Who doesn’t love a big idea? It’s always been all the buzz in the advertising industry, even if really big ideas have been in terribly short supply in recent years.
That hasn’t stopped several books from being published on the topic of the big idea and on the way ad agencies — when they’re smart and lucky — use big ideas to boost a brand’s status in the world.
Several years ago, Saatchi & Saatchi’s Kevin Roberts gave us the highly-hyped book “Lovemarks.” More recently Leo Burnett came up with “HumanKind,” a book intended in part to celebrate the agency’s 75th anniversary and explain its approach to brand building.
The Burnett book quickly dropped from sight — making it appear the agency wanted nothing to do with the book after getting it into print.
Now comes the best of the recent lot of such tomes — “The Creative Business Idea Book: Ten Years of Breakthrough Thinking” (Smallwood & Stewart, 295 pgs., $50).
The straightforwardly-written, colorfully-laid-out (love the phosphorescent salmon cover!) book has no specific author. Rather it looks to have been smartly pieced together by a group of executives within the Euro RSCG Worldwide network.
Less pompous than “Lovemarks” and less obtuse than “HumanKind,” this Euro RSCG book is, at its core, a very varied and (for the most part) sexy compendium of case histories of Euro RSCG brand-building work for clients around the world.
It may be telling to note that none of the case histories covered in the book comes from Euro RSCG’s Chicago office, which for years has been struggling to grow its general market business and its creative profile.
Fascinating range of case studies in new Euro book
Now with some new top management, including Jason Peterson at the creative helm, the Chicago office has new hope of catching up with some of the more impressive Euro network shops that are spotlighted in “The Creative Business Idea Book” (CBI for short).
Case histories aside, much of the rest of the material in CBI will not seem shockingly new to most readers who have worked in the ad business for very long. The introductory pages are devoted in large part to how the ad business has changed so dramatically in recent years, and how ad agencies that want to survive have had to rush to keep up.
For all the change, however, the big idea has never lost its luster or its value to brands.
But as the new book makes clear, Euro isn’t just interested in delivering cutting-edge big ideas for the brands entrusted to it. The agency wants to provide “transformational” big ideas that not only cut through and grab the consumer’s attention, but drive business growth.
Again, this isn’t necessarily a startlingly new idea in Adland, but the goal of doing truly creative advertising that also grows a brand isn’t stressed often enough.
Certainly, Burnett has often tried to suggest it is all about doing advertising that drives brand growth. And while it may have done that in some cases, we can’t say the advertising that has produced the growth has always been breathtakingly creative.
But back to the case studies in CBI.
They encompass a fascinating range of brands from Air France to the Atlantic magazine, Dos Equis lager, Jaguar motor cars and Evian, for which Euro RSCG famously offered up a video of athletic babies doing their roller skating routine to spark interest in a pricey bottled water that had lost its sparkle.
Murdoch-owned Sun, then edited by Rebekah Brooks, is a case study
There is even a case history for the Sun, the British tabloid owned by Rupert Murdoch. Euro RSCG was tapped to create a transformational campaign to reestablish the newspaper as a publication with political clout.
Euro’s Sun ad campaign featured the head of then prime minister Gordon Brown perched atop the body of Sir Winston Churchill. The ad, which ran on the cover of the newspaper, aimed to disparage former prime minister Brown by suggesting he was incapable of filling Churchill’s big shoes.
None other than Rebekah Wade (now THE Rebekah Brooks much in the news in connection with the Murdoch empire’s phone hacking scandal) was the Sun’s editor at the time the ad campaign launched.
But the Sun newspaper is merely one of the newsier case histories in CBI. We also liked reading about how Euro helped make the venerable Atlantic magazine’s thoughtful content relevant in a world fixated on show business celebrity. The campaign tag line was “Can You Rethink Thinking?”
And we very much enjoyed the saga behind Euro’s transformation of Dr. Scholl’s from a (very) tired orthopedic products brand into something much more hip with its “Are You Gellin’?” campaign, which CBI’s authors readily admit was work beloved by some and hated by others.
There’s no denying “The Creative Business Book” is intended as something of a promotional tool for Euro RSCG Worldwide, as were the books we previously mentioned that were attached to other agencies.
Still, CBI makes for good reading. It gave us the illuminating back story on a number of campaigns we have admired in recent years. And it’s comforting to find out that while we were admiring these ad campaigns, they were actually doing the important job of building the brands they were created to support.
Please contact Lewis Lazare at LewisL3@aol.com.