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Bang for the buck: low-cost advertising campaigns that worked.

To promote or not to promote. Aye, that's the query. Whether 'tis better to suffer a profit decline after the recession because you left the public eye, or to forge ahead in a sea of trouble and keep plugging away at advertising so people still know your name when things get better.

No question the Bard on Avon would have scribed those sentiments. After all, he was a retailer, sold tickets to his plays and must have had qualms when the box office faltered in merrie olde England. What to do? What to do? And you really can't say the dilemma is much ado about nothing. Advertising is a vital marketing tool under all conditions. You know you'd better use it right.

However, you don't have to ante up $42 million like Coca-Cola did to contract for what's called the TOP III Olympic sponsorship. It includes Albertville and Barcelona plus 1994 in Lillehammer, Norway, and 1996 in Atlanta. Man, that's a pile of bottle caps.

You say you don't have $42 mil to get in the game? Smaller players can pay some less to stimulate business. The trick is to get compatible agency and client minds together and promote smarter than the usual. A big part of it is a meld of personalities, the players in the play.

For instance, here is a national advertising success story at fairly low cost. The product is so specialized many people don't even know it exists. Dennis Tippmann of Tippmann Pneumatics Inc. in Fort Wayne makes guns for paintball games. Say what? Never heard of the sport? It came out of California and was first played in the woods between teams dressed in camouflage with their faces painted like Apache warriors. Now the action has moved to new venues. You walk into a dark warehouse filled with large things to hide behind. Opponents with guns are in there hiding behind big things too. The object is for you to sneak around and "burn" other players. That is, splash them with a ball of colored paint shot from an air gun. According to the advertising copy, you will probably "let loose primal, guttural screams" such as "Yeehaaaa!" during the process. (And quite possibly "Oooo!" and "Ouch!") To win, you must be the last to be hit or not hit at all. If you do get "burned," consider yourself "toast." That's "paintballin'" sure as you're born.

OK. Dennis Tippmann is a big player in this blaster business. He is actually the leading producer, with a national and international market. His guns are "of innovative design, dependable and can take the punishment the sport demands." He also makes a virtually indestructible, paint-spewing hand grenade to liven the fun. Tippmann's latest coup is a semi-automatic "toaster," and the top of the line retails for $425. Older models cost in the high threes.

In July 1990 Tippmann met the Boyden & Youngblutt advertising agency of Fort Wayne. The boys opened their doors and started paintball work the first week. To the project came president and creative director Andy Boyden with a degree in commercial art from Indiana University and a six-year stint at Bonsib Inc. in Fort Wayne as creative director. Also at the table was vice president and senior account supervisor Jerry Youngblutt. His degree is in marketing and graphic design from IU. He worked in sales for three years--for Disney World to develop the Tokyo and Epcot centers--then put in a year as an account man at HPN Advertising in Fort Wayne. An impressive team of players.

Youngblutt recalls, "What basically happened is we put together an informal questionnaire and made calls to the paintball venues. We wanted to find out just who had played this game in the past and who would be playing it in the future. One of the enthusiast publications, Action Pursuit Games, put out another survey. We compared our notes with theirs and found out that a younger crowd had started to play. We said, 'What's hot with the young crowd? What will entice them?'

One thing we noticed was that even though the manufacturing is done in Indiana, a lot of trend-setting is done in California. Things start there and move east. We decided these younger guys were into skateboarding and rollerblading. They wanted things to be lightweight and fun. They didn't want to be too militaristic. Dennis Tippmann felt the same way.

"We heard comments in our research like, mothers weren't letting their 15-year-old sons go off in the woods and play. They didn't want them out there in Rambo games. So lighted parks and warehouses evolved. Different games called "Speedball" and "Capture the Flag" developed. The action became more fun and recreational than war-like. We jumped on that bandwagon for our advertisements and said, 'Lets go with bright-colored clothing.' It's a little bit idealistic but that's what we felt people wanted to see. We just based a lot of our advertising on that younger crowd and what they like in fashion. We have a long-haired, blond model, a beach boy. He is something that people, although they may not look like that, will identify with and think, 'Wow, that's really neat.' They like that feel and want to be a part of it. We are playing on their emotional heartstrings."

The illustration feature bright colors, conceptual headlines and design elements to attract an active, "give it a shot" market. This approach jelled into full-color, full-page ads that cost $6,500 to produce. Tippmann runs four insertions per month among three highly targeted consumer magazines. Enthusiasts read them from cover to cover. They are: Action Pursuit Games, Paintcheck and Paint Ball.

