your behind the scenes guy, right? And I'll work hard and I'll make the ads and I don't want to go to any meetings, and I don't want to ever be let out of the cave. And then over time things evolve and that sort of changes, and then over time your face becomes sort of recognized as -- people like to put a face on things, right? It's just culturally we can't help but do it. We're just -- that's how we're wired. And I don't really represent all the work that Crispin does, but I think people, it's just simpler to think of things in those terms. And at first it's really difficult actually to be the sort of persona that represents this. And you see things that are written and you're like: Ow! God, I hope my mom doesn't read that. But then you realize, I don't know, you can come to terms with it a lot of different ways, but you come to terms with it. And for me, I just try to ignore it.
Susan Bratton: Well, it's interesting too, because I asked you who your mentors were and you said probably your dad and Chuck Porter have been your business mentors.
Alex Bogusky: Yeah.
Susan Bratton: You started work at Crispin when you were 25 probably, around 25.
Alex Bogusky: Probably about 24, yeah.
Susan Bratton: But you've known Chuck Porter since you were 8 years old. He was a friend of the family, right?
Alex Bogusky: I think a little bit after that.
Susan Bratton: When you were a young boy; when you were a boy.
Alex Bogusky: I probably was ten the first time I met him.
Susan Bratton: So you met him when you were ten. You've been working since you were 25 years old.
Alex Bogusky: Well, I was working since I was like 17 or 18.
Susan Bratton: But at Crispin Porter.
Alex Bogusky: Right at Crispin from about 24.
Susan Bratton: And then now Plus Bogusky. So 20 years now almost. Next year's 20 years for you there. And you're co-chairman. So you've really gone from being the little boy.
Alex Bogusky: A ten-year-old boy to co-chairman.
Susan Bratton: So has had that dynamic been in your relationship with Chuck. Obviously he's been able to allow you to grow up and take the reigns, right?
Alex Bogusky: I know. I know. It's pretty amazing.
Susan Bratton: So he must have always really encouraged you. That's was what I was probably thinking. There was a lot of encouragement and belief in you from an early age; is that true?
Alex Bogusky: Yeah, I guess. Chuck was the first person in this business that really, I think, liked what I did and the way I thought. I was working in another agency and trying to get my ideas across and they would explain to me why it wouldn't work, and they were wrong. And they were really smart guys. And I remember thinking I will never be smart enough to be in advertising. I got to find something else. The people that excel at this is are just too smart. And then along the way I showed some of my work to Chuck. I wasn't working with him at the time. And he really liked it. I tell that to a lot of people who are new in the business. With Chuck I was a genius and I was a bum in another place. And you've got to find your space. You've got to find people who like what you do and the way you do it, and all will work out.
Susan Bratton: Yeah, it is very true.
Alex Bogusky: But I give them a lot of credit and we've really tried to keep the idea that we have faith in the people that have brought us to this point. So often within companies the people that bring you there then get a new boss, as you need to add on and expand. Senior people are added. We've always really believed in promoting from within and finding those people that you're pretty sure they can do it. My attitude is if I'm pretty sure they can do the job, in my experience, they've always done the job when you put them in it. It takes a little bit -- it's a little leap of faith, and I don't know why we seem to be more comfortable with putting people we've never met into senior jobs than people that we've worked a lot with and we've seen what they can do. But I think that's the tendency. And I think the way Chuck treated me has allowed me to kind of carry that forward.
Susan Bratton: So I want also go back to the silly little stuffed pygmy elephant that I keep asking you about. One of the things that you've done in the world of creativity is used print in a lot of unique ways as a part of what you do. And P.T. Barnum used to, as I read in the book Hoopla about your agency, he used to send out 150,000 flyers into a community before the circus hit town. And P.T. wrote all the copy and he just kind of generated all this interest so that he would always fill all the seats. And what is this story with the stuffed pygmy elephant then your P.T. Barnum lore?
Alex Bogusky: It's a little bit in the book. It's not like I'm a P.T. Barnum freak or that I really try to pattern anything off of him.
