From cool dudes to fainting models, Ian Harding and Shaun McIlrath of
Impact FCA explain how two agencies are kicking up a storm in direct
BBDO, NEW YORK
In the dark heart of consumerism, at a place appropriately named
Purchase, lie the headquarters of PepsiCo Inc. This battle-hardened
marketing bunker is home to the heroes of the Cola wars who, a few years
ago, before they had reason to be blue, stumbled upon something of a
Mountain Dew is Pepsi’s fastest- growing beverage brand. The
advertising, through BBDO, features a group of wacky young slackers,
known as the Dew Dudes, who air-surf, abseil, parajump, bungee - you
name it - while imploring you to Do the Dew.
If this sounds familiar, it’s because it is. PepsiCo has lifted Mountain
Dew’s brand personality lock, stock and barrel and slipped it into the
UK as a line extension of the parent brand. Yup, it’s PepsiMax. But the
marketing genius didn’t stop there. This summer in the US, PepsiCo
launched the Dew Extreme Network, issuing pagers to hundreds of
thousands of teenagers.
Why? Well, it was Olympic summer in the US, which meant drinks companies
spent billions of dollars trying to swamp each other in a desperate bid
to grab the ‘thirst dollar’. Instead of going head-to-head on
advertising, PepsiCo went direct to the market - distributing pagers in
exchange for ten proofs of purchase and dollars 30.
In return, a whole generation of Dew Dudes got six months free paging
and, once a week, an individual message about a freephone number where
they could win prizes and enter competitions. The voice messages feature
sports stars and entertainers and more than 20 companies are offering
give-aways and discounts, including MTV, Pizza Hut, Sony Music, Burton
Snowboards, Wave Sports, Universal Studios and Harley-Davidson Apparel.
It’s DM to die for. Cheap, innovative, ongoing communication to a
captive market. There are also many brand benefits from positive
association and value-added offers.
Add to this the fact that parents and school groups are kicking up a
stink in the press because pagers have a certain ‘street-cache’ from
their previous association with drug dealing, and you have a sure-fire
KIRSHENBAUM BOND AND PARTNERS
Jon Bond, the enigmatic leader of the New York hotshop, Kirshenbaum Bond
and Partners, understands prejudices. ‘Within traditional advertising
there exists a clearly delineated creative hierarchy, with TV at the top
and print at the bottom,’ he says. He describes below-the-line work as
‘ideas too big to fit on TV’, and his clarion cry is for creative
liberation from ‘the confines of traditional media’.
The meteoric rise of Bond’s agency pays testimony to his vision. It also
puts paid to the idea that direct marketing can’t build a brand - KBP is
the most talked about agency in the US.
We first heard about KBP in connection with its work for Snapple. The
agency had been briefed to launch Mango-flavoured Snapple in the US with
a tiny budget. In most ad agencies this brief would have led to a small
trade press ad - in most DM agencies, to a trade mailer. Instead, KBP
looked more closely at the problem and discovered that there was only
one major importer of mangoes into the US. They did a deal allowing them
to put a sticker on every mango coming into the country saying, ‘now
available in Snapple’.
For the launch of Bamboo Lingerie, KBP again defied the limitations of
conventional media by creating ‘sidewalk stencils’ which were sprayed on
the pavements of New York reading: ‘From where we are, it looks like you
need new lingerie.’ For the launch of a liqueur, they placed ice
sculptures of the logo on hot beaches in trendy South Beach, Miami, and
left them to melt during the day. And for Smalto men’s fragrance they
placed models in stores and paid them to faint at the feet of men who’d
been sprayed with the cologne, breathlessly muttering ‘you make me
The strength of these ideas is that they don’t look like or feel like
advertising but they’re about as direct as you can get, cutting through
the shield consumers erect against lazy messages.
The last word goes to Bond, who says: ‘My advice to creatives is to get
out of advertising. There’s a lot of virgin territory out there.’