PMA Article Proposal

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					2007 PMA White Paper
by Steven Stark

                           How to Cook a Chicken
It began with a guy in a chicken suit.

Burger King® had asked their new ad agency, Crispin, Porter + Bogusky, to tell
consumers that at Burger King you can have chicken your way. Now, they could
have made a print ad that said that. Or a TV spot. Instead, they created a Web
site where consumers could command a large, provocatively dressed chicken to
do whatever they wanted, simply by typing a short message on their keyboard.
And they did it. And did it. And did it.

That was three years ago and the site, which was
only supposed to stay up a few months, is still up. It has had a gazillion hits.
Generated reams of praise, a ton of awards and millions of dollars of free
publicity…not to mention great sales for Burger King’s chicken sandwich. The
launch of that Web site—that was the moment for me where we in the
promotions business had our lunch eaten by an advertising agency.

You see, that Web site and that moment should have been ours. Because we’re
the guys in charge of experiences. Advertising agencies are supposed to make
print ads. Or TV commercials. Or radio spots. And the rest of it, the stuff where
consumers interact with brands, belonged to us. But no more. The cat — or more
accurately, the chicken — is out of the bag. Advertising agencies now
understand how powerful promotions are, and they are more than happy to do

So how did this happen? A few years ago advertising agencies were suddenly
staring into the abyss. First the dot com bubble burst, then budgets got cut, then
the commercial killer known as Tivo® came along. Big budgets and the
interruption model died off at about the same time and ad agencies had to
change...or perish. Of course, lots of them were in denial. Right up until the end
when they closed their doors. But the best ones saw that moment as an
opportunity. As a place to begin instead of end. And they left the page and the
TV and the radio behind and ventured out into the real world to meet consumers

Meanwhile, Below The Line, our business actually got better. We had the same
budgets, and in some cases even better ones because we were cheaper, we had
a more measurable product and we could show a clearer ROI. So what
happened to promotions during this prosperous time? Nothing much. We did
what we always do. We put out sweepstakes, put on events and filled the world
with FSI’s and coupons. And business was good. But, while we were doing our
promotions, ad agencies were doing some of their own. And they were good too.

Fast forward a few years and now the ad guys are all over our territory. Seen the
Smirnoff® Teapartay music video on YouTube? Millions have. It’s a hilarious
parody of a rap video with a bunch of preppy white guys rapping about how cool
it is to drink Smirnoff Raw Tea™ at tea parties. It’s so good people seek it out and
pass it along to their friends.

Or how about the billboard that the supposedly scorned wife Emily put up to
publicly humiliate her cheating husband? The one that read, in part, “I know all
about her, you poorly endowed slimeball”? Turns out it was promoting a new TV
series called Parco P.I. Emily’s angst became the rant heard ’round the world as
it quickly spread in blogs, newspapers, and on prime-time TV shows on both
sides of the Atlantic. Everyone was desperate to know more about this woman’s
story. And guess what… promo agencies didn’t do either of these engaging,
brand-building promotions. Ad agencies did.

So what does this all mean for us in the promotions business? It means that right
now it’s a new game. Anyone can change the face of marketing, win tons of
awards and get fame and fortune. All you have to do is ignore the boundaries of
your chosen discipline and let your ideas run free. Put no constraints on your
thinking. Be blissfully unaware of what you have done before and of what is
considered a good promotion, and see where that takes you.

Want to be the best promo agency in the world and make all the ad agencies
jealous? Then create the best experiences. How? Here are a few thoughts to get
you started:

      We are all competing for attention but have forgotten that attention comes
       from interest. Give people something interesting and they will give you
       their attention in return.

      Reconsider your target. We’ve got some sophisticated, savvy consumers
       on our hands. To try and fool them is to fool only yourself.

      And while we’re at it let’s stop calling them consumers. They are people.
       They are you and me. And they are looking for something new. So
       promise from this day on to love, honor and entertain them.

      Think about yourself. What you love. What you want. Tighter strategies,
       bigger decks and more marketing buzzwords aren’t going to engage
       people. All the logic in the world won’t get people to act. Only emotion
       does that.

