& cplSiteName &

Juniper's Cartoonist Isn't Bitter

Craig Matsumoto
2/27/2009
50%
50%

Somewhere in or near Bloomington, Ind., freelancer Kevin Pope is sitting down to a day of work without Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR).

He's the one who, for more than five years, drew the famous (or infamous) cartoon ads for Juniper. Now, Pope's contract has been cut as part of a marketing makeover Juniper announced this week. (See Juniper Kills the Cartoons! and Juniper's Same Old Look.)

And he's OK with that. A five-year gig isn't bad work for a freelance cartoonist.

"I was very surprised it went on as long as it did. Usually, people tire of things, in advertising. A year is about the norm," Pope tells Light Reading. "In illustrating or cartooning, unless it's a trademarked character -- Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Garfield the cat -- you don't see it happen that long."

Every year, the contract came up for review, and Pope and his Oklahoma-based ad agency would breathe signs of relief when the renewal came up. So when the ad agency finally got the bad news this time, it wasn't that stunning.

Not only was the campaign longer than expected, it was more voluminous -- which was great for Pope, who, while juggling "a half dozen to a dozen" other clients, found Juniper becoming nearly a full-time job. Product announcements, sales seminars, animations for a 10-year Nasdaq anniversary -- the requests poured in from different sectors of the company.

"They said, 'This will keep you busy.' I've heard that before, but it was true."

The cartoons started in 2003, championed by then-VP of marketing Christine Heckart. (See Juniper Appoints VP and VP Jumps From Juniper.) Of course, Juniper wasn't so lucky as to find an artist who already knew telecom IP networking. Pope met with salespeople, engineers, and executives to learn the lingo of quality-of-service, virtual LANs, and IOS-bashing.

Once he got that training done, the cartoon writing was in Pope's hands.

"They really left it up to me. They told me sort of a direction -- they wanted to talk about their products as opposed to another company's products out there, why Juniper's product was better, or why the other products fail more," Pope says.

Many didn't like the cartoons, and criticisms popped up here and there. Some thought them unprofessional, others unfunny. But, cutting Pope some slack, you have to ask: How funny is a router, anyway?

"You can only do so much. Even though Juniper was releasing new products, the products were very similar. It was difficult doing something fresh each time," he says.

The cartoons did lose their edge quickly. They started as a way of ragging on Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) -- plenty of examples here -- but according to Pope, then-CEO Scott Kriens started getting guilt pangs. Kriens and Cisco CEO John Chambers "were good friends, and so... it was Scott who said, 'You know, John thinks they're funny, but could we do less of that?'"

Queried about that, Juniper responds with, "Changes in cartoon content and usage are reflective of our marketing decision to focus on Juniper’s value propositions around high-performance networking, lower TCO [total cost of ownership], choice and flexibility." In other words, no comment.

Love them or hate them, the cartoons gave Juniper a look, and they adorned everything from PowerPoint presentations to cubicle name tags. Pope says Juniper's offices in Asia -- where cartoons are taken more seriously than they are in North America -- kept inquiring about doing more projects. Cartoon suggestions came in from engineers. (Let's just say they didn't find the next Scott Adams.)

And it lasted more than five years. For someone accustomed to short, one-off corporate projects, Pope was living the dream.

From 1983 to 1985, Pope drew a comic strip that was shopped around to the newspapers but gave it up to pursue business freelancing. He shakes his head a little about that decision, possibly thinking of the success that Calvin & Hobbes, Dilbert, and Foxtrot found in the '90s -- but he also admits syndicate life is no picnic. The syndicate took half his earnings, and its salespeople weren't interested in shopping a newcomer to comics editors, a situation that persists.

"The old guard of the newspaper cartoons, the comic strips like Beetle Bailey, were being handed down to the sons of the cartoonists. So there was no transition [to newer strips]," he says. "Syndicates can't let go of a strip that's making money for them."

With the Juniper job done, Pope goes back to his other corporate clients and occasional magazine freelancing. He's happy to have had the Juniper experience, though.

"Juniper treated me very well," Pope says. "If I was running Juniper, I would have changed it as well. It's probably run its course."

— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading

(5)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
billy_fold
50%
50%
billy_fold,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:10:39 PM
re: Juniper's Cartoonist Isn't Bitter
Heckart "borrowed" this cartoon idea from the old WilTel back in the 90s. This guy did the WilTel ads using the same type of cartoons when Heckart was at WilTel during that time. Sorry to say that it was not an original idea.

-Billy
Carriercop
50%
50%
Carriercop,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:10:37 PM
re: Juniper's Cartoonist Isn't Bitter
The cartoons are borring and have little impact on their marketing. What a flow.............
Pete Baldwin
50%
50%
Pete Baldwin,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:10:35 PM
re: Juniper's Cartoonist Isn't Bitter
> The cartoons are borring and have little impact on their marketing. What a flow.............

What I think you're trying to say is that the cartoons had little impact on *customers* -- which might be true; that's been argued on the boards before IIRC and is a point worth discussing.
Pete Baldwin
50%
50%
Pete Baldwin,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:10:35 PM
re: Juniper's Cartoonist Isn't Bitter
Billy - Maybe so, but that doesn't speak to the effectiveness of the idea. Ads and marketing run in trends and cycles like anything else. Do you think the cartoon ads worked for Juniper?

I don't remember the WilTel ads myself, but they probably predate my joining the telecom sphere.
hyperunner
50%
50%
hyperunner,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 4:10:34 PM
re: Juniper's Cartoonist Isn't Bitter
The cartoons are borring and have little impact on their marketing. What a flow.............

Hmmm. I thought they were pretty funny - at least at first. But they did milk the idea for too long.

So many of these techie sites are boring. I thought the cartoons added some novelty.

Rediscovering ideas is nothing new :-)

hR.

Featured Video
Flash Poll
Upcoming Live Events
April 8, 2019, Las Vegas, Nevada
May 6, 2019, Denver, Colorado
May 6-8, 2019, Denver, Colorado
September 17-19, 2019, Dallas, Texas
October 1, 2019, New Orleans, Louisiana
October 2-22, 2019, Los Angeles, CA
October 10, 2019, New York, New York
November 5, 2019, London, England
November 7, 2019, London, UK
December 3-5, 2019, Vienna, Austria
December 3, 2019, New York, New York
All Upcoming Live Events
Partner Perspectives - content from our sponsors
Huawei Shows 5G in Action at MWC
By Ken Wieland, for Huawei
Huawei Heats Up Microwave for 5G Backhaul
By Ken Wieland, for Huawei
Huawei Services Bring the Best 5G Into Reality
By Steven Wu, President of Consulting & Service Solution Sales Dept., Carrier BG, Huawei
All Partner Perspectives