Susan Bratton: It's a fun little fable.
Alex Bogusky: What's that?
Susan Bratton: It's a fun little fable.
Alex Bogusky: It's nice, but I mean, he had an amazing ability to create a lot of noise and talk about whatever he wanted to create noise and talk about, and often that's your job as an advertising professional, is here's what you need to create some buzz on. And so when we were writing the book we decided to do a séance and talk to P.T. Barnum about some stuff and do an interview, because we were interviewing different people in the book.
Susan Bratton: Did you use a Ouija board?
Alex Bogusky: We went to a medium who connected with him. I wasn't there but it's in the book. I think it's transcribed in the book.
Susan Bratton: It is. The séance is transcribed in the book.
Alex Bogusky: Somewhere along the way in the interview they started talking about things and the guys who did the interview came back all freaked out because they thought it was kind of funny. But then some of the stuff that happened sort of surprised them, because it felt like the medium knew things that only P.T. Barnum would know, and there was no one that told them that that's who we wanted to channel. So they came back, actually, they thought it was a big joke and they came back kind of freaked out. But part of the interview P.T. Barnum starts talking about this elephant. And then she's like: He's pointing at the elephant now. What's with the elephant? He's showing me the elephant again. And about two days later or three days later I got an e-mail from a friend of mine who said: Hey, I know you're kind of a fan of P.T. Barnum, I wanted to send you this link where this museum is selling one of his elephants, an elephant that used to be in the collection. So I thought: doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo.
Susan Bratton: Did you buy the elephant?
Alex Bogusky: I had to buy the elephant.
Susan Bratton: Did you buy it?
Alex Bogusky: Yeah.
Susan Bratton: What's it like? Do you have it in your office?
Alex Bogusky: Yeah, it's in the office. It's supposedly a pygmy elephant. Jumbo obviously was the elephant that created the most hoopla.
Susan Bratton: Yeah, well, he coined that; he named that elephant.
Alex Bogusky: He named it and created that phrase. This elephant is called Hermie. Never really go the buzz that Jumbo did.
Susan Bratton: Hermie?
Alex Bogusky: Hermie.
Susan Bratton: Well, if your name is Hermie, you're just not going to generate this.
Alex Bogusky: Exactly.
Susan Bratton: That is a mantropy name.
Alex Bogusky: You hit gold with Jumbo, and you kind of blew it with Hermie.
Susan Bratton: Yes.
Alex Bogusky: But he created a little bit of hoopla. For us, you can create hoopla with things great and small.
Susan Bratton: I would like to have a picture of Hermie to blog about this show.
Alex Bogusky: Okay.
Susan Bratton: I'll ask Steven Sepka. He was awesome at getting this interview set up by the way.
Alex Bogusky: He's great.
Susan Bratton: He just -- every single thing taken care of. Your team does a support job for you.
Alex Bogusky: One of the things about Hermie is disconcerting is that sometimes people come into our office and what's with the elephant? Are you guys Republicans?
Susan Bratton: Oh.
Alex Bogusky: Ha ha.
Susan Bratton: I'm not sure I'd go there.
Alex Bogusky: It depends on who asks what I'll say.
Susan Bratton: I want to talk about one more animal. And probably a million people have you asked you this question but I don't know the answer and I just need to know. On subservient chicken, you pre-programmed and thought up all the millions of things that people could ask the chicken to do. If they ask the chicken to do something prurient, the chicken would just go: Shame, shame, shame and shakes its finger. But when you looked at the web stats for all of the stuff people asked it to do, what was the ratio of people asking the chicken to go fuck itself versus do the moon walk? Like what were the bad versus good questions? Was it 98 percent they were all asking the chicken to do bad things? I just need to know about humanity here.
Alex Bogusky: That's a good question. I don't know the exact numbers but I would say it's very, very high.
Susan Bratton: Over 50 percent, right?
Alex Bogusky: Oh, way over 50 percent.
Susan Bratton: Yeah, that's what I thought.
