Waves roiled and a storm brewed on the boat ride through Biscayne National Park to Stiltsville, where, once docked at a windswept home with panoramic views, bartenders conjured up spicy cocktails, all made with Papa’s Pilar Rum. It was the ideal setting to introduce the new South Florida spirit, whose name, packaging and marketing are based on legendary outdoorsman, adventurer and author Ernest Hemingway.
Four years in the making, Papa’s Pilar — named after Hemingway’s treasured fishing boat — is already making a splash at rum competitions nationwide and surpassing sales goals.
What’s more, it embodies a new breed of product: one co-created and co-owned by a local advertising agency, Crispin Porter + Bogusky, which set up the brand’s “story” — and then designed the product around that.
“We realized we want to be the architects of building these products and weaving the marketing and the stories into the product from its inception,” said Jeff Steinhour, president and managing partner of CP+B. “And you don’t get to do that if you are hired by a client and [the product] comes with a heritage, legacy and sometimes baggage, and you try to do the marketing and build on the strategy with a pre-existing brand.”
To be sure, the role of advertising has changed. Gone are the Mad Men days when firms simply created TV, radio and print ads.
Along with finding new ways to connect with customers via apps and social media, inventing products has become a trend in the industry, partly as agencies try to meet the expectations of young talent, said Nancy Hill, president and chief executive of the American Association of Advertising Agencies, based in New York.
“I do think this is going to become a part of our industry in a very big way,” she said. “This generation, they are hungry to invent, and you hear a lot of agencies talking about creating an inventors’ culture, and many agencies have started what I would call labs to try to bring this inventor culture to life.”
What’s more, Hill said it’s no surprise that CP+B has gotten an early start on the action.
“They have had a history over the course of their existence of being out in the front of what the industry is doing,” she said. “Whether it was how they are creating television commercials or now, products — they have always been at the forefront.”
Indeed, CP+B has been making waves in brand and product invention for nearly a decade, finding success through partnerships that combine its own industrial design, product design and creative strategy with private equity funding and distribution.
To date, the firm has co-created — and is a co-owner — of three other brands in addition to Papa’s Pilar: Green Garage, a company that refurbishes and outfits cars with eco-sensitive and smart products; B-Cycle, an urban bike sharing program now in 17 cities, including Fort Lauderdale, and Angel’s Envy, a bourbon whose “cask strength” was named as the “Best Spirit in the World” by Spirit Journal in its June 2013 issue.
Yet, brand and product invention is still a small offshoot of CP+B, one of the largest ad agencies in South Florida with nearly $1.5 billion in annual billings and a total of 900 employees at five offices: Miami; Boulder, Colo.; Los Angeles; London, and Gothenburg, Sweden. Celebrating its 25th anniversary, and now 100 percent owned by the New York holding company MDC Partners, CP+B’s clients include such companies as Microsoft, Kraft, Best Buy, Domino’s Pizza and Charles Schwab.