Martin Agency Creative Critique | Newhouse Advertising Graduate Program
Welcome to our beautifullyimperfect company.Thus reads the training manual providedto new Martin Agency employees.Authored by Mike Hughes, Presidentand formerly the Chief Creative Officer,it speaks to the core differentiator ofthe Martin Agency, the quiet humilityof a group that has nothing to prove,unencumbered by the weight of hubris.Agency OverviewSituated in sunny Richmond, Virginia, theMartin Agency’s main office staffs about550 employees. A smaller office in NewYork City provides ancillary services.The agency’s billings, roughly $600million, up from $100 million 25 yearsago, come from a roster of blue-chipclients including NASCAR, GEICO,The American Cancer Society,UPS, Walmart, PING, and more.Big wins in the last six months includeBenjamin Moore & Co., Oreo, Timberland,and Colonial Williamsburg. Accordingto Chairman John B. Adams, the agencyhas a batting average of 60 to 80percent of the accounts they pitch.“Our goal is to create ideas that clients profitfrom, people talk about, competitors envy andour people are proud of. We try to do that byinstilling something real and human into thework; we encourage our people to put a bitof themselves into the work.” -- Mike HughesMartin’s Philosophy“Do work you love with people you love.”Expressed in that line is both a creativeand business philosophy that is atthe core of the company’s culture.With that tagline and Mike Hughes’ legacy,we expect the campaigns that we reviewfrom The Martin Agency to leverage onpositive emotions: advertising campaignsthat meet this criteria will be funny,happy, romantic, or heartwarming. Toleverage on negative emotions, like fear,scarcity, or self-doubt, may be effectiveadvertising, but it’s not right for Martin.Joe Alexander, Chief Creative Officersince 1992, offered the following adviceon creating Martin-quality work:“Don’t be cynical. Find the joy in doingthe work. Build the joy into the work.This is Mike’s legacy and what he taughtall of us. We are not a factory wherepeople punch a clock. We are a messy,imperfect, living, breathing studiofull of inventors and tinkerers. But weshould never put the end result overthe means. The people, the laughs,the ups and downs of the process, arewhat sustain you. And what will last.”
Campaign ReviewGEICOGEICO is a unique account for an agencyto work on. Because the insurance indus-try is a parity industry with a large amountof clutter, creating stunning advertisingcapable of capturing and holding theattention of the public for weeks as acampaign runs is a tall task for anyone.That’s likely the reason behindGEICO’s decision to run multiple,overlapping campaigns, including:• The GEICO Gecko• Maxwell the Pig• The GEICO Cavemen• Rhetorical Questions• Short Stories and Tall Tales• An Easier Way to Save• Get Happy, Get GEICOHere, I’ll review the Get Happy work.SIMPLY AnalysisStrategic - The creative simplystates the selling proposition of GEICOinsurance: it could save you 15% or moreon car insurance. It then elevates thisstatement with creative work that showshow happy this will make the purchaser.Altogether, a clear and understandableexpression of GEICO’s differentiator.Intrusive - Earlier legs were moreintrusive, e.g. Gallagher in a farmer’smarket. It’s hard to ignore a cultural icondoing the thing he’s most well-known for.Later executions, e.g. Paul Revere with acell phone, really fail to grab and hold theattention of the viewing audience.Memorable - Compared to most ofthe other advertising in the world, theGEICO work is clearly memorable, butcompared to the other campaigns createdfor GEICO, particularly the Cavemenor the Rhetorical Questions campaign,this particular campaign falls short.Persuasive - There’s little here toconvince me that buying GEICO’s insur-ance will make me happier than a compet-itor’s, but it does build brand recognition.Lasting - The death of a GEICOcampaign is often without much fanfare.The company simple retires actors andideas after the campaign has run for a fewmonths. It’s this judicious management ofcampaign burnout and the selection ofbig ideas with legs that secures GEICO’sposition as some of the most memorableand well-liked advertising on television.Yours - I’m not certain that GEICO ownshappiness: that is and always will be aCoca-Cola brand equity. It will take morethan this to wrest it from their hands.
