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Some people call me square. I prefer to think of myself as edgy.
How my partner Danny Rodriguez and I sold the Smart Square Campaign

By Sharon Ehrlich


How do you sell a 2D animated square dude living in a world of animated circle people to a universally cherished, but extremely traditional brand, who isn't used to taking chances?

One word. Patience.

Not waiting room patience, not waiting for your turn in Scrabble™ patience, not even watching paint dry, patience. More like come up with a cool idea, present it to the client, sit on it for a year and month, and then present it again patience. Which is exactly what we did to sell the Smart Square campaign to Wendy's.

The idea came a lot quicker than selling it did. The simple insight that Wendy's has Square hamburgers made us ask ourselves, 'where do square hamburgers come from?' We quickly ended up with a campaign starring a square cow. Square Cow lived in a world of average round cows. He liked to do things differently. He was proud not to follow the herd. There was a lot of agency love for Square Cow, but some people are touchy about anthropomorphizing animals that are raised for food. And we were a little weary about the cannibalistic nature of a cow telling you to eat a cow, so we let Square Cow lie.

However, we didn't give up on the idea of doing a cool simple animated campaign that made a square a hero. So we decided to take the cow out of Square Cow and ended up with a smart square living in a world of stupid circles; a simple metaphor that says square hamburgers are better than round hamburgers.

The first time we presented the campaign to the Wendy's client we weren't sure whether they would laugh their heads off or look at us like we had three heads. We got a lot of laughs.

The second time we presented it, everybody loved it. But one client wasn't sold.
The third time, there was a lot of love. Which was unfortunately outweighed by one question, 'where the heck are we going to run this stuff?'

The fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh time we presented, we couldn't believe we were still presenting it.

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Music Video
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Rut
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Heat Lamp
Executive Producer: Kathy Love

The eighth time, the client decided it wasn't the right time for Smart Square and ran with another campaign instead.

Smart Square wasn't about to give up. He waited patiently in the corner of Chief Creative Officer, Nina DiSesa's office. Almost a year passed by, Smart Square waited. Nina moved out, Joyce King Thomas moved in, Smart Square waited. In fact we were sure the little guy had died. But when the time came to present new work to Wendy's, and their newly hired Chief Marketing Officer, Ian Rowden, there Smart Square was, waiting patiently in the corner.

We represented Smart Square as a mini campaign within the 'Do What Tastes Right' Campaign and Wendy's loved it as much as they did the first time, the only difference was, this time they bought it.

There's no question that patience and persistence, the guidance of two amazing creative directors, Nina DiSesa and Joyce King Thomas, and an awesome new CMO who was ready and willing to take a chance were key ingredients in selling Smart Square. But we're still not sure how in the devil we managed to get Wendy's to buy a minute and a half initially unbranded internet movie and a website full of other kooky content. Check it all out at goodtobesquare.com.

 

 

Sharon Ehrlich, McCann Erickson

Copyright © 2005. All rights reserved.

 

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