Alex Bogusky: But it would be mixed in so I think that in general people would ask something benign thinking it might do it, but then once they started doing it, they'd throw in a little bit of the saucy stuff.
Susan Bratton: Got it. There's was plenty.
Alex Bogusky: It was pretty much 100 percent.
Susan Bratton: Yeah. (Laughing). That's what I figured. So I want to go to another couple of questions from our listeners, and I know we have to wrap up soon. So feel free to just be pithy and fabulous in this moment.
Alex Bogusky: All right.
Susan Bratton: No pressure. These are two questions that kind of go together. They're peanut butter and chocolate. Steve Hunter Yager who is the advertising sales directory at E-Harmony wants to know if you think television advertising is dying. And Eric Weaver, the Vice President of Eddleman Digital, wants to know what your perspective is on using social tools, like social media, social networking, do you think those are important or trendy or what's your perspective on that? So these are distribution channels. What's your perspective? And it doesn't have to be your agency; it could just be you. Whatever you choose.
Alex Bogusky: No, I don't think television is dying at all. I think a lot of things are happening. It's migrating into other places. And the biggest challenge with broadcast, is that it's not broadly cast. So, it's getting more and more expensive but even the highest rated primetime show delivers like two percent of the public. So, you can't use it in the way you used to where you could almost predict what kind of awareness you were going to get. There was a science to it. And now with such low viewership even in the highest rated shows, the way we tend to look at broadcast is it's a place where we put out catalysts for ideas. So if we've got a concept, we inject it into cultural using television, but we've got lots of other access points to the same idea. And not really caring where you come from it, or where you come to it from. You can come to it from a conversation. You can come to it from the web. You can come to it from an e-mail that friend sends you. Or you can come to it from the broadcast. I don't think people generally even know anymore. If you have an idea that's big enough and can occupy and live, and it has a nice expression in different spaces, then it doesn't really matter. But I don't think it's dying. I think it's challenge. I actually think that the fracturing media landscape of the last five years will probably to continue to fracture a bit for the next year or two. But you can already see the tools and the ideas coming together to create new models. So it was all about breaking models and then finding ways to bring consumers to your communication. I think some really good models are starting to exist where you'll be able to buy television and you'll be able to buy web spaces in a way where you can actually capture those audiences that have been pretty elusive lately. So, I think it's going to get better for advertising. It's probably going to get more traditional and maybe a little bit -- it might get boring over the next couple of years as the models start to establish themselves.
Susan Bratton: Boy, I bet it won't.
Alex Bogusky: I don’t think it will be boring but when things like subservient chicken, like those things don’t happen again because there are thousand micro-sites launched every day now. So things like that created a new media space. There will be less of creating new media spaces and more of smart people coming up with models that allow advertisers to buy and reach into the corners of the web and society in the way that they couldn’t before. So if you had turned your back completely on 30-second commercials or 60-second commercials, those forms I think seem to be pretty resilient and I kind of think they’re going to re-establish themselves in new spaces.
Susan Bratton: Okay.
Alex Bogusky: In don’t really think of social media so much in terms of any particular delivery vehicle.
Susan Bratton: It’s not a “channel” for you in your mind?
Alex Bogusky: No, I don’t look at it so much like that. I really look at all of us desperately wanting to socialize all the time. So if you can create tools for people; and they can be marketing tools; they could be part of how I purchase something; they can be part of a new community; or they can be just little games. If you can create tools and excuses for me to socialize, there seems to be no end to the appetite for that kind of thing because we’re all generally just a little lonely.
Susan Bratton: Well, and we’re socializing right now.
Alex Bogusky: It’s working.
Susan Bratton: I like it. So, Microsoft. You’ve won a $300 million dollar piece of business for re-branding. I know you personally are not heading the creative on that. As I understand it it’s Andrew Keller and Rob Reilly, two co-executive creative directors that have been with you for many years. But let me read you three listener questions, because they’re not really questions. They’re actually statements, and then you can comment on them.