Campaign ReviewBFG AwesomecrossThe challenge with tires is that all thegeneral public knows is that they needthem. Brand loyalty is low because mostbuyers want something cheap that won’tburst on the road. Upselling this customerto a performance tire isn’t always easy.The definition of an integrated campaign,the team brought influencers from aroundthe Internet onto the track for a test drive.The track and car were equipped withsensors that tracked the car’s movementand the participant’s excitement level.Influencers went back to their blogs andpublishers to write their experiences, andBFGoodrich used footage from the eventto fill a YouTube channel, create a series ofcommercials, and prepare a case study.SIMPLY AnalysisStrategic - Aiming to create an influ-encer-to-advocate model exceuted viasocial media, the strategy of bringing inprominent bloggers to actually experiencethe event is a great strategic move.Intrusive - Influencers are usedfor their ability to break through theclutter. If I read a blog, I’ll read itsfeatured review of the BFGoodrichtires, too. Solidly innovative idea tomeasure the output of the machine andprovide a quantifiable link between thetires and the emotions of the driver.It brings the advertisement to life.Memorable - The campaign is anamazing convergence of data, digital,design, social all in a live event. Asmemorable as it was for the people whodrove the cars, there’s a gap betweenexperiencing this and seeing a video ofit. I’m not confident the creative worksets the bar where it needs to.Persuasive - I now believe that if I havea sports car, I need a set of performancetires from BFGoodrich. The phrase usedby one driver, “these tires bite the road,”captures the essential reason for buying.Lasting - Most likely a one-off cam-paign for a single product. No clear direc-tion for this campaign to go in the future.Yours - BFGoodrich’s entire brandequity is about fun behind the wheel,and this campaign illustrates howmuch fun drivers have when they’reusing BFGoodrich tires. Clearly addsto BFGoodrich’s key brand equity.
Campaign ReviewManpowerGroupThe “Humanly Possible” campaign forManpowerGroup, a staffing and HRfirm, shows the value of hiring peoplewho don’t fit into boxes. The campaign’staglines include “Steel and steam did notbuild the industrial age,” and “Rockets andalgorithms did not launch the space age.”The campaign was launched to transformthe image of ManpowerGroup from acompany that provided low-skill labor, i.e.“manpower,” to a company that provideshigh-skill talent, i.e. “man power.”SIMPLY AnalysisStrategic - The campaign positionsthe brand as purveyor of high-talentindividuals, rockstars who can elevatea company to a new level, separating itfrom other HR firms by juxtaposition.Intrusive - It’s worth noting that B2Bpublications are lower clutter than othermedia. The strong message conveyedin the ad carries enough weight to beintrusive on its own. Simple colors andclean execution. Fits the bill of what thetarget market is likely to find compelling.Memorable - The tagline and accom-panying visual leave just enough to theimagination to make them worth the read.This makes them worth remembering.Persuasive - Because the opinionexpressed is an unarguable, central truthof the human experience, the messageis believable. What sets this ad apart isthat it positions ManpowerGroup as theHR company that cares about people.Lasting - The campaign ideahas broad shoulders and long legs.Endless executions abound thatcan show the ManpowerGroup’scommitment to the Human Age.Yours - ManpowerGroup has owned themost important element in hiring talentedprofessionals, the human element, simplyby defining it.
Campaign ReviewWalmart Steak-OverThe premise of the Steak-Over isn’tanything new. In a classic taste-testchallenge, Walmart went to leadingsteakhouses across the deep south,replaced their steaks with Walmartsteaks, and recorded the results.SIMPLY AnalysisStrategic - Walmart has an issue withpublic perception of their meat section.Many customers refuse to buy their meatat Walmart. The campaign clearly meetsthe strategic objective of the brief.Intrusive - Launched just prior toMemorial Day Weekend 2012, thecampaign speaks to something that’son many minds across America: whatthey’ll serve at the BBQ this year.Because it taps into what people arecurious about, they’ll pay attention.Memorable - The point of aWalmart campaign is to increase salesafter customers are already at the store.The commercial aims to change thethoughts that consumers have in themeat aisle, thoughts like “I won’t evenlook at the meat here,” into a potentialpurchase. It will be hard to forget thiscommercial after you’re primed by theWalmart meat section to remember it.Persuasive - The taste test challengeis a time-tested persuasive technique. Thisparticular campaign hits home for me be-cause I’ve had Walmart meat, and I havelittle faith in it. Maybe it’s an issue withhow it’s handled or how long it sits outon the store shelves. Walmart’s campaignfails to answer these questions for me.It most likely delivers in persuasivenessfor a less-skeptical audience, either anaudience that hasn’t had negative experi-ences with Walmart steaks or an audiencethat doesn’t know what good steak is.Lasting - If the campaign representsa real change in the quality of Walmartmeat, this could have lasting reprocus-sions on the business that Walmart’s meatsection does. Steaks are a gateway drug tothe rest of the meat section. If we can con-vince people to try a Walmart steak andthen deliver on the quality promise, therewill be a definite uptick in steak sales.Yours - Since the campaign is specifical-ly about Walmart’s steaks, and is answer-ing an objective specifically to Walmart’smeat section, there’s little to be said here.
