Chuck Porter – Ad Legend – Says PR is Better Than Advertising
Chuck Porter, one of the speakers at The Holmes Report Press Summit earlier in October (in London) is the co-founder and chairman of the advertising agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky (CP+B), and chief strategist for its holding company, MDC Partners. Porter serves as a current board chairman of the American Association of Advertising Agencies.
Though Porter’s company is an ad agency, he claims to run the firm more like a PR agency.
“PR is typically better than advertising at really manipulating popular culture…and popular culture is currency,” said Porter. Strong quote from someone who made millions and millions of dollars in advertising.
Porter also admitted, quite frequently during his talk and the question and answer session following – “I don’t know.” He and his company have won many awards, but he said his philosophy in the business world is to do really good work today before going home, and everything else takes care of itself.
Since their company started small, the work they did was not for the big companies, but for newer ones starting to build their brand. Feeling the best approach in those situations is NOT to emulate the big companies and what they do, but instead something in a different direction so the work doesn’t get lost in a sea of what the other firms do.
As an example, when they took on the Mini Cooper as it was introduced to the U.S., most car companies’ ads and PR showed their car driving in the scenic outdoors. Their approach was to strap a Mini Cooper on top of an SUV and hit the cities. The SUV had a banner across the side of the SUV saying, “What are you doing for fun this weekend.”
When the company representatives from Germany traveled with the car to measure results, they reported they still didn’t know how to measure the results, except to say wherever they stopped, people took pictures. But no one was stopping to take a picture of any billboard, so they were certain the campaign worked.
Porter stressed the importance of new technology being a good thing for storytellers, allowing a direct connection to consumers. But the storytelling must be good – interrupting people just doesn’t work anymore, they can easily go elsewhere or scroll past. Also, ads are good, but inventions are better, even simple ones. His example – CP+B helped develop a “pizza tracker” for Dominoes displaying at the bottom of the screen where people were watching, showing the progress of their order – with graphics to match the type of program the customer was watching. It wasn’t complicated, but people loved it.
Measure everything. Except Porter believes creativity cannot be pre-measured. They use the internet to help measure the creativity of ideas, testing what works. Once they find a winner, they create an ad campaign.
Because they started as a small agency, they knew they couldn’t afford to hire people with all the experience, so they set a priority. They “hire for brains, talent, passion, curiosity, and experience in that order.”
The takeaway from his talk, do good work every day, try new ideas at a smaller level to see what sticks, remember the client and what goal they came to accomplish – then find a solution that engages people. It’s okay if you don’t know the answer, sometimes that’s the perfect jumping off point to finding creative ideas. And it always helps to have people to talk things over with when building creative concepts.