Face It: ‘Rocky’ was a Mistake

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Face It: ‘Rocky’ was a Mistake

By Bill Schober - 08/29/2019

You’d think I’d learn. Every fall we have an Expo, and every Expo involves client dinners, so off I’d go, committed to a great night out until … like clockwork … my phone would ring. On the other end might be our bedraggled events coordinator, or a stressed out marketing person, or most often, longtime Path to Purchase Institute boss Peter Hoyt himself.

The request was always the same: Come to the Design of the Times gallery – right now! – and look at the “Best of Times” display that the judges just picked. And with that, our annual round of second-guessing would begin: “Is it too weird? Did they enter the wrong category? Is it too big/small, fancy/cheap and/or bells & whistle-y? ... Will we look like idiots?”

I doubt Price Waterhouse goes through half the anxiety at the Academy Awards that we do at the DOTs … well, except when they give out the wrong envelope. After just about every one of these “best in show” announcements, I’ve been met with shaking heads and dagger stares from P-O-P guys who think our judges got it wrong.

Given this contest’s 25-year history, some of them might’ve been right. Would any movie buff today still rate the Oscar-winning “Rocky” higher than that year’s losers: “Taxi Driver,” “Network” and “All the President’s Men”?

My all-time favorite second-guessed winner was a back-to-school blue-jeans display for The Children’s Place, a Secaucus, New Jersey-based kids clothing chain. Staffers worried that, after years of winners with more electronics than Apollo 11, this seemed awfully simple. But once you read its backstory, you realized that the display was what mathematicians call an “elegant solution” that addressed a problem with beautiful simplicity and effectiveness. Yes, it served the conventional “4 C’s” purposes of capturing attention and conveying, but the real issue was that, before visual support was added, shopper moms dove into the folded piles of merchandise and passed them around. The retailer discovered that inordinate staff time was dedicated to refolding this one product line all day long. The display saved the account.

Despite the panicky moments, we never overruled a judges’ determination, and certainly not to favor (despite what some people think) an advertiser. Yes, we were a hyper-competitive, sales-oriented operation. But we did everything by the book because we were empowered, by the boss, to serve the industry, even when that meant irritating the boss himself by showcasing an archrival (there – I said it) with articles like this issue’s OMA winners.

But no sooner had I stepped back to “emeritus” status than the editors completely lost their minds. They’ve embarked upon their own “Best of the Best” DOT retrospective,  opening a contentious can of worms that will culminate at this fall’s Path to Purchase Expo (Nov. 13-14) to celebrate its 25th anniversary. In conjunction with executives from MarketingLab/SellCheck, they will re-evaluate the top winners through the years and try to identify in-store campaigns that, in hindsight, represented truly breakthrough thinking. Holy moly.

The first part of their “DOT Retrospective” begins in this issue and will continue in the next few issues. Then, as part of the “Shopper Strategies” P2PX session track, editor-in-chief Peter Breen and MarketingLab’s Rich Butwinick will walk attendees through their picks. Also at that time, info on the next DOT competition (which is slated for 2020) will be announced.

This I gotta see. Join me as I question, second-guess and generally heckle Pete and Rich from the audience at 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, Nov. 14, at the Hyatt Regency Chicago.


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