Shop uses unique image to promote bonds

Vancouver-based ad agency Lanyon Phillips Brink used an integrated approach to tie a unique campaign image as closely as possible to the point of purchase of B.C. Savings Bonds.Early skepticismDespite early skepticism from the client, the campaign succeeded in establishing an...

Vancouver-based ad agency Lanyon Phillips Brink used an integrated approach to tie a unique campaign image as closely as possible to the point of purchase of B.C. Savings Bonds.

Early skepticism

Despite early skepticism from the client, the campaign succeeded in establishing an image, and netting some surprising results.

In 1993, the Ministry of Finance selected Lanyon Phillips Brink to promote the second year of the Provincial Savings Bond offering.

The bonds were being issued during a nine-day period as a borrowing requirement to help fund health and education in the province.

The task of raising money would be much more difficult the second time around.

Shawn Thomas, then-Finance communications director, says in 1992 the environment for offering bonds was much more attractive ‘because bond buyers were on a honeymoon with the government.

Not as popular

‘This year, the government had to make tough decisions and was not as popular,’ Thomas says. ‘Selling bonds would be a tougher sell to b.c. residents.’

The government was also trying to sell bonds in the face of stiffer competition from equities markets, the stock market, and many other investment options.

In the first year of the offering, the ministry raised $710 million from investor groups which were buying bonds in larger chunks, anywhere from $50,000 to $70,000.

‘But they were `flipping’ them six months later in favor of other investments,’ Thomas says.

For 1993, the ministry set a lower target of $350 million, but it wanted to target ‘Mom & Pop’ bond buyers who would buy bonds through retail outlets, such as banks, trust companies and credit unions, in quantities as low as $100.

Didn’t want ‘flipping’

‘Although the target was lower, we didn’t want investors flipping their bonds six months later,’ Thomas says.

‘We wanted to avoid the traditional image associated with government offerings, often images of rippling provincial flags, smiling faces of diverse ethnic cultures and majestic scenery,’ says Chuck Phillips, founding partner of Lanyon Phillips Brink.

‘Instead, we employed a non-political visual metaphor that symbolized growth and optimism, and one that had a strong appeal to our `mom and pop’ investor target,’ Phillips says.

It was an equally tough sell, getting the people in the ministry to support the creative approach Lanyon Phillips Brink had prepared for the campaign.

‘And it wasn’t without considerable deliberation that this contract was awarded after they saw what we came up with,’ Phillips says.

Creative Director Peter Lanyon, who had just become a parent, and art director Bill Downie, whose wife was pregnant, had come up with the symbol of babies to illustrate growth and the future.

‘It was a case of advertising imitating life,’ Lanyon says. ‘We saw the whole world as having babies and maybe it seeped over into our work.’

Growth

Lanyon rationalized his choice on the basis of babies signifying opportunity for growth, saying as an investment symbol, babies also mean more to mom and pop investors than heavy duty investors.

A full media mix included 30-second and 15-second tv spots of babies crawling in and out of the frame across a clean white floor.

The headlines read ‘We’re expecting,’ ‘Guaranteed to Grow,’ ‘Healthy growth guaranteed,’ and ‘Guaranteed to pay off smartly.’

The copy stressed that a 5% investment could build personal savings, while helping to build schools across the province through the tag line, ‘Watch your savings grow as you watch B.C. grow.’

At the same time the ads were running, the agency introduced posters, brochures and counter cards into retail banking institutions.

Pamphlets were also inserted into BC Hydro bill mailings, using the same photos of babies.

As the nine-day period of offering came to a close, a series of 15-second spots showed fast-motion clips of babies crawling, while the announcer urged people to make their decisions fast because time was running out.

The final series of tv spots featured a bare-bottomed baby crawling into the frame under the headline, ‘The end is coming.’

Lanyon says: ‘We chose to implement an integrated campaign because we had to get our message to as many places as possibleÉ. We wanted people to make the connection as close as possible to the point [of purchase], which is usually in the bank line.’

During the campaign, a Vancouver investment community brokers’ pool was under way to predict the total amount of money raised.

The most optimistic broker pegged the amount at $409 million.

The total ended up in excess of $435 million, surpassing earlier projections by more than $100 million.

Phillips says purchases from retail outlets rose from 27% to more than 40%, meaning the message reached the mom and pop investor.

‘It was hugely successful,’ Thomas says. ‘Six months after the campaign began, the investors are not flipping their bonds.’