Ciaran Watkins – Crispin Porter & Bogusky Are Obviously Not As Subservient As Their Chicken

Posted on March 21, 2011 by

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Hearing the news that Crispin Porter & Bogusky have lost the Burger King account, I just had to make an entry. These two companies have worked together for the past seven years, and together have produced some absolutely jaw dropping campaigns. I don’t know much about CP&B outside of the Burger King account, but I can tell you that this loss is enormous, and while the Burger King advertising budget may be scaling back, the account is going to draw the absolute top level agencies into a fury of pitching and in-battling, just to get a hand on the King’s goods. It’s not every day that a worldwide brand is agencyless, and especially one with such a recognisable name, logo, and loving fan base.

It’s strange really, as I’ve looked at the CP&B Burger King campaigns before. It’s such a big account to lose, so I hope CP&B will handle it well. I’ve also found out today that they’ve lost the Groupon account after committing crimes to advertising you can read about here. However, not everything they did was awful, in fact, I’d rate The Subservient Chicken as one of my favourite campaigns of all time, and a true stalwart of ‘viral advertising’. If you can’t remember the strange man in the chicken suit, here is a video of the campaign, and seeing as I’ve written about this once before, my thoughts from my advertising dissertation written in third year of university.

The Subservient Chicken is definitely a unique campaign, and can be seen as one of the best ‘digital’ campaigns to ever be released; in the sense of the success it brought the product. It also has an awards list larger than most television spots.

The concept was quite clear, and can be explained by Andrew Keller, the creative director from CP&B who worked the campaign;

“We launched the Burger King TenderCrisp Sandwich within the ‘Have It Your Way’ brand message. To show how customers really can have it their way with chicken, we created a large subservient chicken that does almost anything anyone asks. Type commands, and tell the chicken what do do. The chicken then does what it is told. The chicken – much like the sandwich – satisfies everyone’s personal tastes and preferences, no matter how unique.”

The campaign became a perfect example of viral marketing thanks to the contact button on the website. It allowed viewers to ‘tell a friend’ about the chicken that will do anything you tell it to. This allowed the website to draw in audiences from around the world, purely through word of mouth. I can personally remember the first time I was linked to the website. I must have spent at least half an hour, maybe longer, giving this man in a chicken suit commands in the hope I would stumble across something that no one else had seen. Through this word of mouth, the website managed to reach 15 million hits in the first 5 days of it going live , which for an advertisement is a fantastic achievement.

When an audience is confronted by The Subservient Chicken website, apart from the Burger King logo that appears when the site loads, and a small link in the bottom right corner reading “BK TenderCrisp”, there is absolutely no branding or immediate knowledge that this website is anything but a fun, and interesting passer of time for consumers to enjoy. It looks like it could be part of viral websites such as Ebaum’s World, or the flash animation archival website newgrounds.com. I personally believe that it is this lack of branding that spelt success for this particular campaign, and I also believe that it will spell success for most campaigns in the future. This point is reiterated by Johan Tesch, creative director at Lowe Tesch, when he wrote;

“The secret to many of the smash hits lately is to succeed in entertaining people with something new and clever, and at the same time say something profound about the core of the product. Only then will people stop what they are doing and lower their guard and be willing to sacrifice a couple of minutes of their time to interact with your brand.”

Quotes from;
“ MARKETING: ADDENDA; The Subservient Chicken And Other Award Winners ” http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9502E6DF1F38F930A25755C0A9639C8B63

“‘Subservient Chicken’ Named ‘Most Infectious’ Viral Campaign” http://www.allbusiness.com/marketing-advertising/4151800-1.html

http://www.cpbgroup.com/awards/subservientchicken.html

Ne’er a truer word said past Ciaran, although it could be a little better written. Another brilliantly good campaign from CP&B for Burger King was their ‘Whopper Freakout’ commercial. Basically, the premise was to take away the best selling Burger King burger, and then film peoples reactions. There were no reasons given, just that the burger ‘wasn’t available anymore’. Take a looksie here;

In all honesty, it’s not that brilliant a strategy, trying to advertise a product by saying ‘hey, you can’t have our product’. I don’t really see how that works. It is however, a good look at how irate some people can get when they don’t have access to their favourite lunchtime snack. I don’t really know what I’d do if Barburrito got shut down, but I’d sure as hell make somebody pay, and I’d be as mad as most people in the viral/video! While the customers in the advert were compensated in the end with a big fat Whopper of their own, the general idea was obviously to show just how loved The Whopper was. It did a great job, but I can’t help but wonder that The Whopper is only a burger, and people would hopefully go on about their lives without it.

Again, the Whopper Freak Out started as a small digital campaign. Banners would show small clips of people freaking out about the lack of a Whopper, and re-direct you to the website in which you could view the entire videos, including ‘making of’ sequences, and thoughts from the director behind the filming. It was mildly successful, but I remembered it for no other reason than ‘that campaign where people freak out because they can’t have a burger’. It was hardly cutting edge advertising, but it was definitely a cracking little company sponsored video to watch when bored.

It’s always upsetting to hear that companies have split with their long time backers, and I hope CP&B manage to survive the loss of two huge accounts in Burger King and Groupon, as they have genuinely put a smile on my face with their work if we forget the Groupon ads ever existed. Unfortunately advertising as an entity is cut-throat. One company’s loss is another company’s gain, and who knows, maybe the next Burger King advertising agency will blow us all away with their forward thinking and subversive ideas. I think most of us know the brand Burger King, and I imagine we all have our favourite burger chain. Mine happens to be Burger King, and I’ll never forget eating a bacon-quadruple-cheese burger in New York City, but I hope the new agency doesn’t come up with campaigns that tarnish those memories with a god awful selection of campaigns. Mind you, if they did, I’m sure I’d make you aware of what I thought about them.

Read more over at Whatever’s In There, Falls Out Here.

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Posted in: Ciaran Watkins