Alex Bogusky: Or suggestions. I’ve gotten lots of suggestions.
Susan Bratton: Well, what I thought was that so many people were thinking the same thing, that it would be interesting to hear your response to that.
Alex Bogusky: So many people have given me so many ideas. That’s been the most amazing thing about this. I don’t think I’ve ever worked on anything where I’ve gotten so many e-mails come through the board with: Here’s how I’d handle this; or: Here’s what hasn’t been done to date.
Susan Bratton: I noticed a lot of bloggers are doing that too. Here are my five things I recommend you do.
Alex Bogusky: I’ll tell you and a lot of them are pretty right on.
Susan Bratton: They are. I was really impressed with a couple of the ones that I read.
Alex Bogusky: Yeah, I mean, some of them are kind of obvious. But some of them have some really good thinking that we’ve certainly been surprised that we’re thinking in the same way.
Susan Bratton: So here’s what my listeners are wondering about and here’s kind of their opinion showing. Peter Palmer, who is an independent marketing and advertising guy from Sydney, who is former CD at Grey Malaysia. He wants to know why the world’s biggest company needs to be cool. Do you they suddenly want to do less business? That’s a qualified question if I ever heard one. Erlend Williamson of Fabric Interactive wrote: Microsoft is not cool, and we all know you can’t make it cool through advertising and marketing. How do you attract the best creative talent and remain a cool agency while working with Microsoft, like it’s the kiss of death. And he writes: Or do you not care since somebody’s amazing. I love these qualitative questions. Yon Lew is the executive producer and managing director of Cold Zero Films. And he said: What is cool and who defines cool? A point of view. Is it the 20-year/30-year-old male; is it a 14 to 50-year-old techy; is it women and girls? Who and what is cool and how do you become the arbiter? So, it was really funny. I think it must have been from that Fast Company article. Everybody read that Fast Company article about making Microsoft cool. Now everybody’s really worried that you’re going to struggle with that. I can just feel that people are saying: Oh, maybe you shouldn’t try. So what do you think?
Alex Bogusky: Well, I can’t comment on Microsoft or any work we’re doing on Microsoft, but I can say that if you look at the article, the idea of making it cool is something that the writers at Fast Company had. There’s no quotes in there from any of us talking about trying to do such a thing. So, it’s one of those things. They have to sell magazines and they want to frame it in a certain way. But that doesn’t seem to be the assignment in my mind.
Susan Bratton: What is the assignment in your mind?
Alex Bogusky: Well, I can’t comment on Microsoft or any of the work that we’re doing. I wouldn’t be able to go quite so far as to tell what the assignment is.
Susan Bratton: Just that that’s not it. You can say what it’s not.
Alex Bogusky: That was definitely erroneous.
Susan Bratton: So we can all breathe a sigh of relief, because clearly we’re all worried about it.
Alex Bogusky: Of I can automatically stay at making it cool, since that’s not anything I would be trying to do anyway. But, I wouldn’t worry too much about that.
Susan Bratton: Good. Okay. (Breathe a sigh of relief). Whew!
Alex Bogusky: Whew!
Susan Bratton: Big sigh of relief for us all, but that was more --
Alex Bogusky: I will say that people were skeptical about an agency using Windows. That was something that they mentioned in the article. Which, again, it was just a little upsetting because I’m days away from getting my Sony laptop. They don’t mention that. They know that, but they don’t mention that.
Susan Bratton: Did you get a Vaio; those nice little Vaios?
Alex Bogusky: I do. I have a Vaio.
Susan Bratton: I like those. I’ve had those for many years. It’s just delightful to be so lightweight.
Alex Bogusky: It’s a great machine, and I’m really enjoying Windows, and Media Center. Which, I don’t know if you’ve experienced that.
Susan Bratton: I haven’t, no.
Alex Bogusky: It is outrageous!
Susan Bratton: What do you like about it?
Alex Bogusky: It just consolidates your whole entertainment thing in one place. So it’s just -- it’s kind of the convergence that we’ve all been waiting for. That we got so sick of waiting, that we stopped even using the term convergence. But it’s happening.
