Monday, December 8, 2008

Juicing The Orange

Squeezing unique advertising ideas out of everyday products
Veteran advertising executive Pat Fallon's relentless creativity and integrity brought his Minneapolis agency international acclaim.

Juicing The Orange: How To Turn Creativity Into A Powerful Business Advantage. Pat Fallon and Fred Senn. Harvard Business School Press. 255 pages.

You have to have a bit of an ego to start your own business, since it's implicit that you think you can do something better than the companies that are already doing it. So when your business is successful, it's not surprising that your own company is prominently featured in a book you write about how to do that thing you do. The trick is to not sound like you're completely full of yourself like Jack Welch, for example, or greater, deeper more spiritual lessons can be drawn from your good fortune and hard work — like any number of businesspeople turned writer-gurus.

Fortunately, that's not the case here, though putative author Par Fallon (I suspect collaborator Fred Senn did most of the heavy lifting here) provides insights based on the great work done by his namesake agency. He also draws a few lessons from his failures, but doesn't spend much time dwelling on them, though others might be tempted to not only dwell, but point fingers, whoop, dance and laugh. More about that later.

Fallon's advertising agency, originally called Fallon McElligott Rice (now Fallon Worldwide, part of the French-owned Publicis Group), broke out of its Minneapolis base by doing strikingly creative work, gaining national and international accounts like United Airlines, Lee Dungarees, Skoda Automobiles, Virgin Mobile, Miller Beer and other products and services.

The premise of this book — and Fallon's philosophy — is that the effective use of creativity is the key to successful advertising. But there's more to it than that, of course, as the text tells how his agency didn't merely rely on intuitive connections and inspirational executions. They did research. They examined how the clients' stuff was perceived in the marketplace, the ways that customers used or didn't use it and any negative notions associated with the thing. Then, they got creative.

For example, the Skoda was a joke, a punch-line to European car buyers, much like the Yugo was here, a while back. Even after the company was acquired by Volkswagen and the vehicle's quality dramatically improved, would-be buyers stayed away. Because the Skoda was so un-cool, they feared ridicule for driving it. Fallon and his team decided to tackle the issue directly, using the tagline, "It's a Skoda. Honest." in their ads. Of course, if the car was still a clunker, the advertising would not have worked, but it wasn't and it did, despite initially powerful resistance from executives within Skoda who did not want to deal with their car's bad reputation.

Fallon's crew was also responsible for the infamous "It's Miller Time" and "Dick, the Creative Genius" ad campaigns for Miller beer. It was a classic case of not only misjudging the market but aggravating the product's distributors who hated the offbeat and ineffective ads. But Fallon only briefly touches on them before touting his group's great work for CitiBank. Who could blame him? Feh!

The story of Fallon's refusal to give in to the demand of the supposedly religious owner of a giant national pizza chain to drop a pro bono account promoting the interests of children speaks well of his concern for maintaining his company's unique culture.

As admen's memoirs go, this one is gently entertaining and offers some examples of fine work, but I was equally impressed by Fallon's integrity, too. (Samples of Fallon's ads appear on the book's website.)

Remarkably similar to something published in The Miami Herald on 8/7/06

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