Where the Suckers Moon is about one thing: how a good ad agency and a good car company got together to produce ads that didn’t sell any cars. If you’re not interested in that-as a driver, as an ad fan, or as a story of hubris and failure-you might as well skip it.
But if you are interested in it, Where the Suckers Moon is absolutely the book for you.
The book chronicles a few parallel stories: how Subaru was created out of the wreckage of post-war Japan, how a street-smart American company started importing it and selling it in the 60’s, and how a crafty ad agency (Wieden and Kennedy) turned their countercultural success with Nike into a long-term franchise.
The problem Wieden and Kennedy had with Subaru was that the Subaru is a practical car, and they didn’t want to sell on practicality. Where the Suckers Moon details their attempts to make an arty car commercial-rejected. And then their attempts to measure it with focus groups-a failure. They also tried, at the last minute, to create some local ads with the usual recitation of features-closer, but still not compelling.
In the end, Wieden and Kennedy couldn’t take the account seriously enough to create ads for Subaru. When they made an ad touting the car’s specific benefits, they couldn’t help but focus on how this ad was superior to other car ads. Where the Suckers Moon makes it clear that they just didn’t know how to pitch a regular car to regular folks.
Wieden and Kennedy continues to make great ads, and Subaru continues to make solid cars. They’re both good at what they do, but as Where the Suckers Moon emphasizes, they didn’t fit well together. It’s a key lesson: great advertisers and a great product aren’t always a great fit-finding the right advertiser for a product is far more important.