Of romance, bunnies and ubiquitous bulbs

A small Calgary agency has broken new ground with the launch of an ad campaign based around romance novels, to tout a condominium development.

A small Calgary agency has broken new ground with the launch of an ad campaign based around romance novels, to tout a condominium development.
Print ads that will launch in magazines and newspapers in late March all feature an illustrated book jacket from one of a series of six specially created faux Harlequin romance novels, with cover lines that humorously intertwine romance themes with condo amenities. All the stories focus on the romantic life of a character that has chosen to live at The Portico development in Calgary, ranging from a millionaire playboy to a workaholic middle-aged woman.
Each ad shows a barcode and quote from an imaginary review, together with the price of an apartment.
Initial response to a trial run of one ad in December has seen 14 sales at Landstar Development’s scheme before construction has even begun, according to Charles Blackwell, president and creative partner at Push, the agency behind the campaign.
The ads will appear in publications like Avenue Magazine and Condo Guide, as well as in local newspapers. They will continue to run during the next 12 to 18 months, until all 59 units have sold.
‘We wanted to paint an aspirational, romantic picture, and the creative grew from there,’ says Blackwell.
‘The ads are all intended to be humorous and gently poking fun at the romance novel genre, but not to the point of putting off the fans of these sorts of novels,’ he adds.
Visitors to The Portico’s Web site at www.the-portico.com can read snippets of the novels while those visiting The Portico show suite can pick up full-length versions, also written by Push.
The young, urban, upscale crowd is the primary target audience for this campaign. ‘We’re focusing on people who aren’t going to do the whole zombie thing of moving to the suburbs and buying a minivan,’ says Blackwell. ‘This new complex is designed to give the downtown urban experience to the new Calgarian, with that romantic notion of being able to walk to work.’
Push is also considering launching a radio campaign and direct mail piece around the same theme. Lucy Saddleton
Client: Landstar Development Corporation
Agency: Push
Writer: Charles Blackwell
Art Director: Darcy Parke
Illustrator: Ken Dewar
Prop Maker: Theo Wilting
Photographer: Frank Hoedl, Westside Studios
Blockbuster’s spokesrodents intro new services as pool spills out
Blockbuster’s global campaign to promote its home entertainment services continues to roll out new spots touting online reservations, a new customer reward program, and free rentals for a year with the purchase of a digital TV system.
Carl the rabbit and Ray the guinea pig star in the series of six 30-second spots, which were directed by Canadian animator, Steve Williams of Complete Pandemonium in San Francisco. The characters were animated into a Blockbuster store setting that was filmed in Vancouver. The first spot, ‘Gotta Dance,’ hit Canadian and U.S. screens on Feb. 3 during the Super Bowl, and the grinding cage-denizens were a hit.
‘We think the commercials will bring very high levels of consumer awareness to the brand,’ says David Stewart, president of Blockbuster Canada.
One of the spots, ‘Kung Fu-Ninja Mice,’ features Ray, who is excited to know that kung fu movies are in stock, begins to demonstrate his martial arts skills. Anxious to steal the limelight, Carl brings in a gang of ninja mice to combat Ray.
Other spots range from circus tricks to mouse massages, with actors James Woods and Jim Belushi providing the characters’ voices.
‘The two characters were created as a metaphor for regular people, looking at Blockbuster for entertainment in their lives,’ says John DeCerchio, vice chairman and CCO at Southfield, Mich.-based Doner Worldwide, which created the campaign.
The campaign resurrects the retailer’s most popular tagline: Make it a Blockbuster Night. ‘Our research indicated that this pre-’98 tagline had the greatest recall from consumers so we decided to bring it back,’ says Stewart.
The campaign is targeting Blockbuster’s core customer, families aged 18 to 34 with kids. It will launch in Europe later this year and a Spanish version has been created for Mexico. ‘That’s the beauty of this sort of animation – it can easily be changed to suit different languages,’ says Stewart.
You can also catch up with Ray and Carl in Blockbuster’s in-store magazine, News & Previews. LS
Client: Blockbuster
Agency: Doner Worldwide
Creative Directors: John Parlato, Don Fibich and Sheldon Cohn
Copywriters: Dan Margulis, Bryan Hutson and Mike Caesar
Art Directors: Mark Cooke and Tom Gurisko
Producer: Josh Reynolds
Graphic Design Studio: Tippett Studio
HGTV goes ‘aha’ in new ads
Home and Garden Television doesn’t sell products; it sells ideas. So the network is positioning itself as home to the people with the best home improvement, gardening and design ideas.
Their message is condensed into a lightbulb image, the classic ‘aha’ signifier from Saturday-morning cartoons. The lightbulb – not coincidentally a household item – has been cast and recast to bring this symbolism to Alliance Atlantis-owned HGTV and its various niche markets.
In one 10-second spot we see House and Home’s Lynda Reeve puzzling over paint samples and fabric swatches in an unfinished loft. The camera pulls back as she holds a paint chip in the shape of a lightbulb to a freshly plastered wall, instantly washing it in citrus green.
In another spot, John Sillaots (In the Workshop) drives the final nail into an Adirondack chair and stands back to admire his creation, revealing the chair back’s lightbulb shape. John sits back, puts on his shades, and smiles as warm sunlight infuses the workshop.
Kathy Renwald (Calling All Gardeners and Gardener’s Journal) guides a clematis vine into a trellis. Pulling back, the camera reveals a lush climbing vine arranged in the shape of a lightbulb.
In previous campaigns, the lightbulb has been built into a deck, sculpted into ice and used to tie back curtains.
The lightbulb, like the campaign, seamlessly integrates the branding of the station with the marketing of individual programs, acknowledging the show’s fans in the process.
On-air promos will run from March 1 to 20, with a month-long billboard campaign to follow in Vancouver, Toronto and Calgary. Print ads by FCB Toronto will appear in the Toronto Star, TV Times (in the West), TV Guide and major homeowner glossies including Canadian House & Home, Canadian Living, and Cottage Life magazines.
HGTV’s campaign marks an evolution for the young station, and shows that its hosts are very grown up indeed. At its 1997 launch, HGTV’s marketing focused on the genre content of the station and used catch words like ‘design,’ ‘garden’ and ‘hammer’ so people could find the kind of shows they wanted.
Now with more than three million Canadians (mainly female) tuning in each week, the station’s personalities have come to dominate the station. Through focus groups and call-out research, ‘It’s clear that the individual hosts are the key reason for tuning in,’ says Janet Eastwood, executive VP of marketing.
Recognizing the intrinsic brand value of these personalities, the Alliance Atlantis marketing department invited them into brainstorming sessions in the initial phases of the campaign. The idea was to show hosts interacting with the lightbulb in a way that they would in their own shows.
The campaign gives a nod to current viewers, but putting creativity at the forefront of the campaign may prove a boon to the station during the economic slump. The new domesticity is here to stay and homespun craftiness has timely appeal.
This is the fourth campaign to incorporate the lightbulb image. Will there come a time when the idea will burn out?
Eastwood points to the Absolut Vodka campaign as a similar example of a long-lasting, amorphous icon. ‘It’s a challenge to keep coming up with fresh, interesting and stylish ways to interact with the bulb, but we chose this image because we think it has lots of legs.’ Sara Minogue
On-air credits by HGTV
Director: David O’Brien
Production Producers: Angela Donald, Lorraine Bradshaw
Promotions Producers: Stephanie Rogers, Samantha Lamb
Creative Director: Jeff Gruen
Editor: Laurence Robinson
Audio Mix: Jonathan Billings
Sound Design: Rob Wells