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Volume 21 No. 1
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The Sit-Down: David Lubars, BBDO

The agency veteran discusses the generation-long “death” of television, the right kind of athlete for today’s audience and why sports marketing works for his firm and its clients.

A consumer used to be, for lack of a better word, a victim. Stuff came at them they had to take. It was all designed by magic brands behind the curtain giving you the image of the product and you just took it. Now consumers can flick away whatever they don’t want to see.

They look at a lot of things at the same time. They also understand marketing incredibly well. They all talk in the jargon and are very sophisticated and they love marketing. They just want it played the right way, which is transparent, honest and authentic.

The truth is the only thing that ever worked, no matter what anybody thought, but it’s just that much more important to not only be truthful but to let them help shape a brand, too. Some leaders are uncomfortable with that, but I think they’re getting more and more comfortable where the consumer actually shapes the brand.

If you think about what makes the human animal go, it is competition and to be incentivized. That’s why communism was such a disaster. You need to be rewarded and recognized for accomplishment. Sports crystallizes that, what makes humans human. It’s dramatic. It’s exciting. It’s entertaining. It’s all these things and it happens right there and it’s live and it’s visceral.

Sports marketing is very important and a great way to sell things as long as you do it right, which is with quality and creativity and not being a shill.

[The Guinness “wheelchair basketball” advertisement appealed to consumers] because I think not just men, even though it’s geared towards men, but people could see themselves in that situation. It’s not glory. There is no crowd watching. You would like to think you’d do that for a friend. You don’t know how he got that way, but they made this little gesture for him, and that’s what life is about.

It has [sold beer]. It’s no good if it doesn’t sell.

I believe, and BBDO believes, that creativity is an economic multiplier when used the right way. I would challenge you to name more than one or two Super Bowl ads from this year. It just goes right through. That’s a waste of a bit of money.

Creativity is not risky. When done right, it’s actually not risky because it’s going to stick.

We have analytics and metrics that prove beyond a doubt people love athletes. Tiger [Woods’] problem was not what he did; a lot of athletes did many things worse than Tiger did. His problem is he’s not funny.

Today’s audience, they want athletes who are fun and make fun of themselves and who are just cool. That’s not his personality.

The point is don’t ask [athletes] to do too much. Just make it easy, and then also they should be, I believe, willing to have a little fun with themselves and the things they’re known for.

[The AT&T “It’s Not Complicated” campaign] started two years ago. AT&T sponsors the Final Four and wanted to leverage that sponsorship, so it started online to use your phones to do your brackets. I think the best work has, ‘The more you know, the more it seems you lose.’ I do, and then people who don’t know just fill it out and win. It’s annoying.

The whole idea is ask people who don’t really know to get your brackets together, and they’ll help you win, and who would know less than a 6-year-old kid? So it started out where he was interviewing 6-year-old kids, and that was so successful it turned into a national two-year campaign.

Everybody has been predicting the death of TV, but all the metrics say more viewership than ever. I think print and radio are hurting. I think digital and social have become the new print and radio, so I think a combination of television and technology is what the world is today.

We win a lot of effectiveness awards … and what we find is the same pieces that win the creative also win the effectiveness, because when you do it right, it takes both to do something that really becomes part of the cultural zeitgeist and something that people talk about.

I’ve been doing this for 30 years, and ever since I started it’s been like, ‘Don’t go into this business; it’s dying.’ But, again, as I say, all the metrics say we’re in a golden age of television right now. People watch this stuff, and the upfronts still exist, but it’s always good to have these other things going on too.

The Guinness spot hardly ran; the social is what made it famous. Put it this way: Video is more important than ever, but you can put video in 14 different channels now.

It used to be you’d go through this rigmarole to get a script approved. Now you’re making things every day inexpensively.

Lots of stuff, and you’re getting it out there and you see what sticks and then when it sticks, that’s when you throw money behind it as opposed to putting money in the beginning and hoping it takes. It’s actually a more efficient and reasonable way to do it.