Results: Tippmann spent 2 percent of his gross sales, or about $84,000, on advertising in 1990. His sales were $4.2 million. The new campaign began in 1991. He spent 3.9 percent on advertising, or $214,500, and sold $5.5 million gross. His sales increase was, catch this, 31 percent. How many of you out there can make the same statement for '91?

Now the question is, how does an effective, low-cost campaign get done? Ask Youngblutt: "You have to do your homework up front. Make sure you are targeted. Be sure you know where prospects are and know how to talk to them. If you begin to get results, don't waste a lot of time going in different directions trying to find out what you should be doing that you're not. We've been fortunate in that Dennis Tippmann is really the leader, he is the one to watch in the industry. When we do something people in the field tend to emulate it. So we are in a leading position and that helps a lot.

"Targeting keeps you from wasting a lot of money. Also, impact is important. I think that is why you see us have a large visual with a headline tied strongly to that visual. We believe that when a page is turned you have about seven seconds of reader's time. We want to stop them. Another thing we do is analyze the publication. If they are all color we may put in a black-and-white ad. Success is really in learning your market, your media and making an impact."

Now look at another good, low-cost story. It plays out in a single, local, metropolitan market: Indianapolis. One participant is Don Hall, who owns Church Brothers, an auto body repair business. Hall is zealous about customer service and reads everything he can get his hands on about it. He is a strong believer in tact and keeps an immaculate workplace. Face it, the man runs a superior service.

The other player is Jeff Leiendecker, who worked in creative at Montgomery, Zuckerman, Davis for four years and Caldwell Van Riper for six years in Indianapolis. Jeff did the dangerous, desired dream of every advertising executive. He went off alone. With his wife, Karen, he started a company called His Own Company with the catch line, "Guess who's poking holes in boring advertising?"

So "collision-repair-specialist" Hall and "advertising-that-pokes-holes" Leiendecker teamed. The up shot is effective, near-bargain communication.

Jeff looked over his new clients' business and was delighted with what was available to promote. He says, "Their locations have a very European-look. They are somewhere between a fancy law office and an operating room. You could eat off the floor. No rust or grease. They're not the dirty-shoe, dirty-knuckle body shops we are used to. The men all wear lab jackets. Dan has done everything right. The company attributes its success to the extreme care they take of their clientele. I wanted to turn the knob upscale on the kind of advertising they were doing."

When Jeff looked over his new client's media-buying situation, however, he found that Hall spent his budget on what marketing professionals call "cats and dogs." That is, the firm was running advertisements in a list of marginal publications, charity programs and special-interest newsletters. Church Brothers said yes to every well-dressed person who came around and said, "Pretty please, we'd like to have an ad."

In Jeff's words, "They were in so many places, in every little cause paper, they'd get to the end of the year and say, 'What did we do? We don't know.' That was because they had nothing to show for it. We eliminated all of that. We put them into four media: radio, outdoor, magazine and newspaper." All of it was naturally aimed at the Indianapolis market, where it runs three shops.

Church Brothers has two target markets: consumers and business people. "For consumers," Leiendecker says, "We did radio spots and a jingle at a very low cost, I thought. It sounds sort of like country rock, with crash sounds as percussion." You'll have to admit the deck was stacked in Jeff's favor in doing a spot for a collision related company. It just demanded "crash," "bang," "boom," "slam" sounds that are naturals for radio. That's just what he gave it. Try to hear this in your head.

Male lead: They're comin' to get you, (Crash)

The other guy's car, (Crash)

Dentin' your fenders, (Crash)

Makin' them ir-reg-u-lar. (Crash)

Female lead: Those parking lot doors, (Slam, Slam)

Those curbs and those bumps, (Bang, bang)

Turnin' sheet metal, (Creek)

Into ripples and lumps (Long crash)

Duo: Church Brothers can make it right'

Church Brothers gets it lookin like new,

From your rear end to your head light,

No one saves cars like Church Brothers do.

Male Lead: If your ride's lookin' funky, (Bang, bang)

Female Lead: Put an end to your search, (Crash)

Duo: Any car that's worth savin's, (Air wrench)

Worth takin' to Church! (Hubcap wobble)

You can see why the spot won the best jingle category in the local Addy Awards. Jeff wrote the words and the general concept. The arrangement and recording was done by Skeet's Music Co. in Indianapolis.

"We put Dan Hall's wife, Rhonda, in some of the spots. The reason is that people are very intimidated by the thought of going to a 'body shop.' I figured that if we aimed the spots at women, using a woman as a spokesperson, even men, who are even more suspicious of being 'taken', would take kindly to our messages. Normally I hate 'owner-as-spokesperson' commercials but it seemed to be right in this situation."

