In 2000, Houston-based utility Enron was the darling of Wall Street and personified the testosterone-fuelled and heady-days before the dotcom bubble burst.
Promoted from the Ogilvy&Mather office in Toronto, I was sent to New York to run this fascinating piece of business.
At the time Enron was fundamentally changing its business model and had aggressively metamorphasized from your standard utility supplier of oil and gas into a myriad of new, futuristic — and barely comprehensible — businesses. Businesses which, for example, traded in water futures, weather derivatives and sold unused bandwidth.
The communication task was (relatively) simple. Build a brand positioning that members of the Fortune500, and more importantly Wall Street analysts, could understand. Ground it in Enron's unique corporate culture and highlight how this particular company was going to change the world.
The "Ask Why" campaign broke with high-profile brand TV spots like "Ode" and "Metal Man" before pooling out into more product-focused executions like "Squirm" for the weather derivatives division and "Change" for EnronOnline. Integrated Print and Online creative were also developed. Associations with famous scientists, designers and innovators, coupled with candid excerpts from COO Jeff Skilling were purposely intended to show how Enron intended to change the face of business.
Enron abruptly resigned their business in November 2000 to move to DDB New York citing a desire to be less mass-advertising focused and more engaged in Public Relations and sponsorships.
As evidenced by the provocative and ballsy tone of their creative, Enron really did aspire to change business as we know it. In hindsight, the irony of that aspiration is remarkable.