NSF Uses Little Guys To Ratchet Up Awareness

Water Bottle Lifeguard Think of NSF as the guy behind the guy telling the guy it's ok to sell his product.

NSF--short for the National Sanitation Foundation--is a behind-the-scenes company, certifying the safety and cleanliness of more than 200,000 products. But its role is not well-known to consumers. The company is looking to increase consumer awareness--and that of companies seeking certification--with a new print advertising campaign showing how it is looking out for consumers' best interests.

"One thing we needed to do was humanize the company," Tim Gillingham, a group creative director at Olson, the agency that created the campaign, says of the campaign. "What they do is hard to say in an ad."

The new approach, which depicts little humans protecting consumer products, is intended to easily illustrate the company's mission without getting bogged down in seriousness or jargon, Gillingham tells Marketing Daily. NSF's previous campaign placed headlines in the company's blue dot certification symbol, telling people what they did. "They were easy to produce, but they were easily missable," he says.



The Minneapolis agency came up with the idea that the company had an army of "tiny protectors" that looked out for consumers' interests, he says, adding: "There's whimsy in the executions, but at the same time, we're sending a serious message."

The campaign, tagged "Live safer," uses tiny human figures as symbols for what the company does. One ad depicts a tiny lifeguard sitting on a water bottle, with body copy explaining that bottled water is just one of the things that NSF evaluates. Another ad shows a security guard standing in front of a bottle of vitamins protected by laser beams. The body copy explains that the products are just some of the things NSF certifies, and encourages consumers to look for the certification symbol when purchasing products.

The campaign, which is appearing in magazines such as Parenting, Cooking Light, Men's Fitness and Health, is intended to increase consumer awareness of NSF certification--and hopefully, in turn, increase demand for companies seeking certification, Gillingham says. "We're going to be running a trade campaign this spring that will say as much to the [companies] in a more direct manner," he says.

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