Rhonda delivers her straight-talking lines with conviction and verve:

Rhonda: I'm Rhonda Hall. My husband, Dan, and I own Church Brothers. There's no reason for a woman to be intimidated by collision reason, that is, if she takes her car to Church Brothers. We speak plain English and we make sure there are never any hidden costs. Whether you're male or female no one will repair your car better than Church Brothers. And that's a promise.

Leiendecker says, "In other advertising, I did three postings with paper billboards, and we have one large paint board that travels around the city. It is a three-dimensional shocker and has a car shoved through it. The car's lights flash on and off and it looks like that there was an accident, that the car slammed right through the board. It says in big red, reflector-paint letters 'Downtown' and then it has the address and 'Church Brothers' and a slogan, 'The collision repair specialists.' As it moves around, we change the area name and say, 'Greenwood' or 'Castleton.'"

Jeff is also running a paper billboard that is causing quite a to-do. It reads, in yea-thousand point, bold type, "Go to Church." Under the line in bold is "Church Brothers." "We have had some real interesting comments about that," Jeff explains. "Some people say, 'We are never going to your place again.' The answer to that is, 'Sorry, but Church is the name of our company.' Some of the religious right say, 'This is sacrilege,' The answer to this is, 'The guy who put the copy together is a Christian. He figures that if it gives anybody a thought about going to church it's a good idea.

"The advertising budget is $120,000. Really, without increasing their budget a lot, we are seeing a very good increase in business, a very steady flow of business," says Jeff. "The company is having the best year in its history. This is an example of a small player using mainstream media. It seems to be working." Leiendecker is too modest and seasoned to claim the advertising did it all but will admit, "The combination is strong."

So far we've looked at national and local action. Now consider a regional campaign that is selling tons of pasta. The 10 Adams agency of Evansville handles promotion for The Spaghetti Shop.

Meet the CEO, Jim Teaters. Indiana Business Magazine caught up with him a few years ago and put him on the cover as an entrepreneur to watch. He is 36, opened an auto parts store at 22 and was successful for five and a half years, then diversified into indoor tanning. He and his wife moved to Bloomington in '83 and opened up a tanning salon and were there for about a year and a half. He started the restaurant business in Terre Haute, and went to Evansville to expand the business. Now he heads a chain of 34 franchise stores and four company stores. Three more outlets will be opened by May for a total of 41. The chain operates in Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, West Virginia and New York. Eleven of the units are in Indiana; three in Fort Wayne, two in both Terre Haute and Evansville and one each in Richmond, Indianapolis, Lafayette and New Albany. The Spaghetti Shop headquarters moved from Evansville several years ago to Champaign, Ill., to be near the center of its expanding franchise.

The restaurant's premier product, its claim to fame, is spaghetti that comes in a bucket. It serves meatballs and three sauces: tomato, meat and marinara. You can also get ravioli, fettucini Alfredo, lasagna and pasta primavera.

The other player in this story is Jim Flynn, account director at 10 Adams. He drove to the new headquarters for the grand opening of a new store, sold Jim Teaters on 10 Adams and it became agency of record in January 1991. This other Jim is from Chicago and graduated from Illinois State University. He has been in business for about 10 years and with 10 Adams for three years.

What has this team cooked up? "We do a variety of advertising for them," says Flynn. "We do newspaper run of press, radio and develop newspaper free-standing inserts. We work on point-of-purchase, posters, table cards, bag stuffers and designs for the buckets. This is basic advertising."

The company is fairly new and has limited funds. Its total advertising budget is under $400,000, franchise-wide. But it runs mini campaigns or flights for around $5,000 that roll out a lot of meatballs. These are free-standing inserts. Inserts are those sheets that fall out and leave a trail behind you when you bring in your Sunday newspaper. They also show up in the mailbox between the bills.

Jim Teaters says, "The base advertising budget is equivalent to 3 percent of sales. Our stores contribute 2 percent of their gross sales to the national advertising fund. The total expense last year was $156,000 for creative work. Each franchise buys its own media. When we print a free-standing insert we may spend $11,000 on the photography and artwork. Then we contact franchisees and ask if they elect to participate in the run. For example, we ran a free-standing insert on 70-pound paper that was two sided, had eight coupons on it and showed color photographs of our food on both sides. We printed 550,000. They came in under $30 a thousand. We sold them to the franchisees to use for bag stuffers, newspaper inserts or in direct-mail packs."

