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A brilliant idea from Crowley Webb

January 30, 2012

Crowley Webb, an advertising agency in Buffalo, recently completed a brilliant idea from beginning to end. I would even call it a big idea. Here’s what they did. (Note: what follows is my perception of what they did, and might not be a true reality of all of it. If I have some facts wrong, I’d be happy to hear about it.

They announced they were “the hard-working ad agency”. This meant a new website and a new sign outside their building.

But anyone can say they are hard-working. Indeed, most people run businesses would consider themselves hardworking.

If digital media has done anything, it has required people to prove their stated positioning line.

In order to prove it, they channeled “Spinal Tap” and invented the 25 hour work day.

They decided to spend 25 hours straight working on a piece of business.

But what piece of business?

Pro bono accounts

When I was a young copywriter, the assignments I liked the most where the pro bono accounts. This is when an agency takes on a piece of business (mostly a charity, but not always) and does ads for them. They do this for a couple of reasons:

  1. It is good business to give back – giving your services to a charity is an in-kind donation. Good for the agency brand, good for the bottom line.
  2. It gives the creative team (and the rest of the team) a chance to flex their muscles. This will sound selfish, but when working on pro bono accounts, creatives can push the boundaries because the client isn’t paying. (How can the client make changes?)

So at the core, the Crowley Webb 25-hour work week is a chance to flex their creative muscles, give back, get some press and help a local company.

But it gets even better.

In order to pick the company, they ran a contest. They would dedicate the 25-hour work day to the company the people pick – via social networking.

So people in Buffalo – and perhaps around the country, voted for one of three finalists. It felt like the promotion lasted for a long time, but maybe it was weeks. It doesn’t matter.

The whole 25-hour work week was getting play months ago. That’s when I voted for the eventual winner.

Since the winner was getting a 25-hour work week, every vote resulted in an impression of CW as a hard-working ad agency. As a person who has played in social media for a few years now, I can tell you that there are too many contests that make no sense.

“We’re giving away an iPod! We sell plants.”

Crowley Webb didn’t do a contest for contest sake. This was a contest that fulfills the positioning statement and reinforces the brand. Again, this isn’t easy, and it is part of what makes the idea big.

The winner, You and Who, a wonderful company run by a friend of mine, was the eventual winner. You and Who was able to promote the heck out of the 25-hour work day as it approached.

Even removed from Buffalo, I saw the Crowley Webb 25-hour week week on social media. People were talking about it and writing about it.

I happen to think this is an incredible use of old and new media. Old, because at their core, ad agencies still make ads. New, because this was an interesting use of digital media to do self-promotion while also helping a company that is doing good.

Sounds like a win, win, win.  Also, it gives me an idea.

What do you think?

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