Campaign ReviewHanes ComfortBlendThis Hanes campaign advertises atagless line of Hanes products, calledComfortBlend. Product packagingencourages you to “feel the softness.”The proposition delivered in theadvertising is that you don’t need towear kittens to have a soft shirt.SIMPLY AnalysisStrategic - Psst, Martin Agency,your strategy is showing. The brief said“ComfortBlend is the softest shirt on themarket.” What’s the softest thing on theplanet? Kittens. Let’s make a shirt out ofkittens. Nobody stopped them, so thiscommercial was produced. Poor form.Intrusive - The simple fact is that Hanesrelies on the Michael Jordan factor to beintrusive. He’s the only reason that peoplewatch their commercials. The creativeneeds to introduce him earlier in thespot or else lose out on the MJ effect.Memorable - I’ll have forgotten it tenminutes after I finish this campaign review.How can an ad be memorable if it doesn’tleave an impression on its viewers?Persuasive - I’m not sure softness isthe unique selling proposition that Hanesshould leverage. I don’t purchase clotheswith softness in mind, and this commercialdoes not give me a compelling reason toadd softness to a list of factors I consider.Lasting - The commercial fits withHanes’ existing ComfortBlend campaignsillustrating their softness. There’s noquestion as to whether we see manymore humorous Hanes commercials,but will we see any good ones?Yours - Does Hanes own comfort?It had better after thirty years ofadvertising. Throughout the brand’shistory, comfort has been at thecore of Hanes’ positionings, and thiscampaign continues to position Hanessquarely at its key brand equity.
You know, Randy, folks who buyGEICO insurance sure are happy.How happy are they, Jimmy?Happier than a ventriloquistplaying Marco Polo.Get Happy. Get Geico. 15Minutes Could Save You...
You know, Randy, folks who buyGEICO insurance sure are happy.How happy are they, Jimmy?Happier than a bearded ladyafter a circus performance.Get Happy. Get Geico. 15Minutes Could Save You...
The Martin Agency hasdelivered, time and again,cutting-edge, award-winning campaigns,but that’s not enoughfor its creative team.“We always fail more than we succeed.Everyone who sets really high goalsdoes. Our recent work has been morestylish, but it hasn’t always come from abold enough premise.” -- Mike HughesBeing an agency that is brutally honestwith itself, some of the campaigns aretoo harshly judged. The GEICO work isfun and irreverent. The Walmart workresonates with people. ManpowerGroup’swork is successful at defining to HRmanagers what really matters in hiring.With other campaigns, like the Haneswork, Mr. Hughes is accurate when hesays the agency fails often. The spot Ireviewed has fallen a long way from “Waittill we get our Hanes on you” and “Lookwho we’ve got our Hanes on now.”“Can we do better? Oh yeah. Wecan’t ever be good enough.” -- JoeAlexander, Chief Creative OfficerThe work really delivers best when itconforms to the creative philosophyof putting something human into it.Martin’s an agency that can deliver clichéresults for groundbreaking clients orgroundbreaking work for cliché clients,and what you get may be hit or miss.I’d consider hiring Martin on the kind ofcampaign that needs an integrated orinteractive solution. When the agencyis challenged to deliver something ofthis nature, they tend to excel. Theirintegrated campaign work is awfully good.They do great work transformingstodgy old companies into chic, hipbrands, too. Walmart has one of thelowest levels of public goodwill of anycompany on the planet, yet the agencyhas found a way to humanize them. Sotoo have they done great B2B work forManpowerGroup and Morgan Stanley.The work is, like thecompany, beautifuland imperfect.