   It’s a new media world where everyone has access. When people do
    something they like they blog about it, post pictures of themselves doing it
    and pass it along to friends.

   It’s also a social world where experiences are currency. Give people a
    great experience and they will spend that in the form of endless free
    publicity for you.

   Don’t be a promo expert. Experts know it all, which means you already
    know the answers. Hard to do anything new when you start off thinking
    that way.

   Start an assignment by pretending that traditional media doesn’t exist.
    Start off thinking there are no FSI’s, no sweeps, no coupons and no SLO’s
    and it will take you to some interesting and new places.

   Look into culture and find your product’s place. Find that point where the
    consumer meets the product and try to be there in some way, whether in
    person or in spirit.

   Figure out what people want. If they want to see videos of guys doing
    dumb, painful stuff to themselves, then be the brand that gives it to them.

   Get out there and actually show people how your product helps them meet
    their needs and aspirations. Do it with drama and a sense of now. Make it
    short, because we have short attention spans, and make it fun.

   Whatever you choose to do, put some surprise and delight into it. Giving
    people something they don’t expect is a nice surprise. Giving people
    something for free? Even more delightful.

   Which brings us to swag. Give away stuff. Good stuff. Useful stuff. And it
    doesn’t always have to be your product. Oh…and go easy on the
    branding. Remember, what you are really giving people is an experience.
    The free stuff is just a reminder.

   Put your idea in as many places as possible. Choose those places for
    their appropriateness, unexpectedness, and the sheer power of seeing
    that idea in that place.

   Once your idea is out there, reward people every time they choose to
    interact with it.

   How do you know if your idea is really great? Use yourself as a gauge. As
    marketers we’re a pretty jaded bunch. If it makes you laugh, makes you

       cry or if someone says “we could never do that,” then you’re probably onto
       something big.

So consider this a starting point. And a challenge, to come into work tomorrow,
do something different…and have some fun. Because I think it’s a new day in
promotions. Don’t believe me? Tell it to the chicken.

                                      - End -

                                  Addendum Page
Six Great Promotions To Inspire You
    To promote the DVD release of the HBO® hit series Rome, an army of
      Roman soldiers marched through the streets of Manhattan to hand deliver
      the first copies to the Virgin Megastore. They gave away DVD’s and T-
      shirts and played Rome trivia with fans along the way.

      Philips Norelco tackles a delicate subject and makes a compelling case for
       all-over grooming with the Bodygroom razor. Particularly when it comes to
       creating the “optical inch.” See it at

      To tell consumers that OfficeMax® is the place for back-to-school supplies,
       they played an elaborate prank on junior high school students (with teen
       heartthrob Jesse McCartney no less) that was shown as a Disney
       Channel TV special called Schooled, then given away on DVD (with the
       requisite extras and unseen footage) if you bought $50 worth of back-to-
       school supplies from OfficeMax. Guess whose 8 year old demanded to
       shop for her back-to-school supplies at OfficeMax this year?

      Citigroup’s Women & Co. division recently put up hundreds of gilt-framed
       mirrors on city streets, each captioned “You look like a million bucks. Does
       your retirement account?”

      The Oxygen network created a brick and mortar destination for its reality
       TV show, The Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency — about an acid-
       tongued ex-model who runs her own modeling agency — by setting up a
       fake storefront office in Soho. Aspiring models could drop their head shots
       in the door’s mail slot, and those brave (or stupid) enough to ring the door
       buzzer were treated to some of Janice's favorite insults, including her
       trademark, "I've got two words for you...OUT!”

      This holiday OfficeMax (them again) gave holiday shoppers the gift of
       being able to turn anyone into an animated dancing elf online at It’s not up anymore, but I can tell you we wasted

       countless hours at my agency elfing everyone in sight and passing the
       results around for all to enjoy.

                                About The Author
For the past eight years Steven Stark has been writing copy and creating
concepts at advertising and promotions agencies from New York to South
Carolina. He has probably questioned the status quo more than was appreciated
and apologizes for that. He is happily working as a Creative Director at Ryan
Partnership, a truly great promotional shop in Wilton, CT that gets all of what he’s
talking about here and won’t be the least bit upset with him for sharing any of it.
He can be reached at