Wednesday, August 01, 2007

New biz all about the stunts

+ Agencies pulling stunts to win clients. It's not new. Heck, throughout college and beyond I heard stories about the ways people tried to get the attention of creative directors through stunts. If people feel that it is how you get business then it's not at all surprising that it's how they will go about getting clients as well.
When they heard that La-Z-Boy was looking for a new ad agency, executives at RPA bought one of the company's recliners, trained a Web camera on it and took turns sitting in it, declaring that they wouldn't leave it empty until they got a meeting. They spent Super Bowl weekend in the gold-colored chenille chair and won the $35-million La-Z-Boy account.

For ad agencies pitching prospective clients, "the bar just continually gets higher," said David Smith, creative director at Santa Monica-based RPA, who pulled a 10-hour overnight shift. Stunts "help you get noticed and stand out from the pack."

In the old days of a few years ago, Deutsch LA, one of the region's biggest and oldest agencies, would spend six figures on a pitch and blow the competition out of the water, Deutsch President Mike Sheldon recalled. Now, he said, it's routine for an agency to shell out hundreds of thousands of dollars simply to get a client's attention.

What changed? For the advertising industry, most everything. There's been a steady shift away from time-honored ad channels -- TV and radio, print publications and billboards -- to digital media. And there's a growing pack of fresh-faced agencies with unconventional attitudes and approaches that are giving established shops a run for their money.

The field is so crowded that the big agencies are going after accounts they used to scorn, and spending a lot to win them. These days, "clients' demands require more expenditure," said Don Just, a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University's Adcenter in Richmond, Va.

And more gimmicks. Jos Anshell, chief executive of Moses Anshell agency in Phoenix, bought dozens of summer sausages with the idea of sending them to potential clients with cards saying, "This is the last baloney you'll ever receive from us," but the meat went bad before he could dispatch them.

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