Meeting the challenge head on

Four flannel-clad hunters sit hunched around a table in a cabin; laughter and congratulatory back-slapping erupt as they revisit their latest exploit.
Above them on the wall is the prey: a moose. But it's not your average hunting trophy. A shattered car windshield still hangs around its neck - the hunters laugh some more.

Four flannel-clad hunters sit hunched around a table in a cabin; laughter and congratulatory back-slapping erupt as they revisit their latest exploit.

Above them on the wall is the prey: a moose. But it’s not your average hunting trophy. A shattered car windshield still hangs around its neck – the hunters laugh some more.

‘Peu importe ce qui arrive…’ (Whatever happens) is flashed onscreen.

Produced by Montreal agency LG2 for Lebeau Vitres d’auto, Quebec’s largest auto-glass repair chain, the spot helped revitalize the chain’s image overnight – with a little help from a giant moose head.

About four years ago, management changed at Lebeau, but the company was still losing ground to its main competitor, Montreal-based Duro (both companies are now part of the Montreal-based Belron Canada auto glass empire). In 2000 LG2 was hired to develop a marketing plan that was both cost effective and innovative enough to serve as the foundation for marketing in the coming years.

‘We were looking for stability – that was the one major thing that was missing,’ says Stéphane Bisson, Lebeau’s marketing director. ‘Our first reflection was what to do about the brand’s personality, and LG2 helped build continuity in our message and helped us say ‘this is where we want to go.”

The goal

Lebeau has operated in Quebec for over 50 years and it now owns 70 stores across the province, so brand recognition wasn’t the problem. Personality was, though. When management changed, many ideas circulated in Lebeau’s Montreal head office and competing visions clouded the brand’s positioning.

‘We had to go back to the basics, and right from our initial meetings with LG2 we decided to keep the goal simple: ‘think auto glass, think Lebeau,” Bisson says.

That approach led directly to the new ‘Whatever happens’ slogan (designed to convey the peace of mind that comes from knowing that Lebeau can fix your windshield quickly and cheaply), to the TV commercial, and finally to a travelling 4,354-pound 32-foot-wide moose head mounted on a Montreal billboard.

The strategy

LG2 needed to find a way to build Lebeau’s image and make it accessible to Quebecers across the province in a cost-effective manner.

Car drivers were a clear target, but what impaired communication was the fact that in a market where most auto glass companies offer approximately the same services for the same price, Lebeau lacked a unique selling proposition. LG2 had to find a way to let the population know that Lebeau was different – not necessarily better – just different.

‘The budget wasn’t enormous, so we compensated with the media we chose,’ explains Julie Dubé, strategic planner at LG2. ‘Exaggeration was very important – we tried to choose a media mix to make it appear like Lebeau was vividly larger than life. Humour also worked very well for the strategy. Humour is a big thing in Quebec, people receive it so well.’

For Dubé, advertising in Quebec can afford to be a little more risqué because the population doesn’t mind laughing at itself. The hunter’s stereotype, fused with the ‘moose in the headlights’ cliché, proved to be excellent fodder.

‘We have a free attitude, and yes, we’re a little less conservative, despite our Catholic heritage,’ she says. ‘I don’t think there’s a secret recipe for reaching Quebecers – it’s by no means a science – but for some reason we respond very well to advertising that pushes the boundaries.’

The execution

The hunter spot had two runs in 2001, first during the spring and again in the fall. But what really took Montreal by storm was the giant moose head billboard. LG2 got the most out of it (they could only afford to make one) by switching its location every few weeks while the TV spot ran on TVA, SRC and TQS.

‘The moose got a lot of media coverage,’ Dubé says. ‘Everyone was talking about it when it first came out.’ The truck that shipped it to new locations was even followed by commuters on the expressway wondering where it would go next. ‘The buzz it generated was crazy.’

But winter is an automotive repair shop’s best friend and last winter wasn’t the cavalcade of snow and slush that Quebecers are accustomed to. ‘This last winter wasn’t a winter at all, not by our standards, there just weren’t enough rocks on the road to crack windshields,’ Dubé recalls. And while Lebeau still had a good winter relative to the competition, overall lower profits meant a lower advertising budget.

So in March of this year, Lebeau switched from TV to radio. This next wave included spots such as ‘No Matter What Happens,’ which classified the different kinds of windshield cracks you can get (such as the ‘bullseye’ and ‘cloverleaf’). The ‘Whatever Happens’ tag and brand attitude stayed, but a stronger focus was put on immediate sales.

‘This year, our goals and objectives were shortened,’ Bisson says. ‘In 2001, building the image was 95% of our goal, now it’s 50%. We took the personality we built last year, and because it was so successful it allowed us to use the tone and feel of the television spot and push it to radio, only this time it was more action-oriented.’

The results

The hunter spot and the moose head billboard had an immediate, measurable effect on Lebeau’s sales in 2001. During the first TV run in the spring, sales jumped 10% year over year and when the campaign ran in the fall, sales went up 17% compared to the year before.

Even more importantly, the campaign helped build a distinct and entertaining brand character that set Lebeau apart from the crowd, providing a firm base for future campaigns.

‘LG2 helped to impact sales, but that’s not just what we were looking for, that’s not how we judge a campaign,’ Bisson says. ‘We just wanted to create a solid personality – and we know we did it.’