Thursday, July 9, 2009

When is a penis joke not the answer?

When I first interviewed at WonderGroup, the ACD/Copywriter gave me an assignment. I took home a handful of ads with no headlines, and was asked to create headlines for them. I completed it and turned it in. At my next interview, they told me they my lines were good...except the puns.

In the opinion of the ACD and the then-CCO, puns are easy, and easy doesn't cut it. In some ways I totally agree. Sometimes I think puns are appropriate. Just like rhyme and alliteration, they make things easy to remember, and Recall is one of the ways we measure the success of an ad.
I do agree with puns sometimes being the easiest solution, and therefore the most predictable. When measuring ads on creativity, and not efficacy, being expected is death. This brings me to the ad that brought this topic to my attention.

The pictured in-store poster for Burger King is a perfect example of taking the easy joke and running with it. Let's face it: Almost all foods resemble genitals. If they don't, they probably resemble poop. That's it! I can't imagine the creative team burned the midnight oil coming up with this one.

What makes this worse is that Crispin Porter & Bogusky is BK's agency. Since they took over the account, starting with the famed "Subservient Chicken," CPB's stuff has been very very creative. Like it of not, you can't deny the original thinking. Angry Onion always gives me a "wish I thought of that" moment. So, seeing bad ads like BK's Super Seven Incher come out of that awesome shop makes me cringe.

There are lots of explanations. Maybe BK really pushed this one on them. This seems unlikely to me, though. Wouldn't BK really trust CPB's creative vision by now?

Maybe this was rushed, and low priority. The best creative minds didn't handle this one, and the result was poor. This, too, seems unlikely. CPB has a reputation to protect, so why would they let something go out they didn't approve of 100%?

I think this might have been just a momentary misstep in CPB and BK's plan for "success through fame" and generating buzz. Did this poster generate buzz? Of course! I'm talking about it right now, and when it was released lots more people were talking about it. But where "Whopper Virgins" was controversial, this is just in poor taste. The same kind of buzz could be generated by farting in a job interview. It doesn't make you famous, just infamous.

So, adboys and adgirls, write penis jokes, poop jokes, puns and rhymes. 99 times out 100, they'll be funny, but not worth showing. And occasionally, when no one is expecting it, you'll be able to let one rip. Pun intended.


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