Susan Bratton: Well, good. All right. So we’re going to check out the Media Center. We’re going to be jealous of your sexy little Vaio. And it was really fun to talk to you today. Thank you so much for coming on the show.
Alex Bogusky: It was my pleasure.
Susan Bratton: I hope I at least asked a couple of things people will enjoy hearing. And if anybody is in Boulder, they can come visit, right?
Alex Bogusky: Come visit the shop?
Susan Bratton: Yeah.
Alex Bogusky: Any of your listeners?
Susan Bratton: Yeah, because we’re all in the media world.
Alex Bogusky: That seems like a broad invitation, but what the hell, yeah.
Susan Bratton: Good.
Alex Bogusky: Our security is so lax that I can’t stop it anyway.
Susan Bratton: Well, I think people would like to see the new offices and just what’s happening in that world.
Alex Bogusky: It’s a fun spot. And it’s a little bit hard to find because we’re in a very non-descript building and a non-descript warehouse area, and people always pull up thinking: This cannot be the right place. But if you see the flags with the elephants on them out front, that’s us.
Susan Bratton: It’s really become your symbol.
Alex Bogusky: A little bit.
Susan Bratton: Oh, that’s great. I like it. It’s such a good story. And is it little Hermie that’s your symbol?
Alex Bogusky: Yes.
Susan Bratton: Oh, that’s super cute! Do we have any Hermie stickers or Hermie mugs or what?
Alex Bogusky: There’s some Hermie cycling gear.
Susan Bratton: Wow!
Alex Bogusky: That’s available. Yeah. That’s probably the most Hermie thing going on right now.
Susan Bratton: So, I don’t know if you know this but I have a Dishy Mix fan club on Face Book, and I’m about to shake you down for a little chatchky to give away to my fans.
Alex Bogusky: Okay.
Susan Bratton: Can I get a little chatchky, a little Hermie chatchky?
Alex Bogusky: Yeah. We’ll try to figure out what we could do. We probably have an extra -- we have really nice cycling gear actually.
Susan Bratton: So, one Hermie cycling gear chatchky for a Dishy Mix listener.
Alex Bogusky: Yeah. That would be perfect.
Susan Bratton: So if you want that then --
Alex Bogusky: Combined with a sandpaper book maybe.
Susan Bratton: Yeah, sandpaper, that was just irksome that sandpaper. I couldn’t decide whether to be pissed at you.
Alex Bogusky: Did you read the back of it?
Susan Bratton: I might have to go dig it out of the trash. I couldn’t decide whether to file my nails or get pissed at you.
Alex Bogusky: Read the back, because you won’t believe the benefit that we’ve provided with that cover.
Susan Bratton: But, here’s the thing, then I have to go dig it out of the trash and touch it. I’ll get Tim to dig it and hold it for me while I read it.
Alex Bogusky: Get some mittens.
Susan Bratton: I’ll get some oven mitts. Well that is fun. I’ll go check it out. And it’s fun to give away a cycling something with a Hermie logo on it, and we’ll do that. So if you want that Dishy Mix listeners, you need to write something really good that tickles my fancy and is going to make Alex laugh, and then you will be the winner. So that is your challenge to get the good stuff. And we’ll make sure we get one in your size.
Alex Bogusky: Pink and black.
Susan Bratton: Pink and black.
Alex Bogusky: You got to like pink and black.
Susan Bratton: I like it already. I can tell those are your corporate colors.
It’s been fun. Alex Bogusky, Co-Chairman of Crispin, Porter + Bogusky, thank you for coming on the show today. I had a lot of fun.
Alex Bogusky: Yeah, it was great. Thanks.
Susan Bratton: All right. Everybody, thank you for tuning in today. I really appreciate it. Thanks for listening to Dishy Mix, and go write something fun on the fan club. Talk to you soon. I’m your host, Susan Bratton. And I will talk to you next week. Bye, bye.