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Some years ago, I had the pleasure of conversing with Alex Bogusky before he became a demi-God of Advertising.

We were at a vendor-sponsored pool party in Cannes. Unlikely as it seems, both of us were not really digging the scene. He seemed to prefer a quiet discussion versus living it up in the shallow end. I was more torn on the issue but also more than happy to oblige him.

For the record, later that week, Alex and his namesake agency would win handfuls of Lions, including the Grand Prix for a charming spot from Ikea called Lamp. Crispin Porter and Bogusky were in the middle of an epic run making them perhaps the most famous ad agency on earth.

But Alex wasn’t interested in talking about prizes.

images-1.jpg Bogusky / file pic from that period

Like a lot of executive creative directors (myself included), he’d come to Cannes simply because he could. However, he now admitted to being unsettled by the attention he and his agency were getting. He confessed that this would likely being his last time at Cannes.

“Steff,” he said, “we’ve got plenty of swimming pools in Miami.” (This was before CP&B moved its main office to Boulder.) Then he added, “I find that I like doing work more than celebrating it.”

I’m paraphrasing from memory, but this was my favorite bit. Ironic commentary coming from the man who would later write Hoopla (a book about fame in marketing), and probably win more Lions than any other person or agency in the United States.

Yet, to me, Bogusky’s ambivalence about all of it seemed indicative of a higher power beginning to work in his life: that making work, really good work, was more important than drinking champagne and toasting about it.

Bigger picture Alex was also discovering the persistent headache and clashes of conscience that hedonism invoked. Lessons I would learn the hard way.

Later that year, Alex resigned from his agency to pursue other interests. Now he’s taking back the creative reigns at his namesake agency. Prodigal son returning or is something else going on? I know I’m not the only one who looks forward to finding out!

Author’s Note: A version of this story appeared previously in ReelChicago

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A few 24 hours ago, I had the pleasure of conversing with Alex Bogusky before he became a demi-God of Advertising. We were at a vendor-sponsored pool party in Cannes. However unlikely as it seems, both of us were not really digging the scene. He seemed to prefer a quiet discussion versus living it up in the shallow end. I was perhaps more torn on the issue but also more than happy to oblige him.

For the record, later that week, Alex and his namesake agency would win handfuls of Lions, including the Grand Prix for a charming spot from Ikea called “Lamp.” Crispin Porter & Bogusky were in the middle of an epic run making them perhaps the most famous ad agency on earth.

But Alex wasn’t interested in talking about prizes.

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Alex Bogusky, from that period…

Like a lot of executive creative directors (myself included), he’d come to Cannes simply because he could. However, he now admitted to being unsettled by the attention he and his agency were getting. He confessed that this would likely being his last time at Cannes. “Steff,” he said, “we’ve got plenty of swimming pools in Miami.” (This was before CP&B moved its home office to Boulder, CO.) Then he added, “I find that I like doing work more than celebrating it.”

I’m paraphrasing from memory but this was my favorite bit. Ironic commentary coming from the man who would later write “Hoopla” (a book about fame in marketing), not to mention win more Lions than probably any other person or agency in the United States.

Yet, to me, Bogusky’s ambivalence about all of it seemed indicative of a higher power beginning to work in his life: that making work, really good work, was more important than drinking champagne and toasting about it. Bigger picture Alex was also discovering the persistent headache and clash of conscience that hedonism invoked.Lessons I would learn the hard way.

Later that year, Alex resigned from his agency to pursue other interests.


Making fun of monks may not be very zen but it is intrusive.

We’ve all seen the commercial, the one where Tim Hutton has dinner at Tibet’s expense. If you didn’t catch it on the Super Bowl (all three of you) then you most certainly read about it EVERYWHERE. The damn thing made the front page in all the papers. Conan did a skit. Bloggers went bonkers. Children cried! And now even I am putting in my two cents.

My opinion: Yes, it was crass. But crassness is why it was so intrusive. And intrusive is something advertisers want to be, especially those seeking marketing communications from a certain shop in Boulder Colorado. CP&B promises fame for its clients. Period. And fame is what they delivered.

Groupon is now covering its tracks claiming that consumers didn’t see the big picture; that, in fact, they are a socially aware company. That the causes they make fun of are actually near and dear to their hearts. That if one looks on their website one will find links to charities sponsoring the very causes they poke fun at. This morning, I read they are also “tweaking” the commercials so that all this ‘goodness’ becomes clearer to the consumer. Then I read they are pulling some or all of the work from air. What next: A mea culpa from the CEO?

Too late. The spot ran on the Super Bowl and that means it is part of history. Better said, it made history. Therefore, it did what it was supposed to do. Agency CP&B made yet another client more famous than they were before contracting them. No easy feat if you’re Groupon.

And it wasn’t the first time they’ve done so using shock and awe. Remember Crispin’s campaign for VW, which horrifyingly dramatized car crashes? Or when they gave Whoppers to poor people in third world countries? CP&B pushes buttons other agencies (and their clients) don’t, won’t and can’t. It’s their M.O. And they fearlessly stick to it.

And Groupon knew it. Why else would they have contacted them? They wanted dynamite and they got it. In my opinion, for them to pretend the collateral damage was wholly unintended is more offensive than the commercials.

And while King Consumer can react to the work as he or she pleases, we in Adland should think hard before throwing stones. Emulating CP&B has long been a silent mandate in many creative departments. This could be one of those teachable moments for all of us. Knock it off or lighten up. But before taking sides, take stock.

Something else. Alex Bogusky left his namesake agency for personal reasons. Once, he was their creative leader and conscience but that same conscience directed him elsewhere. A higher calling, if you will. He is now fronting a socially aware brand of capitalism called “Common.” Could it be Alex wearied of creating drama reckless of his moral compass? I would love his take on the Groupon campaign. Wouldn’t you?

Update: I had the spot posted above but it was yanked from You Tube, ergo the Tibetan flag…

Vote for Pedro!

You gotta love the latest play call by Crispin Porter & Bogusky. Last week, the famously infamous fame factory otherwise known as CP&B named its new CEO: a creative guy, no, the creative guy, he of the bushy hair, Andrew Keller.

Of course they did. CP&B has always been an agency that shoots first and asks questions later. It’s what we love about them. It’s what we hate about them. It’s so them. Keller’s promotion is a perfect example.

That the man is an outstanding creative is beyond debate. His resume is ridiculous. Giving him Alex’s beanbag chair would have been a no-brainer. He’s probably been doing the job for a couple years anyway. But making him CEO is sublime. Not only is it insanely attention grabbing but in the Bizarro World of Crispin it makes complete non-sense. If anyone ever doubted the inmates were running the asylum up in Boulder now it’s been codified. By his own admission, Keller says the unwritten motto at his agency is “We Never Learn.” Indeed. Crispin’s brand of creativity doesn’t ask for permission. Hell, it doesn’t even ask for forgiveness. Again, this is why any creative worth his bones loves/hates these guys. The ID rules.

It wasn’t long ago under even greater fanfare that CP&B’s most famous employee Alex Bogusky resigned. If the agency slipped it merely fell forward. Again.

Kudos to Chuck Porter and Miles Nadal for allowing such a move. (Is “allowing” even the right word?) And cheers to Alex for having cultivated such a place where something like this could happen. And, finally, congratulations to Andrew for never learning how to be CEO.

From Adweek, an interview with Andrew Keller: Keller promotion