Don’t be an ass

In strategy's ongoing Q's + cocktails, we suss out what's on the minds of the industry's movers and shakers. Who better to kick off with than Chuck Porter, chief strategist of MDC Partners, Toronto? After all, it's his job to locate hot shops for the holding company to snap up. MDC's latest acquisition? Toronto agency Zig. Porter has other cred too, as his Miami-based ad agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky is at the top of a lot of lists (including our last issue's teen picks, for the shop's chicken site).

In strategy’s ongoing Q’s + cocktails, we suss out what’s on the minds of the industry’s movers and shakers. Who better to kick off with than Chuck Porter, chief strategist of MDC Partners, Toronto? After all, it’s his job to locate hot shops for the holding company to snap up. MDC’s latest acquisition? Toronto agency Zig. Porter has other cred too, as his Miami-based ad agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky is at the top of a lot of lists (including our last issue’s teen picks, for the shop’s chicken site).

‘See that car?’ Chuck Porter points at a black Mercedes sport coupe outside Toronto’s Four Seasons hotel. ‘I was thinking of buying one, but I didn’t want to look like an asshole.’ That’s despite the fact that others in his shoes – as partner of the shop behind the award-winning Ikea ‘Lamp’ ad – couldn’t care less.

‘We really, really try hard every day to not be arrogant assholes,’ he says. Why’s that exactly? ‘Because I hate that.’ Fair enough. Here’s what else this straight shooter had to say.

What’s the best ad out there?

I wouldn’t categorize it as the best, but at least I found it charming and entertaining as opposed to just crap. It’s the new Harley ad from [Minneapolis-based] Carmichael [Lynch]. It’s beautifully cast and well directed. It’s about guys who don’t have Harleys and wish they did.

What recent work from CP+B do you like best?

‘Subservient Chicken.’ We did this Web site for Burger King chicken sandwiches and the whole concept is ‘Have it your way.’ You can type in commands for the chicken and he will do whatever you want him to. We e-mailed it to 20 people, and it got one million hits in 24 hours. It was insane. So far it’s gotten 300 million hits. [The 'chicken' is a man in a chicken suit.]

How’d you come up with it?

We started with the idea, which was to reinvent BK’s ‘Have it your way’ theme. We thought: ‘How can we dramatize it?’ We didn’t start by thinking about TV commercials. We thought about smart vehicles to deliver the message.

How do you convince your clients to do this kind of stuff?

Agencies have always been the ones who teach clients to push the envelope. I see that changing. We have clients coming to us saying: ‘Let’s do something new and innovative. Give us some of that new media.’ They’re looking at diminishing returns on advertising and saying: ‘We have to rethink how we do this.’

So how come so many agencies complain about clients?

It’s easy for somebody to say: ‘I worked on that, but the client wouldn’t take a risk.’ That’s bullshit. It’s because the agency hasn’t offered something that’s strategically sound enough. It’s not enough to be different. You can’t be different and suck.