Fried Chicken & Big Ideas

Fried Chicken & Big Ideas

Apr 28
Fried Chicken & Big Ideas

“If you’re not getting attention, you’re wasting your client’s money.” David Oakley

Media companies that want to thrive in the 21st century must embrace innovation. But that may not be enough. Companies that provide creative services need to be…well… creative. It’s all well and good to have high tech gadgetry, but those are just tools. A $300 Mont Blanc is no better than a 99 cent Sharpie if the writer doesn’t have a good story in his head.

Or as David Oakley says: A big idea beats big execution.

Oakley is a co-founder of BooneOakley, a full service ad agency located in Charlotte, NC.  Innovation slaps you in the face as soon as you hit their award winning website. It’s entirely hosted on Youtube, using the annotation functionality for navigation. The entertaining videos have a straightforward animated style and the voiceover is a subdued monotone. In a time when most media is over the top and in your face, this laid back, almost subversive approach actually stands out. Instead of an email interface on the contact page, users are encouraged to upload videos.

The Boone Oakley offices are not sterile cubicles set within oceans of drab, gray industrial carpet. The design is more modern and chic, with open spaces and communal areas built for fun and interaction. Oakley says this provides a more creative environment and promotes morale.



A producer told me this once:

“I would rather have a great group with a mediocre idea than a great idea with a mediocre group.”

The rationale? Mediocre people make great ideas worse, but great people can make mediocre ideas better. When I asked David Oakley about that, he gave me the quote above. He believes that without a great idea, you can’t have a great campaign. Or said in another way: You can’t polish a turd. No amount of multimedia razzle-dazzle or finely honed work process can disguise a bad idea.

But Mr. Oakley’s company does more than conceive great ideas. They also execute them. He’s been a part of many high profile campaigns, including the Bo-Time ads for Bojangles’ Chicken and the famous Absolut Vodka ads. But the masterful execution of their first campaign may be the most notorious. Brought in by, BooneOakley bought a billboard promoting the GORE 2000 presidential campaign. But, instead of Gore, they used a photo of George W. Bush.


The phone calls started almost immediately. Political officials called, local media began investigating and CNN had the story by the weekend. Oakley cleverly put out a press release saying the problem would be fixed on Monday.  That morning, with media frenzy at full tilt and a CNN helicopter buzzing overhead, they put up a correction:

‘Today’s job opening: PROOFREADER –’



An ad like that, at that time, in the South, takes guts. I asked Mr. Oakley if he was worried about offending people. He replied, “If you’re not getting attention for your client, you’re wasting their money.” He then told me about an ad they did for the Humane Society with a dog wearing a condom on his tail.

We both had to laugh.

Bold, compelling ideas are the foundation of any good piece of art. BooneOakley sits at the top of the ad agency heap because they are comfortable with new, innovative technology and they understand how to pair it with groundbreaking creativity. More and more, I believe this is the model for media success in the 21st century.