Home Hardware selects John St.

The independent home improvement retail chain looks to refresh its creative thinking after a review over the summer.
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Home Hardware has selected Toronto’s John St. as its new agency of record following a review held this summer.

The retailer has worked with retail advertising pioneer Morris Saffer and his agency (which has been known as Saffer Advertising, Saffer Group and Saffer Retail over the years) for over four decades, remaining with the agency after it sought creditor protection in 1993.

However, Home Hardware has worked with other agencies on creative prior to bringing John St. on, with Saffer engaging Havas Worldwide Canada on the client’s behalf to provide work on several campaigns in recent years. Home Hardware works with PHD on media.

Home Hardware has more than 1,100 stores across Canada, all of a which are cooperatively owned by members of the communities they are based in.

At the beginning of 2016, Home Hardware reorganized its marketing team and hired Rick McNabb as its new VP of marketing and sales. The retailer had previously divided its marketing into two divisions, with one VP handling hardline categories and another handling lumber and building, but one of the changes that came with the reorganization was re-aligning all marketing and sales functions under McNabb, a former executive at Cara Operations and Ted Bates Advertising.

The release stated the company was looking for a new agency to bring a “fresh perspective on how to drive the business forward” to its advertising and marketing.

“We want to build on [Home Hardware's] success story and reach a new generation of customers on the channels they use most often,” McNabb said in the press release. “We were looking for specific things [from our new agency]: strong brand and channel planning, strong digital, design and retail experience, a track record of powerful and insightful creative, and perhaps most importantly, a really good DNA fit.”

McNabb led the new agency search over the summer and met with several agencies during the review before selecting John St. The company will transition the account to John St. in the fourth quarter of 2016 and expects new work from the agency to debut in the spring of next year.

The review did not include any spec work, so the agency will be entering its work with Home Hardware with a complete blank slate, but Arthur Fleischmann, president of John St., says there are several things he sees as opportunities for the brand. He describes the retailer as being iconic, with high awareness and having a DNA that’s true to its small-town roots. While Home Hardware is falling behind with younger shoppers, new Canadians who don’t have a history with the brand and women who the brand hasn’t engaged, staying true to those roots and bringing them into new channels is an opportunity for the retailer to pursue.

“Some of the reinvention will come with digital and social experience, and there’s absolutely an opportunity to evolve the creative platform,” Fleischmann says. “Right now they have the individual store owners in their ads, which is unique and something only they can offer. When you go into a Home Hardware there is an owner there that knows the trade and business and home improvement. It’s kind of like going to dad, and a lot of the younger generation today didn’t have their parents pass down their know-how. At Home Hardware, there’s a guy there who will teach them that.”

He adds, “The problem is you can’t just put them in an ad and expect to get value from that. So we’re thinking about how we might use those owners in more powerful ways and different channels to really prove they provide expert advice you can’t get elsewhere.”