The Secret Sauce for Achieving Advertising Rock Star Status Is Revealed Over Dinner With Crispin Porter + Bogusky’s Ryan Kutscher

Crispin Porter + Bogusky is hot! Real hot! They were recently named Advertising Age’s 2008 Agency of the Year to no one’s surprise. Unless you live under a rock, you’ve seen their work. They’ve been Burger King’s agency for the past several years and received some strong attention with their recent "Whopper Virgins" campaign and "sacrifice-a-friend" Facebook application. They have also recently produced work for Microsoft (Bill Gates & Jerry Seinfield), Volkswagon and Coke Zero (they were responsible for the Mean Joe green re-make in this year’s Super Bowl).

Recently, I had the opportunity to have dinner with one of CP+B’s Creative Director’s Ryan Kutscher, who works on the Burger King account. This was an opportunity to learn the magic of CP+B! I could take this knowledge, bottle it up and sell to the millions of advertising geeks looking to become famous over their big idea for marketing toilet paper. But before I reveal the CP+B secret, let me briefly describe Ryan Kutscher.

Simply put, Ryan is the rock star we all want to be. I picked him up at the Nashville International Airport. He was waiting for me in baggage claim when I arrived. He wore giant dark shades - the kind that cover up your entire face. Designer blue jeans with a huge belt buckle probably emblazoned with his latest creative award and some cool t-shirt that implicitly said, “I am one cool dude!” He stood well over 6 feet tall and carried the frame of a competitive body builder. Needless to say I was impressed. He fit the stereotype of the ad world's idea of a well-known agency creative director.

So back to dinner and my quest to learn the secret sauce of advertising greatness. I could practically smell the money I would make from the many speaking engagements and books deals that would soon follow. After a delicious coffee cured steak from Stoney River (if you haven’t had this you must try it) which Ryan and I both ate (no we didn’t share it), it was time to drink a glass of red wine and talk shop. No more waiting. Here it goes. “Ryan, what’s the secret at Crispin? How do you guys do what you do? How do you continue to do great work and get more big name clients?“

Ryan didn’t hesitate to answer. After all, it was engrained in his skull from years of Crispin training. “Man, I think some of it was being lucky.”

“Lucky?” I gasped. “Surely you guys have a Whopper-like special formula for creative success?”

Ryan kept the discussion pretty simple. To paraphrase, he said something like this, “To some extent I think the agency had a bit of luck in finding the right clients at the right time. Maybe that was one hundred percent planned. Not sure. I wasn’t there. What I do know is that the agency got an opportunity with TRUTH, and it turned out to be a great fit. The result was some really great work. Creatively, strategically and tactically it was really successful, really smart, and really different. That sort of began this momentum. MINI again just seemed to really click with the style of the agency. I’m not sure you can ever really know that’s going to happen like that. That’s why I say luck. And then there was BK, who I’ve been told, was widely considered one of the worst clients in advertising. Which is hard to believe, because I do have experience working with them. It was the first client I worked on, and now about 5 years later I can tell you, they’ve got to be one of the best. Luck again? Not sure. But, I think there was a little good fortune there.”

So that’s the secret sauce? A little luck? Wait a second. Perhaps the secret sauce is not a process. Perhaps it’s just a firm stance to be different and sometimes bold, regardless of the size of budget or how well known the client name is now. Anyone can create water cooler chatter over a Super Bowl spot for Budweiser using millions on production costs. Tomorrow’s rock stars are going to be made by the assignments and clients waiting to be popularized just like the Truth campaign. After all, that’s why they hire an advertising agency. Making them famous and creating fans are part of the job.

To end this blog, thanks Ryan. You taught me well and saved me from the embarrassment of buying an entire new wardrobe. I don’t need rock star jeans, cool shades or bulging muscles. I honestly don’t think they would have the same affect on me. Instead I’ll apply what we’ve all learned and relearned every few years as we watch another small agency rise to rock star status.

1. Do great work for our existing clients – NOW – using whatever budgets they give you. No excuses.

2. Push your clients to be unconventional in their approach to marketing. Big ideas that do this are why they are pay us.

3. Be willing to tell a prospect no if they are not willing to do #2.

I’m still buying a belt buckle.


  1. Crispin Porter + Bogusky is my fav and so is Ryan. Number 2 really hits home with me. I have been in the industry for several years now and I get sick when AE's and Clients are NOT willing to be pushed. They all want to be safe.
    Anyway, I found your blog through LinkedIn on the AAF Group. Thanks for the post!
    Jamie Croft

  2. I was very disappointed in this story. Allow me to explain:

    You drank red wine? Don't get me wrong. I can quaff with the best of em. When my wife and I are watching Tim Gunn's Guide to Style (did I just say that?) I love a glass or two.

    But 2 dudes, eating steak. At the airport he sounds like a guy you'd go out and play a game of pool (or touch football) with.

    Sittin around. Taking smack about the ad biz.

    Drink an effing beer, would you!?

    OK, really, good stuff. Thanks for sharing.