Okay, maybe it wasn't quite that casual or haughty. But by asking publications to help deliver ad content in a way that would resonate with their readers, CP+B and Mini have devised one of the few print campaigns in recent memory capable of diverting attention away from, say, the latest eight-page spread on Jennifer Aniston's hair.
"We expected that only progressive-minded magazines would be interested in pursuing the opportunity," recalls CP+B vice president Jim Poh, one of the driving forces behind the agency's MINI work. "Some were like 'we don't do things like that,' but most were pretty charged up about it. They usually don't hear much from folks like us besides 'you gotta give me a discount.'"
The end result: MINI's new "park it on your desk" print campaign, currently featured in The New Yorker, Business 2.0, Fast Company and Wired. ("We tried to run it in magazines whose readers actually have desks," Poh quips.) The campaign features an unadorned MINI, with a bunch of cutouts - R88 wheels, side skirt, chrome fuel flap and more - that allow readers to customize their own model. Those not interested in getting glue or tape on their hands need not participate.
The campaign has proven a hit with publications catering to nearly every demographic. Of course, it's not like publishers weren't groveling for MINI's marketing dollars beforehand, but the "park it on your desk" twist has made the company one of the most coveted advertisers around.
"What a great, great campaign," says Dana Fields, president and executive publisher of FHM, which has run MINI ads in recent months. "They're constantly defying expectations."
Poh, not surprisingly, deflects much of the credit to MINI's brand managers. "There's not necessarily a strategy behind each individual piece," he explains. "Our mandate is to make the car an icon in the U.S. the way it always has been in Britain." To do so, Poh says the agency has endeavored to "intentionally violate the standard rules of car advertising" and create a subculture around the car.
To this end, the MINI has been a featured prop in a Playboy centerfold shoot and the centerpiece of a New Yorker cartoon booklet; up next is a Maxim spread celebrating the drive-in theater. "The idea was to tap into each of the magazine's brand equity," Poh explains.
In perhaps the campaign's most inspired stroke, CP+B and MINI partnered with a decidedly non-traditional publication: the venerable Weekly World News, which screamed "Bat Boy Steals a MINI" on one of its recent covers. "We used it basically as an out-of-home advertising idea, since everyone always notices those crazy stories at the [supermarket] checkout," Poh says.
Add to all this MINI's Hollywood appeal (the car probably deserved over-the-title billing in The Italian Job, so prominent was its presence in the film), and CP+B is well on its way to establishing a strong brand personality. Future ad efforts will be similarly unique, Poh hopes, though he realizes that the ads have almost taken on a life of their own.
"The people who follow the campaign look forward to what's coming next," he says. "We like to think we've set the bar fairly high."