Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Sweaty interns for sale!

According to AdAge Crispin Porter & Bogusky (CP+B) has launched an eBay auction for their 40 interns - selling the talents for a three month period to the highest bidder. Highest bid so far is $4,250. All of the auction proceeds will go directly "to the hardest working people we know - the CP+B interns themselves" - perhaps so they can buy cots to set up at Crispin? The promise to bidders is "world-class advertising can be yours for only a fraction of the going rate." CP+B is a Miami-based ad shop (also in Boulder Colorado) known for buzz-oriented campaigns for Burger King, Mini Cooper and most recently Microsoft. Winning big awards for work is great, but sales are what counts in the end. The Miller Lite "Man Laws" campaign was flat from the start and failed to produce sales. The resurrected Orville Redenbacher campaign was just uber-creepy.

While in a strategy session in the Palms Resort in Las Vegas for Camp Organic, our internal empathy workshop, we were introduced to a truth that quantity matters. There is a distinct and measurable relationship between success and failure. According to the University of California Davis professor Dean Keith Simonton, the most creative people have the greatest number of failures because they generate the most ideas. Even lousy ideas are fertilizer for the creative process. The more ideas you generate the more original the ideas. Simonton writes in his book, Origins for Genius, "In fact, emperical studies have repeatedly shown that the single most powerful predictor of eminence within any creative domain is the sheer number of influential products an individual has given the world." This applies to musicians, scientists, sports athletes and creative ad agencies.

The size of the agency doesn't matter, but the volume of ideas used in the ideation process does. In this tight economy every penny counts so one way to maximize creative volume, and successful ideas, is by using interns. Crispin has managed to keep their idea pool pumping with a large pool of energetic interns. Fresh college grads looking to catch a break in the biz that are willing to work for minimum wage for the chance to score on a paying job.

Word on the Web is that Crispin interns are considered
cheap slave labor where they work like dogs, are worked to the bone and are just one legitimate step away from being prostitutes. Others call it a sweat shop. Mr Bogusky said in an AdAge article, that "the interns only make minimum wage," so this auction may give the 40 interns some extra pocket change for the weekend. Extra money for the interns. Good PR. More ideas for the agency. The bigger deal for the interns is exposure and diversified work for their portfolio. In this sluggish market it could pay off in the end. For CP+B this could play out to be an even better deal. The eBay site states in its disclaimer, "The winning bidder will receive a creative presentation developed by our interns over a three month period, consisting of strategies, recommended brand positioning and concepts. No production services or finished advertising materials will be provided." The concept is brilliant. The auction serves as a tease to get prospective customers in the door for the real show. Lure in the hungry company with an idea that they can't refuse, then charge to finish the job and deliver it in the real world. AKA - the dangling carrot technique. Once they get a taste of Crispin they may want more.

GamerIntel wrote a blog on Dangling the Carrot
for gameplay. The strategy has been used very successfully by game publishers to establish how many hours of gameplay you will get out of a title. The theory goes that the more time invested in playing a game, the more happy the player is. The game is deemed of more "value" to the customer. Unlocking different layers can keep gamers involved and raises the level of perceived value.

I helped develop the Jeep
® 4x4 EVO2 game along with Terminal Reality back in 2001 to help launch the Wrangler Rubicon. Terminal Reality was co-founded in 1994 by ex-Microsoft employee Mark Randel). We strategically released different stages of the game in order to teach the gamer about the Wrangler and extend gameplay. First we introduced Jeep 101 - the basics and then proceeded to the Rubicon Trail with Silverton Pass. Each stage would include upgrades to the Wrangler Rubicon including Mopar accessories. These added capabilities allowed the gamer to accomplish difficult feats that could only be done in a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon. We also offered "cheat codes" to get to different levels. All this added value and lengthened the campaign right up to the Wrangler Rubicon launch date. The tease worked as the sale of more than 1,000 Rubicon's were directly attributed to the extended gameplay.

Taste the candy. While this method is nothing new, CP+B is using the tease and payoff play in a novel way - with an unbelievable offer (CP+B work for dirt cheap) and rewards (strategies, recommended brand positioning and concepts). It's all about the process and relationship building. Look at the eBay site again and you'll notice the reward is only available for "local pickup only." The customer will be expected to be engaged in the process. In CP+B's house. Undoubtedly the three month intense courting process will come to an abrupt end with the customer wanting more. Of course you can turn the page - if you sign a contract with CP+B. I'll be interested to see who actually takes the bait.

Some questions that naturally come up with this campaign: What other agency is going to want to use ideas created by Crispin Interns? What company is going to want to tout that they were so cheap they could only afford interns? What's to keep the interns from driving the bid up until the last few days? The latest bid is up to $5,100 - up $850 since I started writing this rant.