"The winner is determined when..."
A couple of weeks ago Sean Taylor attended a high-class function to receive the Melvin Jones Award on my behalf. Melvin Jones founded the Lions Club International and his award is the highest honor the club can bestow. You can’t win the MJ Award unless you’re a Lion – which I’m not – so the board of directors voted to make an exception for me.
Yes, yes, it sounds like I’m boasting but I’m not. I’m making a full confession.
The wiener dog races we sponsor each year in Buda, Texas (population: 2,404) made $120,000 for the Buda Lions club this year. More than 600 wiener dogs arrived from all over America to compete for our 6-foot tall, first-place trophy. Each year’s race has been bigger than the last for 12 consecutive years.
My company, Wizard of Ads, Inc. comes up with a theme each year, designs the posters and T-shirts, writes and records a silly radio ad and pays for the oversized trophies.
The Lions International website says, “Lions meet the needs of local communities and the world. Our more than 1.35 million members in 206 countries and geographic areas are different in many ways, but we share a core belief – community is what we make it.”
Sounds good to me but I fear there’s been a horrible misunderstanding: You see, I cheated.
Have you ever seen kids playing football, baseball or soccer on a playground? The winner is determined the moment the captains choose sides. Pick the right players and you win. Pick wrong and you lose.
I won 12 years ago when I refused to sponsor anything but the wiener dog races.
“But Truck City is sponsoring the wiener dogs.”
“Sorry, it’s the wiener dogs or nothing.”
“Won’t you reconsider?”
“You’ll be helping a really good cause…”
“Get Truck City to sponsor the precision lawn chair drill teams or the riding lawnmower races.”
“Trust me, Mr. Williams, you want the riding lawnmower races. Do you remember the episode of Home Improvement when Tim-the-Toolman-Taylor was going to race riding lawnmowers with Bob Vila and Tim put a jet engine from a Chinook helicopter on his lawn mower?”
“We’re going to have that lawnmower – the actual one from the TV show – in this year’s race. And it’s got a real jet engine.”
“Sorry, but it’s the wiener dogs or nothing. Convince Truck City to sponsor the lawnmowers.”
Truck City was magnanimous and changed their sponsorship to the riding lawnmowers. I wasn’t willing to risk my reputation as an ad consultant on anything but a sure bet.
The lawnmower races and the lawn chair drill teams were abandoned when the wiener dogs began to gain serious national momentum.
The source of the misunderstanding – and the root of my confession – is that everyone assumes we could have aimed our mighty firepower at the lawnmowers or the lawn chairs and made them just as successful. But I know it isn’t true.
We won the game when we picked the wiener dogs.
This is the dirty little secret of advertising: you determine the success of the campaign when you pick what you’re going to promote.
Have you been settling for precision lawn chairs and lawnmowers? Repent of your sin. Demand the wiener dogs.
You’ll be amazed how much better your ads work.
Roy H. Williams
A child or grandchild from 12 to 16 years old?
The two of you need to be at the Young Writer’s Workshop later this month. We lose money on this class each year but we continue to host it because it’s important. Take a look.
PS – Weird Coincidence: Pennie and I were unable to pick up the Melvin Jones award in person because we were attending an auction to buy an ancient, 500-pound marble lion from India. The next time you’re on campus look for Melvin chillaxin’ in the shade in front of my office. Melvin is one happy, mellow lion. Look in his eyes and you will suspect, as I do, that Melvin may in fact be a Doobie Lion.