July 11, 2014

Philly businesses take notice of ab+c

How does an ad agency not become the shoemaker’s child?

Lightning in a Bottle Competition
By doing its own advertising and marketing. As a 43-year-old agency that expanded into the city of Philadelphia — known for cheesesteaks, relentless sports fans and a statue of Rocky at the steps of the Art Museum — ab+c wanted to be noticed. And kick-ass print ads alone weren’t gonna cut it. Giving back to the community in some way seemed like a bright idea. So we came up with a way to help a local business grow, which in turn would help the community grow: a competition — just like the Hunger Games — to find a great business with an innovative idea. The reward? A year’s worth of free marketing services. (OK, it was nothing like the Hunger Games. That would’ve gotten us noticed for all the wrong reasons.)

To establish criteria for entries, we asked a few questions:

  • How will the idea help Philly grow?
  • Is the idea marketable? Will people actually buy the product or service?
  • What is the idea’s potential impact?
  • Is it scalable?
  • What about sustainable?
  • And is it realistic?

Knowing the competition would not be a small undertaking, we called in all the troops. Every department was in on this — media, new business, PR, interactive and creative. We started from the bottom — creating the logo and brand of the competition, coming up with a fun name: Let’s see … Philadelphia … famous Philly people — Ben Franklin? Lightning? Capturing lightning in a bottle? Boom. Perfect. Thus our Lightning in a Bottle contest was born. (Does “Genie in a Bottle” by Christina Aguilera pop into anyone else’s head? Or is it just me?)

So we have an idea. Now how do we spread the message?

We knew we had a lot of work to do. Philly is a big city with a lot going on. With the help of some wonderful vendors we got some digital billboard time and some radio and print ads. We (obviously) created a website and a Facebook page. We developed a PR strategy including social media promoted posts and my personal favorite, a Thunderclap. A Thunderclap requires you to get 100 supporters, then, on a certain day at a certain time, pushes out a post and a tweet to all of your supporters’ friends on social media. The point is to get the message or hashtag to be a trending topic and seen by others you wouldn’t have normally reached. It was like a game trying to get everyone on board — and every day we got closer and closer to our 100-person goal! We even went a little old school and had a sandwich sign and handed out flyers to people walking around Philly. One of our most successful tactics in getting people to enter — attending local events. We set up tables at different seminars held in Philly and told attendees about their chance for some free marketing.

How did the contest turn out?

I’m glad you asked. After garnering 30 entrants, we whittled them down to 10 finalists using our cutthroat rating system. Those lucky 10 got a “Shark Tank” experience — they each had five minutes to pitch their idea to our blue ribbon panel of judges. There was an impressive array of products and services, from watches to mobile apps to a living wall that removes toxins from the air. But in the end, the judges had a unanimous decision on the winner.

Philly MuffinWe had a final announcement party (because who doesn’t love a party) to tell the winner his world just became a little bit brighter.

The Philly Muffin — created by Pete Merzbacher, owner of Philly Bread — was our winner. Judge Joel Vardy of Innovation Leadership Forum says, “Fortunately Pete found something everyone can relate to: food. It was also very clear that he could take advantage of winning this competition. And it was good that he saw the community as being the source of future hires.”

Scott Bille, Interactive Director at ab+c, says, “These guys have a great idea, and are ready to take it to the next level. With a little bit of marketing, the Philly Muffin will be the next big thing.”

Pete says he has captured lightning in a bottle: He has a scalable product, he has his bakery, and he’s ready to show the world what he has to offer. All he needs to do is get the product into people’s hands.

That’s where ab+c comes in. We’ll provide free creative marketing services for a year to help make the Philly Muffin known. Keep tabs on this story by watching our social media outlets and blog (sign up on the left side of the screen) to see how we help Pete and the Philly Muffin make some dough (sorry, I couldn’t keep that pun bottled up).

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