Marketing Company Believes No Guts, No Glory

Less than a month before broadcast networks present their fall lineups, executives are reviewing pilots and suggesting changes to producers en route to making their selections for new shows. But what’s a small-time producer to do if she believes she’s got a big-time hit, but can't get any attention from the tastemakers?

Don’t sit idly by. Don’t return to Starbucks to cook up the next idea so easily. Go on the offensive.

A standard path would be to put a pilot online and hopefully generate loads of Facebook “likes” and Twitter followers to offer evidence there’s something good.

But why not look to get noticed via a combination of creativity and chutzpah? Assemble a picket line outside a network's office with clever phrases. Or, go with a billboard with a crackerjack conceit on the road to Burbank. (Admittedly, that would be expensive, but you’ve to spend money to make money.)

Looking for inspiration? How about Ivie & Associates trying to do the equivalent of getting a development executive to watch a show, even a few clips.

The marketing firm wants to do business with Bass Pro Shops, the thriving outdoor retailer with the massive emporiums. But, Ivie has no “in” with anyone in the marketing department who has any juice.

Chances of direct mail, email marketing or cold calling yielding a foot in the door is about as likely as a network going with another singing competition. So, Ivie has purchased a billboard not far from Bass’s Springfield, Mo. headquarters, hoping for an initial meeting (five minutes on the phone might even do).

“The biggest, loudest message that we can imagine,” said Brandon Ivie, president of the family-owned firm located outside Dallas.

Campaign billboards near corporate offices are not entirely new. When ESPN was trying to convince both Time Warner Cable and Comcast to offer ESPN3.com, it went that route. But ESPN and the cable companies are in constant conversations. For the time being at least, Ivie executives might not get past security.

Unlike what might be needed in Hollywood, Ivie & Associates hopes Bass executives will view its creativity as coming not from content, but strategy and moxie.

Its message is stark. “Bass Pro, CEO/Executive, please go to whyivie.com,” the billboard reads.

Whyivie.com is a microsite set up for Bass that offers five reasons to work with Ivie. Ivie’s core competency is “marketing outsourcing.” It keeps the employees on, but takes over operations of all or part of a client’s marketing department, promising to provide the same services with cost efficiencies.

It works in the retail category with clients such as Wal-Mart and Home Depot. The Bass-targeted microsite says it saved clients a combined $46 million-plus in 2011. Ivie has 27 domestic offices and 400 people, where two-thirds work on a client site. With experience in sporting goods (having worked with Dick’s Sporting Goods and others), it believes it has a lot to offer Bass and its 56 stores in 26 states.

“We’re not a little boutique agency at the point of desperation,” said Brandon Ivie. “We’ve got a good message to illustrate. We’ve just got to get somebody to listen.”

The cost of the billboard is no more than $4,000 all inclusive, so the ROI upside is significant.

The tactic may be working, at least in part. No phone calls from Bass have come in since the billboard went up March 26. But whyivie.com traffic has generated a significant number of hits from the area where Bass HQ is located.

“It’s achieving what we wanted to as far as getting attention,” Brandon Ivie said. “Now, we need to get to the second part as far as what that attention is going to provide.”

Brandon Ivie says he’ll know more in about a week when he follows up with a phone call. (Not a cold call, but a warm call?)

He might be partly satisfied, with a willing ear, but no business. A Bass representative said he didn’t think the company would sign on right away with its marketing department satisfied with, and committed to, the firms it works with. Albeit maybe perfunctorily, he did allow: “You never know in the future.”

Regardless of how successful the gambit proves, Ivie plans to replicate it. The company’s new-business department has identified a slew of other retailers it wants to work with and is looking to buy billboards outside their executive offices.

If at first you don’t succeed …

Tags: television
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