February 11, 2009 § Leave a Comment
As reported by both Advertising Age and The Wall Street Journal today, Bob Lachky, Chief Creative Officer of Anheuser-Busch is leaving the company after 20 years. Mr. Lachky was the person behind many celebrated Anheuser-Busch campaigns, including “Wassup?!“, the Budweiser Frogs and the “I love you, Man” commercials.
Mr. Lachky’s commercials, created in partnership with long-time agency DDB, won numerous awards and wove themselves into our culture. Before the term ”social network” was popularized by the Internet, his commercials were creating social networks around water coolers – social networks that then got together after work for a beer.
Watching these commercials again on You Tube this afternoon all my thoughts were about the risks that Bob Lachky took with the Anheuser-Busch brand messages. I watched “Wassup?!” and thought, “How did he get to ’yes’ with that?” The frog’s? I can clearly remember my reaction the first time I saw the frogs commercial; it was, “Huh?” They grew on me. Looking at them today, I love them. But, it is interesting to note that both Ad Age and The Journal essentially summarized the career and success Mr. Lachky had at Anheuser-Busch with a quote from him at the end, as follows: “I was fired more times than Billy Martin.”
You see, in the creative business risk is everything. Great creative does not emerge risk free. That is why Ad Age and The Wall Street Journal summarized Bob Lachky’s career as they did, in my estimation, because intuitively it is known that what made Mr. Lachky great were the risks he took, risks that nearly cost him his job as many times as Billy Martin (who was fired five times).
Now, let’s talk about media as the “new creative,” a popular term today. How much media risk takes place in the world today? Executional risk such as video and widgets and layer ads doesn’t count. That’s creative. Not media. I’m talking about planning risk: TV v. Internet. Satellite Radio v. Broadcast. Branded Content v. the Long tail. Actions attributable to less than 1% of an audience v. Impressions attributable to 99% of an audience. What’s our gut about media value? What bets have we made on it? Who’s bet their job on a media instinct?
Advertising.com, before it disappeared inside Platform A, used to talk about “risk free” advertising. No surprise – and very much to the point being made here – they got big. But what has it done for us online all this talk about risk free and results? Reading Randall Rothenberg’s exceptional piece on Interactive Creativity (featured on this blog yesterday), the answer is not much. As the new creative, media is simply failing to inspire those who would take their cue from it in order to develop messages that move people and brands online.
We have to kiss some frogs here. We have to take some chances and say “I love you, Man.”
Really. I love you, Man.