Thursday, December 15th, 2005

Reflecting on our ad campaign

Reflecting on our ad campaign
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So, I figure it’s time to finally do it. I’m going to write a little about the “Creative Within” campaign. It was one of the strangest experiences I’ve been a part of, and now that the noise has died down, I feel I can comment without seeming like I’m trying to justify our efforts. Back in the spring, we were really wrestling with the idea of a promotional piece for smashLAB. With most other projects, the conceptual process seems pretty straight-forward; however, with this one, we kept spinning in circles. As most of our work is relatively conservative, we wanted to mix things up by doing something playful and cheeky.We also felt it important to get people talking. (When you run a small shop like ours, the budgets for marketing are limited, so you’d better not rely on frequency.)

A question that lead to giggles

We talked about the fact that our creative was perhaps the most persuasive aspect of our offering. As we stumbled to find a way to illustrate this (harder than it sounds), we had many debates, and put away an unhealthy number of espressos. Finally I tossed this challenge to the other designers in the studio: “Finish my sentence… We’re so creative we (blank).” I received a bit of a puzzled response, so I filled in the first one, “We’re so creative, we shit rainbows.”

We shared a laugh, and instead of beginning a brainstorm session, everyone seemed to like the idea of playing with the off-the-cuff idea. It seemed like a fun experiment, and felt little naughty. We did have some reservations, but ultimately decided to build it and see what the response would be from a few friends.

There were some interesting moments in there, while I watched our designers build fake poo and such. We giggled a fair bit, and I continued to note that I had never expected this to be part of our job descriptions.

Upon sending out the ads to some of our peers, we experienced a wide variety of responses. While some were a little less positive, many noted that they simply couldn’t stop laughing. Shortly thereafter, Peter, our new designer at the time, started posting the ads to a number of industry sites, just to see what the feeling was like.

They like us… they hate us…

What happened next was pretty amazing. We started to get responses from all over the world. People would email us to ask about the campaign, and a number of the forums we posted to started heated debate. Honesty, a lot of things said were pretty critical of the campaign. That said, we found it mildly amusing to see how upset some could get about a little potty humour.

I sat in a bit of panic, wondering if we screwed things up, and had sacrificed our client-base by doing something that had gone too far; meanwhile, I couldn’t quite understand why some were so pissed-off about fake poo. Sheesh, I’m more freaked-out about George Bush than I am about a fake turd.

Okay in Europe

When I met Marqui’s Janet Johnson, at a presentation I was involved in, the campaign came up. She noted: “Initially I was aghast–but then I couldn’t help but send it to all of my friends.” Another common observation we heard was, “The ads were pretty sensational, but they caught my attention. Then I looked at the rest of your work–it’s pretty impressive.”

For a while there, I was pretty happy about the campaign. Sure we had ruffled some feathers, but at least people were talking, and most of them even thought it was pretty clever. In the following weeks, the ads showed-up all over–mostly in blogs, and in some of the least expected places. Russian and Brazilian bloggers seemed to love the ads, and our site traffic went ballistic for a while. Perhaps the most interesting bit of feedback to the ads was from someone who noted, “You can run them in Europe, but not in North America.”


So, would we do it again? Most certainly. The increased visibility, and the number of calls we have had for new work certainly justified a few upset viewers. That being said, I doubt that we would be quite as sensational in the next campaign, as it might feel like we were a one trick pony. Regardless, my mom thought they were funny as hell. I figure that’s pretty much reward in itself.

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