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Marketing Giant Crispin Porter a Big Player in Boulder

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What's life like inside that crucible of creativity known as Crispin Porter + Bogusky, one of the marketing world's hottest companies?

CP+B (as they like to punctuate themselves) is a giant force in the Boulder marketing and media scene, employing some 450 people inside two sprawling buildings in Boulder's Gunbarrel neighborhood. We recently got some clues about life at CP+B in the form of a talk by Dave Kingsbury, whose classy title at the firm is "senior cognitive anthropologist."

Kingsbury was addressing an attentive 20-something audience at Boulder Digital Works at CU, a newly minted school for digital creatives that is housed in an ultra-modern space above Brasserie Ten Ten restaurant on Walnut St. in downtown Boulder.

Kingsbury's former company, a "qualitative market research" firm named Radar Communications, was acquired by CP+B in 2007. Kingsbury's work at CP+B focuses on researching cultural and business trends for client firms.

Kingsbury regularly commutes to CP+B's campus from Nederland -- a mountain town 17 miles (and some 3,000 vertical feet) west of Boulder -- where he's lived for 22 years. The man is clearly no slouch on a bicycle.

CP+B's clients range from such behemoths as Microsoft, Burger King, Best Buy and Domino's Pizza to a handful of smaller accounts, the latter including the Boulder startup Green Garage, a firm dedicated (in Kingsbury's words) to "doing things to make your car more environmental." The non-Boulder contingent of CP+B's 1,100-strong workforce are divided between Miami and Gothenburg, Sweden.

Work at CP+B is intense

One easily infers from Kingsbury's account that working at CP+B is not for dilettantes. Sometimes, he said, "you see someone wearing the same clothes Thursday that they had on Monday." CP+B, he concedes, "is a cult" -- a place where "full-time is full-time." A company concierge helps free employees from time-eating trips to the dry-cleaners and the like.

Tuned in to the zeitgeist of "green," CP+B is known around Boulder for its biodiesel-powered bus, bearing on its front the label "Disruptive Thinker Transport." On any given day, said Kingsbury, the bus enables some 80 employees to not drive cars.

Also reflecting CP+B's environmental bent, one of the firm's favorite current projects is B-cycle, a program to put rentable bicycles into cities that was inspired by a similar system in Paris. Some 600 bikes are scheduled to be placed at self-service rental sites around Denver on Earth Day, April 22. The program is also rolling out in San Diego and Chattanooga, Tenn., and CP+B clearly hopes to be part of a bike-sharing program that's now at the request-for-proposals stage in Boulder.

Part of CP+B's impact on Boulder, Kingsbury said, is that there's quite a bit of turnover, and a fair number of former CP+B employees end up staying in Boulder, where they've started such spinoff companies as Victors and Spoils, quartered on Pearl St. downtown. CP+B also regularly refers business to other Boulder marketing, advertising and design firms, Kingsbury said.

From a variety of adulatory remarks, Kingsbury is clearly a huge fan of Alex Bogusky (pronounced Buh-GUS-kee). Bogusky, retreating from the firing line of day-to-day work at CP+B, is currently officing in downtown Boulder and working for MDC Partners -- the Toronto-based marketing giant that acquired a controlling interest in CP+B in late 2007 -- and writing a book. Ah, the wild and turbulent ad biz. The stories he could tell.

This article appeared in somewhat different form in the web magazine Boulder Reporter, which Wells edits.