Advertisers Hope Regional Campaigns Will Get 'Em Where They Live

The way Amil Gargano figures it, Los Angeles residents see things differently from people who live in New York.

So the Manhattan adman asked himself, why use the same ads in both cities?

His agency, Ally & Gargano, recently created some provocative print ads for a brand of premium dog food that is supposedly so nutritious that it makes dog droppings less messy. To get that rather unsavory point across in the Los Angeles market, the ad showed a sour-faced jogger looking disgustedly at the bottom of his shoe. "If more dogs in L.A. ate Purina Hi Pro," the headline says, "it would seem like there were less dogs in L.A." To make that same point in New York, the ad showed a well-dressed businessman discovering the same misfortune.

"I live in a New York apartment building with about 500 dogs and three children," said Gargano. "You have to be in training like a football running back to get from your home to your office unscathed. The same message applies to people in Los Angeles, but we knew we had to change it slightly to get Los Angeles residents to relate to it."

Likewise, a new print ad campaign for Jim Beam bourbon has come up with very different ways to talk to Los Angeles residents and New Yorkers. The theme of the campaign, which was created by Minneapolis agency Fallon McElligott, is "you always come back to the basics."

The Los Angeles campaign theme shows six matchbook covers from Los Angeles restaurants that have been in vogue over the years. The oldest matchbook, dated 1950, is from the Hollywood dining institution, Musso & Frank Grill. This is followed by restaurants from the '60s, '70s and '80s that have fed some of the biggest stars--and biggest egos--in town. Finally, the last matchbook cover, dated 1990, is once again from Musso & Frank Grill.

But to get that same message across in New York, the company didn't use matchbooks. Instead, it used Playbill magazine covers of popular Broadway shows. The Playbill displayed from the 1950s is from "Gypsy." It is followed by a series of plays from the '60s, '70s and '80s, and ends with the Playbill for "Gypsy" in 1990. The play just reopened on Broadway this month.

Behind these campaigns for dog food and bourbon is the increasingly popular advertising strategy of regionalization. Over the years, consumers have become accustomed to regionalized ads for items such as cars (i.e., Southern California Ford Dealers Assn.) or fast food (McDonald's Operators' Assn. of Southern California). But industry executives say when the makers of products like bourbon and dog food begin to create targeted ads for specific regions like New York and Los Angeles, the trend is unmistakable.

"This is a new movement that has only recently taken shape," said Gary L. Frazier, associate professor of marketing at USC. "It is an attempt by advertisers to cut through the clutter. Clearly, the more specialized you can make your ad, the more persuasive it can be."

Take the dog food ad, for example. Yet another version that ran in the Dallas market also featured a businessman--but he was wearing cowboy boots and a cowboy hat. And the makers of Jim Beam brand bourbon now say a follow-up campaign in the Los Angeles market may feature some night clubs--or even some local architectural landmarks--that have come and gone from prominence.

"It jogs your attention when you see your town mentioned in an ad," said Vic Olesen, president of the Los Angeles agency, Vic Olesen & Partners. "It works for the same reason that people from Cucamonga will applaud when they hear Cucamonga mentioned. It's self-interest."

Beyond that, said Miles Turpin, chairman of the Western division of Grey Advertising, "this all sounds like recognition of the theory that mass marketing is dead. More companies are asking themselves: Can I focus locally and do a better job communicating?"

The answer appears to be yes.

Several big packaged goods makers, including Procter & Gamble, have recently begun to shift money from their national ad campaigns to regional advertising ventures. And earlier this year, Burger King hired separate agencies to create its regional and national campaigns. Also, a growing number of publications are offering advertisers the opportunity to place regional ads.

Even when creating ads within the state of California for client Lucky Stores, Turpin said his agency sometimes creates subtle differences between the ads that run in the northern and southern regions of the state. For example, he said, in the competitive Southern California market, Lucky tries to attract customers with ads that promote certain grades of beef not available at its stores in Northern California.

Executives from both Ralston-Purina and Jim Beam said their regional campaigns are still so new that it's too early to tell how they have affected local sales. But both companies indicate that they will continue to create these ads.

"In the very near future, companies that don't regionalize their ads may be open to trouble," said USC's Frazier. "But as more and more companies go into regionalized ads, there will be more failed campaigns. Remember, the key to competitive advertising is doing what everyone else isn't."

Creators of 'Mac Tonight' Win Arizona McDonald's Account

A Los Angeles ad agency has sunk its teeth into yet another piece of McDonald's business.

Davis Ball & Colombatto on Monday was handed the estimated $3.5-million account from the Phoenix & Northern Arizona McDonald's Operator's Assn. franchisee group. With this win, the agency will annually create more than $40 million worth of regional ads for the hamburger giant. The agency, which also creates McDonald's ads seen in the Los Angeles market, now ranks as the nation's second-largest creator of McDonald's regional ads.

Davis Ball & Colombatto may be best known for its "Mac Tonight" ads that feature a man who wears a giant moon-shaped head and sings McDonald's lyrics to the old Bobby Darin tune, "Mac the Knife."

Since that successful campaign, the agency has picked up other McDonald's business, including that of the Tucson-area franchisees earlier this year. These wins come at the heels of the stinging loss earlier this fall of longtime client Glendale Federal Bank. "We're ready to rebound after the Glendale Federal loss," said Brad Ball, president of the firm.

The agency will now open a new office in Phoenix to service the new McDonald's account. And besides the regional pieces of McDonald's business, it will seek national assignments from the chain. "Each time we get a little more into the McDonald's family, the opportunity grows to pick up national assignments," said Ball.

Leo Burnett of Chicago is McDonald's national ad agency.

Irvine Ranch Market Wants to Bag New Image With New Agency

The Irvine Ranch Farmers Market has had a shopping cart full of problems over the past two years. During that time, its founder filed for personal bankruptcy and the chain closed or sold a number of its stores.

But with the help of a newly selected agency and a new ad campaign, the upscale chain that specializes in fresh produce hopes to turn things around. Last week it handed its estimated $750,000 annual account to Los Angeles ad agency Larsen Colby Koralek.

How to persuade consumers to shop at Irvine Ranch? "We're going to point out what makes them different," said Rick Colby, creative director at the agency. "Their foods come from all over the world."

Indeed, a Thanksgiving ad that the agency created pointed out that the supermarket sells Brie cheese from France, pineapples from Tahiti, peppers from Holland and asparagus from Chile. Not to mention coffee from Kenya.

Nike's McEnroe Super Bowl Ad Is New Racket for Tennis Pro

Don't look for Doug Dean in Nike's upcoming Super Bowl commercial.

Dean is a Beverly Hills tennis instructor. But last week he found himself on the tennis court taking a lesson from one of the best: John McEnroe. The two men were at the Los Angeles Tennis Club, where McEnroe was being filmed for his part in Nike's Super Bowl commercial. Dean--who will not appear anywhere in the commercial--was there simply to keep hitting the ball back to McEnroe.

"It's not often that a tennis pro gets to hit with one of the best players in the world," said Dean, who was picked for the assignment by his buddy, Joe Pytka, who directed the spot. "As many times as I've watched McEnroe on TV, it's pretty weird to see his serve coming at you on the court."

For his part, McEnroe was impressed with Dean. "I don't know who I played," said McEnroe, after the filming, "but that guy was like a human backboard."

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