- "This is a marriage for the ages."
- "... at the intersection of all great things: creativity, design, technology, entertainment, music..." (the Los Angeles location of the new agency)
- "... it's all happening in L.A. right now."
- "It's about the best agency... the best agency for the job. (This ad agency) really understand(s) our brand and our consumer."
Agog with his new ad guys, the MillerCoors marketing honcho also rhapsodized about the new agency's work on the legendary Apple account. (He may not have known the computer company had fired the agency just a few months ago.)
How does the ad agency take all this lavish praise?
When client marketing guys gush so publicly, how do you suppose it will affect the new agency? Will they be more likely to listen to the client's ideas and suggestions on strategy? Will they invest the time and energy to understand the client's problems? Will they embrace the vast amount of brand knowledge residing in the client's people? In the end, will they even accept that the client knows what's best for the brand?
See, too many ad guys possess a keen predator's instinct. When they get a whiff of the scent of a gullible, desperate client and hear him fawning over them, they become emboldened. At the extreme, they can set out to have their judgment supplant their client's; in effect, to be both seller and buyer of their own ideas.
They'll conjure up advertising that sets aside the stuffy and confining "category knowledge" as to what works and what doesn't. They'll fixate on their creative solution without bothering to immerse themselves in the client's data. They'll ignore the perspectives of client people in the trenches, such as beer distributors, whose decades of lived experience could offer insight on the underlying story of the brand. Ultimately, they'll often aim to create advertising that gets their ad agency noticed and talked about, whether or not it sells any beer
In all of this, the sense of déjà vu for Miller Lite is almost spooky.
Back in the 90s, Lite faced exactly this situation. The brand was declining. The client team was frightened and desperate. An agency-change took place. The Miller brain trust chose the reputed most creative and hottest shop in the business. (Back then, the advertising "heat" was in Minneapolis before it moved to the coast.) Not surprisingly, the new agency proclaimed the idea they came up with for Lite to be "great creative." So great in fact, it was the only idea they showed their new beer client.
What choice did the Miller guys have? Unsure of their instincts and under terrific pressure, even if their gut told them the idea was just plain awful, refusing to buy it could mean letting great advertising slip from their grasp. Heck, the agency might even resign and tell the world Miller couldn't spot great advertising when it was right in front of them! Besides, as the agency pointed out, the very fact that the idea made the marketing guys nervous proved it was great. Talk about instincts for knowing when you hold the high hand!
And so, one of the least effective and most bizarre campaigns in the history of advertising got green-lighted.
Now all these years later, Miller Lite is declining again, the clients are desperate again, and they're singing the praises of their brand new agency... again.
But history doesn't repeat (re-dick?) itself.