Bogus Bogusky? I Don’t Think So

Oct 17, 2012

The Internet might well be the world’s miracle communications medium – the go-to source for a wealth of quality information. Knowledge is just a Google or Wikipedia search away. But one thing is very clear: when it comes to fanning the flames of fake controversy, its abilities are just as miraculous.

Last week, the Twitterverse and webosphere were all excited over the actions of advertising sage, Alex Bogusky, and his insurgent-like move. Even USA Today got in on the act. Bogusky, 49, alternatively known as “Advertising’s Elvis,” was the brains behind a new video for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a nonprofit and watchdog group, that pretty much went to town on the entire soft drink industry and the dangers of sugary drinks. A family of obese polar bears learns the error of their ways and gives up soft drinks while a collection of facts drive home the medical risks associated with consumption.

That’s all well and good. But the “controversy” is this: It wasn’t long ago that Coca-Cola hired Bogusky’s former ad agency, CP&B, for its Coke Zero campaign. And so, Ad Age and others have asked whether it’s OK or not for Bogusky, or anyone else for that matter, to lambast their former employer indirectly and then play for the proverbial “other team.”

I don’t know about you, but all this hype seems a bit bogus. Of course it’s OK for Bogusky to change sides. It’s just a question of how it’s done.

Unlike criminal acts whose legal prosecution is time restricted, there’s no similar statute of limitations on when a person can or can’t shift careers. There is, of course, a court of public opinion as well as contractual non-compete clauses and the like that, in theory, could restrict Bogusky-like actions. But in this rather benign case, none of that seems to be at issue. There’s no evidence Bogusky worked on the video out of any specific malice or to get even with someone he didn’t like. No insider names have been named and aside from the possibility of a little brand bruising for soda companies, (Coca-Cola recently reported a net income of $2.79 billion) no one’s been hurt.

Of course, the American Beverage Association and Coca Cola says otherwise:

This is irresponsible and grandstanding and will not help anyone understand energy balance,” says Coca-Cola spokeswoman Susan Stribling, in a USA Today article. “It also distorts the facts while we and our industry partners are working with government and civil society on real solutions.”

But the reality is that back in 2010, Bogusky had a change of heart. The industry had left a bad taste in his mouth and he found himself fed up working for clients that included Coca Cola, Domino’s, and Burger King. It may be a bitter truth, but talented people in our industry often aren’t in it for some greater cosmic, moral or ethical truth. They do things out of passion. They work their jobs to pay the bills. Think of Bogusky’s decision as if it were Hollywood. Whether he’s selling soft drinks, bashing Big Tobacco, or turning on those same soft drink makers, is just another part. Another character piece or role-playing. Not bad. Not good. All roles pay the bills and I’m sure in this case, exercise his formidable creative talents.

Watching Bogusky’s 3-minute and 47-second video, I can honestly say it’s nearly as controversy- free as Coke Zero is from calories. So was Bogusky’s move bogus?

Not even close.

But some people’s reactions to it certainly were. Maybe they should cool their emotions with a cold drink – sweetened or unsweetened, whichever they prefer.

For Bogusky, I’d call his move a PR lesson in sweet success.

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