It’s not exactly the story of the wolf becoming the shepherd, but it’s close. Alex Bogusky was chief creative insurgent at MDC Partners, the parent company of the advertising firm Crispin Porter, which, last year, was dubbed agency of the year and agency of the decade by Advertising Age. Bogusky, variously described as an advertising rock star, or the Steve Jobs of advertising, was personally responsible for moving lots and lots of product for such clients as Microsoft, Best Buy and perhaps, most notably Burger King, where he was a major force such irresponsible innovations as “the heart attack on a bun.” Having had the opportunity to look deep within the heart of our consumer culture, he has decided to reinvent himself as a consumer activist.Describing this process on his website he said, “I was fortunate enough to spend most of my career saying exactly what I thought. But slowly the tentacles of conflict wrapped themselves around my throat. So I opted out. It may or may not be worth much to anybody else but getting my genuine voice back is important to me.”
To his credit, even back in the Burger King days, he took ethical positions. He refused, for example to direct fast food advertising at children.
Now, he has left the ad world altogether and taken his insights out into a new enterprise, Fearless Revolution, where he hopes to unleash a new weapon in the battle for social change: the consumer.
A number of his first efforts have been focused on food with guests on his web show include Robyn O’Brien and Jeffrey Smith. Recent projects include developing an updated consumer bill of right and a video on genetically modified food.
“At a time when more than half of the largest economies on earth are actually global corporations, success as a nation, and as a planet, will necessitate that our corporations respond to the desires of consumers in the same way democratic governments reflect the wishes of their citizens.”
He is a big proponent of getting detailed information into the hands of consumers through tools like GoodGuide allowing them to vote with their dollars.
In fact, he argues that we probably have more power to affect change as consumers than we ever will as citizens, since “special interests are more radically involved in our (political) system than we are.”
He talks about the fact the politicians, through their lobbying efforts, spend $40 per vote. I would have liked for him to come back and tell us how much is spent for each Burger King customer but he didn’t. Still his point is that systems work better when there is broad participation. Certainly we have more opportunity on a day to day basis to participate as consumers than we do as voters and petition signers
So this is the big idea behind Bogusky’s new endeavor, using social networking technology to leverage emergent radical transparency to bring consumer awareness and opinion into the corporate decision-making process.
As powerful, as the big multi-national corporations have become, with their ability to simply relocate in the face of governments that legislate against any questionable practices, they can still be quickly humbled should their customers decide to turn away. And with today’s technology, incidents that reflect on the nature of a company’s ethical standards can be beamed around the world, before top management even hears about it.
Perhaps tomorrow’s slogan will be, let the seller beware.