Recently, adman Allen Wallach broke with his partner at the Concussion agency and decided to rename the Fort Worth firm Pavlov, after the Russian scientist known for his study of salivating dogs.
To announce the new name and image, the PR-ad-branding maven took out a full-page ad in the Star-Telegram that prominently displayed an anonymous male sniffing his hairy armpit.
This prompted several questions, to which Wallach replied.
S-T: What was wrong with the original name, Concussion?
Wallach: Nothing, but after parting ways with my ex-partner at the end of last year, I was ready for a change. When the Beatles broke up, none of them continued with that name because it wasn’t the same band. Also, you have to remain current and relevant to the changing business landscape. The philosophies that drove the name Concussion 13 years ago don’t necessarily fit with what the company is today.
It’s tongue in cheek, an irreverent nod to his scientific findings of conditioned behavior and the ties to motivating human consumer action. Stimulus and response is a powerful, universal phenomenon found throughout nature, and is especially applicable when applied to marketing and advertising. Engaging creative aimed at the proper target audience at the right time equals response. People have an insatiable appetite, whether it’s for pizza or Prada, that wants to be provoked. It’s the formula, based on a combination of art and science, that drives our consumer economy.
Did you try out the name on focus groups or current clients? If so, what were their responses?
As we do with branding programs for our clients, we went through a discovery phase to elicit responses from a tight circle of trusted advisors including clients, friends, family and associates. The responses were overwhelmingly favorable, with comments like “pure genius” to “why didn’t I think of that?” Even our trademark attorney said before searching the name “surely another advertising agency is already named that.” Exhaustive research and over-analysis can be harmful to the process. When going through a branding exercise, one must remember that positioning is sacrifice and resist the urge to be all things to all people. Rather than relying too much on focus groups, I subscribe to famous adman David Ogilvy’s wise words: “We are so busy measuring public opinion that we forget we can mold it.”
Any negative reaction to the name from the public?
Except for one phone call and a cryptic letter with no return address, no. Everything has been positive, including congratulatory comments from other local advertising agencies. We have received multiple new client inquiries and a flood of resumes as a result of the publicity received thus far.
What were you trying to convey with the photo of the man sniffing his hairy arm pit?
We push buttons. Our goal was to create a powerful visual stop sign, something that stops the reader in his or her tracks. We also wanted to graphically convey the concept of stimulus: in this case, a very real, natural response to an assault on one’s olfactory sense. Last, we wanted to elicit a visceral response for maximum impact. Just like many works of modern art, we wanted the viewer to be engaged and motivated to feel something –– not just pass over another dull, lifeless advertisement. As David Ogilvy said, “When you advertise fire extinguishers, open with the fire."
Was the man a member of the staff? An arm pit model? Or was it a stock photo?
Any reaction to the photo?
Yes, people thought it was funny. And one lady called us to complain.