Media Plan of the Year: Spending $1 Million or Less – Starcom

It’s right after the holidays, and millions of people are sitting there, fat and unhappy. They are motivated to shed those extra pounds. This four-to-six week span is known as “the resolution period” in the weight-loss business, and it is the prime window for signing up at gyms, buying treadmills and starting new diets. “You’ve got Slim Fast and Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig and Subway and health clubs all out there screaming the same thing: Eat this product, count your points with Fergie,” observers Judy Yeh, vp/international media director at Starcom Worldwide. “How do you break through that clutter?”

Starcom was looking to replant the flag for longtime client Battle Creek, Mich.-based Kellogg Co. and its Special K Kick Start diet. This eating plan encourages women to replace two meals a day with Special K; Kellogg’s claims those who follow the program can lose up to six pounds in two weeks.

During a round of brainstorming sessions with media, creative and account folk, Starcom came up with a startlingly simple idea. “We looked at places where consumers were thinking about their weight,” says Amy Hume, associate media director. “If we could get our message to them directly at these locations, it would resonate with them. If you’re going into a department store dressing room and putting on a pair of pants that’s half a size too small, this message will really hit home.

“We know a lot about our target and its habits around resolution time,” Hume continues. “People get energized around the holidays—they get a new hairstyle to start the year fresh, they schedule a physical, new health club memberships peak. And it’s a huge time for wedding dresses—you order in January for a June wedding.”

Armed with this knowledge, Starcom devised a strategy to seek its target audience—loosely described as women with the mindset of looking good and feeling good—at such pinpoint locations as dressing rooms, health clubs, doctors’ offices, bridal shops, and hair and nail salons.

“With such a strong insight,” adds Yeh, “the creative people got excited about tailoring the message to each location.” The copy for each setting was as wryly amusing as it was succinct: “The doctor will see (less of) you now!” for medical offices, for example. Or, “You don’t have to drink cucumber alfalfa smoothies” for health clubs.

By keeping things simple, Starcom made the medium the message. In contrast to complicated point-based diets, this one could easily be communicated on a wallboard. Every board offered a brochure explaining the diet, including a space for tracking two weeks of results. “Not everyone joins a health club,” notes Yeh, “so we wanted people to take a brochure and spread the word about this diet. The headline draws them in and then they grab the brochure. And our target likes to track her progress.”

Starcom’s out-of-home group was equally inspired by the brainstorming sessions and resulting concept. “We’re weaving our message into their everyday life, their local store or gym,” says senior vp/media director Jack Sullivan. “What makes it so catchy is that the changing room is so personal. When we can achieve that, it’s more impactful, and we hit a home run with these untraditional, ambient-type places.”

Placing the boards was all in a day’s work for the agency’s intrepid out-of-home team. “There’s no red book for this stuff,” Sullivan notes. “We have a pretty good portfolio of people who can make things happen, people who hustle and get out there and put up our signs. Some of these things may be custom-built for a limited period of time, but if there’s money in it [for the site], they’ll keep it long term. Half the stuff we come up with isn’t in the field. We ask our vendors, ‘Can you do that?’ and their eyes light up—they see a new revenue source. I guarantee they broached virgin territory with this.”

The agency placed hundreds of boards in upward of a dozen major markets. As usual with an outside-the-box media solution, pricing was also virgin territory. “I say to vendors, ‘I know what I’m talking about and you don’t,’ so I can lowball them,” Sullivan jokes. “But I need that vendor in the future, and when you win awards like this, it gets them new business.” To set pricing, he looked at traffic in a typical store, then considered the price of a similar-sized sign and the number of people passing it in, say, a convenience store. Then Sullivan and company stayed on top of things: “We make sure the sign is in a pretty obvious place, not near the bathroom. We can’t do it site-by-site, but we can get a fairly good sense of whether they’re maintaining our criteria, and we do spot-checks. A lot of this business is relationships and partnering, and vendors generally act in our clients’ best interests.”

“I thought it was great,” says Andy Jung, senior director/advertising and media services for Kellogg. “It took brand advertising more into immediacy marketing. It made it more proactive and gave consumers ways of connecting with our brand. I think it worked so well because each one of the executions was uniquely crafted to the location, where the consumer was open to communication and the communication was done in a way that was respectful of the environment.

“Having the copy and the media fitting so well together was the key to the success of this campaign,” he says. “Today, the media agency is often separate from creative, but Leo Burnett and Starcom made sure the media concept was well understood throughout. It all fell into place quite nicely, a ‘Eureka!’ sort of thing.”

Sales rose quite nicely, as Special K gained 22 percent in dollar volume over the year before in these markets. “People don’t think packaged-goods campaigns can be interesting or different,” says Yeh, “but we found a way to be creative.”