What Crispin Porter & Bogusky can teach news industry

By Steve Outing

I spent Monday and Tuesday this week participating in the “Upgrade to Digital” workshop at the brand spanking new Boulder Digital Works at CU facility in downtown Boulder, a bleeding-edge training program to teach advanced creative, tech, and business digital-media skills. (Disclaimer: I attended on a free pass since I’m working on building a digital-media initiative for CU’s Journalism & Mass Communication School.)

What was especially great about the experience was that the workshop was run by Scott Prindle and Joe Corr, VP/director of technology and senior technical lead, respectively, of Crispin Porter & Bogusky, the white-hot ad agency with offices here in Boulder and in Miami. Other CPB personnel also floated in and out (plus other special guest presenters), so attendees were treated to being taught, and critiqued, by ad agency rock stars.

Since I’m focused on the news industry and its transformation, I had a different perspective than most of the other workshop participants; I was thinking of how what we were seeing and learning could be adapted and/or applied to news (from digital techniques, to business models, to technology). In this and perhaps more blog entries, I’ll share a few take-aways from the last two days, as viewed through my news-colored glasses.

1. It’s the utility, stupid! Those companies savvy enough to be on the digital forefront (enough so that they’re spending money with CPB) are experimenting with smart-phone apps and web applications that emphasize utility for the customer, not just trying to get a brand message across. A phone example is Nike’s Nike+ running shoe with an embedded chip that communicates data with Nike+ on an iPhone (or iPod). There’s a website and social training community built around the product and its personal data from you, so that you can do stuff like time yourself time on a specific route, then compare it to a friend who runs the same route at a different time — a virtual competition. The phone and online components are meant to sell Nike+, certainly, but they provide the Nike+ customer with a great training log and social tool. It’s not just about selling, but improving the shoe buyer’s life. Utility.

Apply this to news: When developing mobile apps, think utility, not just presenting news. An app that keeps track of local road construction projects and finds re-routes around them could be handy for local commuters, for example. It might be introduced one time to accompany a big story about all the local road projects under way due to the federal stimulus money coming into the community — but it could be used by commuters and residents long term, and re-marketed each time there’s another road-construction and traffic-delays story.

On the web, CPB presenters showed us their NCAA Final Four Bracket-o-matic Flash project created for Coca-Cola Zero. (Link is to video.) The idea was to make the NCAA basketball championship grid easy to fill out; instead of picking teams and inputing them into the grid based on who you think will win, there’s a series of sliders along the top that fills out the grid based on 8 variables that you adjust.

What struck me about this was the thin line between a soda company doing this vs. a news company producing the same sort of thing and selling advertising around it. The Bracket-o-matic would feel OK as an editorial online feature. Again, it provides utility as well as fun. Why did an advertiser do it and not a media company? Coca-Cola had the money to pay CPB to create it; most news companies don’t have the technical chops to pull something like this off.

More take-aways later. … Off to a meeting now…

Author: Steve Outing Steve Outing is a Boulder, Colorado-based media futurist, digital-news innovator, consultant, journalist, and educator. ... Need assistance with media-company future strategy? Get in touch with Steve!

4 Responses to "What Crispin Porter & Bogusky can teach news industry"

  1. Mark Joyella
    Mark Joyella 8 years ago .Reply


    Great insight into using these applications in a more forward-thinking fashion for news. I think too much of news thinking returns time and again to approaching technology as another way of doing what we’ve always done, instead of seeing it as a way to grow and expand into doing something we’ve never done before.

    It’s the new thing that will attract audiences, not the clever way of getting us the same old same old.


  2. Frymaster
    Frymaster 8 years ago .Reply

    Your reference to Nike+ is apt, at least for me, as it is one of “those stories” about social media that make it soooo tantalizing.

    The social phenomenon that is Nike+ came as a complete surprise to Nike. They created some social tools for what they thought would be already-connected people to use. They really were an add-on. It was the way people used the technology tools to create vibrant new networks – both local/IRL and virtual – that was so surprising. It just exploded.

    Because the users were already talking to each other about the product and the lifestyle, Nike jumped in and used them as a kind of input generator that produced great results. Nike played the product / sell pretty lightly and really showed a lot of respect for the lifestyle. The result is a small army of Nike-loving ambassadors.

    Somewhere on this great big Internet of ours, there’s a wonderful film about a Nike+ users group meeting / run that Nike hosted – to their great credit and great profit HINT HINT MR PUBLISHER!


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  4. Media Training | Tim Tav

    Apps are the future! Creating a good one could catapult your business. I think news companies could use this more than current social media avenues which is full of “noise”. Imagine an app that could allow you to customise the new for a particular location you are in via your phone. You couold find out things of ineterest as people publish it in the area your standing!

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