One side of the sheet is targeted for individual lunches or dinners. The other side is targeted for take-out business which would be more bucket-sized, family meals.

The coupons are dropped in selected ZIP codes around the outlets in various markets through three different vehicles: the newspaper, ValPack, or Advo. The last two are delivered to the door by the U.S. Postal Service. ValPack sends an envelope. Advo has an outside sheet that folds over and coupons are stuffed inside. One of the great things about franchising is that there is strength in numbers, economy of scale. With a run of 600,000 the cost goes way down.

"Let me tell you about the one that jumped sales the most," explains Jim Teater. "We did a campaign called the every Tuesday special. We picked Tuesday because it is a slack day and we wanted to spark sales. For that we bag stuffed with a coupon for a several-week period. We ran a newspaper ad on Monday night. We ran radio; five spots on Monday night and five spots on Tuesday morning during drive time. The offer works like this: The customer gets a bucket of spaghetti with meat sauce and a loaf of garlic bread for a buck and a half off every Tuesday. That campaign increased sales on the average of about 20 percent on Tuesdays throughout the franchise. The lowest increase was 18 percent. The offer did not cannibalize Monday or Wednesday sales at all.

"Another campaign: We came up with a static-cling sign for windows. It is a piece of clear plastic that sticks to the glass. It says, 'Feed a family of four for $9.99.' We also printed this on a free-standing insert, so we had a direct mail piece going out. This '$9.99 Family Feast' raised sales by almost 14 percent during the drop, franchise-wide." Jim and Jim know how to lay on a low-cost campaign, shake up consumers and to spice up the bottom line.

Creative ad position can be a key secret to low-cost advertising. That's the philosophy Mark Anderson Associates Inc. of Indianapolis has used to help several clients boost their results while trimming their budgets, says Steven Bork, executive vice president.

One such client was the Belden Division of Cooper Industries. It had been running full-page, four-color ads, but was facing the prospect of cutting frequency in order to keep the bottom line in line. Anderson's solution: Run a pair of smaller black-and-white ads on a spread in a magazine or tabloid, rather than one color full-pager.

Anderson opted for 1/3 page in magazines and 1/4 page in tabloids. "Similar graphic elements in each ad created continuity, and also served to convey a benefit of our client's product," Bork explains. "Ads were placed in publications to run in lower, outside corners of facing pages. This position strategy optimized the ability of our client's ads to run alone and 'own' the spread, at a fraction of the cost."

The campaign used road signs for the graphics. One the left page of a spread in Data Communications magazine, for example, Anderson placed a Belden ad with curvy road sign and the headline "No curves! If you want direct, worldwide access to the cable you need, make a beeline for Belden." On the right page was an ad with a deer-crossing sign and the headline "More bits per buck. When it comes to buying cable, being frugal can cost you dearly."

The savings? Thousands of dollars per appearance, Bork says. "We extended our frequency without any budget increase, and also held readership high by capturing dominant position on a two-page spread."

The Williams Co. used a similar philosophy in designing an ad campaign for Silverstein Brothers, a downtown Terre Haute furniture retailer. Charlie Williams, president of the Terre Haute-based ad agency, says his company created a half dozen pairs of small ads designed to run across from each other on facing newspaper pages.

"Not For Sale At Silverstein's" was the theme of the Addy award-winning group of ads, each of which pictured an ancient or tacky piece of furniture along with assurances that the store doesn't sell such stuff; it sells furniture for your family, not for a museum or a garage sale, the ads say. The fractional ads were run in black-and-white on newspaper spreads, and Miller says the response was great.

"Silverstein's had been running larger adds that said 'Sale! Sale! Sale!'," but the newer, smaller, cheaper ads seemed to draw more attention, Williams says. "The thought is, when you buy fractional ads on facing pages, you can capture the spread if they're eye-catching enough."

Not only did Silverstein's ads cost less to run, they were inexpensive to produce. Most of the copy remained the same in the ads; the main thing that varied between them was the art. Given that, Williams was able to produce the six sets of ads and two companion radio spots for under $6,000.

So, "To promote or not to promote?" If you've been hanging around off the stage, don't loiter in the wings too long. The orchestra is tuning up. You can hear the rhythm of construction hammers and the melody of pens scratching on new-home contracts. Refrigerators, washer/dryers and carpet rolls are rattling around inside delivery trucks and jets are zooming off with heavier loads. The curtain's about to go up again. You'd better step into the footlights.
COPYRIGHT 1992 Curtis Magazine Group, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1992 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Johnson, J. Douglas
Publication:Indiana Business Magazine
Date:Apr 1, 1992
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