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Bad Ad Rehab

A 12-step program to detox from your bad agency selection habit.

You know the problem with chief marketing officers?

They always rise to their position through the wrong channels. Always from sales, research, finance—not the creative sides of business.

Usually given a ridiculously short window to improve results, they swing for home runs instead of trying to get people on base. Advertising efforts are cumulative in nature, and while hitting home runs is awesome, consistent incremental campaigns will win more games than one big hit.

How long has it been since Wendy’s had a “where’s the beef” moment? A campaign that transcended an immediate problem. For it to be a big idea, it really needs to be able to be more than a one-trick pony. Apple had it with their “I’m a Mac, I’m a PC” campaign because the vehicle had legs.



We admitted we were powerless over consumers—that our marketing efforts had become unmanageable.



Came to believe that we could improve results by frequently changing directions in our messaging.



Made a decision to turn our will and our marketing over to the care of experts, not salespeople.



Made a searching and fearless brand and category inventory.



Admitted to the market, to ourselves, and to a well chosen, trusted partner, the exact nature of our missteps as we understand them.



Were entirely ready to have the right ad agency remove all these defects of our past misguided efforts.



Humbly asked the world to forget our past shortcomings and give us another chance.



Made a list of all stakeholders we had harmed, ignored, or treated poorly and became willing to make amends to them all.



Made direct amends to stakeholders wherever possible, except when to do so would mortally wound our company.



Continued to take a brand inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.



Sought through strategic briefs and intelligent digital insights to improve our relationships with our markets as we understood them, using data of their interests for improved communications and the power to build our relationships.



Having had a marketing awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to consumers, stakeholders and markets to practice these principles in all our marketing efforts.

Here's an example of the right path.

See Domino’s Pizza Turnaround campaign for how Crispin Porter + Bogusky led a company that had lost its way, back to health.

The quintessential proof that you’ve found salvation is when you find an agency that you are willing to trust and work with for the long haul. Look at the relationship between Apple and TBWA/Chiat Day, or Nike and Wieden and Kennedy. The agencies grew as their clients did, not because they grew more clients, or won accounts by promising the world.

Find the agency that’s strategically right for you; where you will be their biggest and best client—not the one they needed to keep growing and using as a proving ground for their rookies (that’s what happens when you hire a hot-shop that’s out of your league).

Here's what rock bottom looks like. Maybe this is you.

This was an effort by the usually top-notch Droga5 for IHOP, “formerly” known as the International House of Pancakes, but now…

Yes, it got a lot of attention. Yes, it got free media. But is this sustainable brand equity, or disruption for the sake of attention?

Although it was written by a reformed addict, the big book of recovering adverholics isn’t obvious at first sight and the above 12 steps don’t appear anywhere in it. We highly recommend “Hey Whipple, Squeeze This” as a first step on your way to better, more strategic advertising.

Good luck on your journey.