Irreconcilable Differences Belong In Divorce Court

Crispin Porter + Bogusky has resigned the Ikea account, citing irreconcilable differences over the company’s marketing plan, according to Adweek.
“For quite some time, it has been clear to us that we do not share the same vision for Ikea’s business,” CP+B said in a statement on Monday. “While we pride ourselves on the longevity of our client relationships, we also believe that it is in neither parties best interest to continue this relationship.”
In 2003, CP+B won the Grand Prix at the International Advertising Festival at Cannes for an Ikea TV spot called “Lamp.”
Which begs the question, how does an agency go from the industry’s top honor to irreconcilable differences in a year’s time?
1) The agency thinks too highly of itself.
2) The client does not respect the value the agency brings.
CP+B, or the kids from Coconut Grove, as I like to refer to them, are some of the top creatives in the game today. I respect their abilities. Yet, I think we’re beginning to see some “creative for creative’s sake” from this shop. Their work for Burger King is the clearest indication to date. It’s attention grabbing and funny in places, but what does it say about BK’s brand promise? Nada. “Have it your way,” may not have landed anyone in the Copywriter’s Hall of Fame, but it said something about BK and provided the consumer a clear point-of-difference.

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. Carl LaFong says:

    Once again, I believe you have hit the nail on the proverbial head. While there is no question that Crispin is a force to be reckoned with, some of their work – i.e., Dr. Angus and Ugoff for Burger King, Men of Steel for BMW Mini – reeks of self indugence. The creatives seem to be more concerned with impressing their peers by doing something “edgy” and “cool” rather than connecting with customers or building the brand.
    Here’s an interesting experiment: Do a search for “Burger King” on on Google Groups. You’ll see a number of postings on the recent “Wake Up With The King” commercial – almost all of them negative. Sure, it’s got people talking. But when they say things like “This definately goes in my top most hated commercials. I will never eat at Burger King,” well, somehow I don’t think that’s the kind of response BK had in mind.
    In the case of Ikea, I suspect part of the reason for the breakup may be due to the fact that Crispin is devoting a great deal of its time and energies to servicing accounts like Burger King – accounts that they won due in part to their work for Ikea. Ironic, no?
    And it doesn’t help that the trade press – “ADWEEK” and “Creativity” in particular – continues to kiss Crispin’s collective behinds. They accept everything the agency says and does without criticism or question. For example, I’m not aware of a single columnist or reporter who has ever commented on the hypocrisy of Crispin lambasting cigarette marketers in their “Truth” campaign while shilling artery-clogging hamburgers on behalf of Burger King.
    Such fawning coverage makes a “Tiger Beat” profile of Justin Timberlake look like hard-hitting journalism and probably contributes to Crispin’s sense of invulnerability.
    There’s no question that Crispin does deserve many of the awards and accolades that have been showered upon them. But come on, people, get a grip. Show some perspective. They are just an ad agency, not the second coming of Christ.

  2. Carl, You the man. Thanks for this thoughtful analysis.
    The problem is not Crispin’s alone, of course. In order to advance as a creative in the ad game, one must connect not with the consumer but with executive creative directors. When a Group CD or ECD looks at a great book, he or she is not thinking, did this work work. He or she is thinking, “I wish we did this.” In other words, you don’t get an all-expenses paid trip to Cannes for work that the client, or the consumer, believes in.

  3. Actually, Steve Grasse, the unpredictable creative director from the rebellious Philly shop, Gyro, noted the hypocrisy between clogging arteries and emptying lungs.
    As for Ikea, the client has slowly sliced the account pie and served it up to a few agencies for more regional and specialized helpings (i.e. Secret Weapon helped with the ribbon-cutting for the Ikea in La-la land).
    Does this add to the controversy?

  4. Carl LaFong says:

    You are right, Jay. Steve Grasse did indeed point out Crispin’s hypocrisy in the pages of “ADWEEK.” Which only serves to underscore my point: He had the guts to do what the magazine’s reporters and columnists didn’t. Of course, Grasse’s own motives were far from pure: As someone who’s made a fair amount of money pimping cigarettes, I’m sure he resents being reminded of the terrible toll tobacco exacts on those who smoke it.