FARMINGTON HILLS -- Sometimes it takes one to know one. That's behind the success Vanguard Creative Group of Farmington Hills had with its award-winning campaign for Kar's Nuts of Madison Heights.
Kar's Nuts is a lot like Vanguard. They were both small and local and weren't household names. The ad campaign Vanguard did for Kar's Nuts not only elevated Vanguard's stature in the advertising world -- it won the 2005 International Summit Creative Awards -- it helped Kar's Nuts elevate its recognition with consumers...
The ads that ran for nine weeks last year consisted of four radio spots. Three included repeating "Kar's Nuts" to common car sounds such as windshield wipers, turn signals and the rubber grooves in the highway.
For the fourth spot, Vanguard bought the 3 p.m. time slot -- determined to be a good snack time -- from many local radio stations and announced Kar's had bought 3 p.m. from Greenwich Mean Time, complete with a jingle that went along with the Westminster chime.
Kar's Nuts, a packaged snack manufacturer found in gas stations and convenience stores, had a problem with brand recognition. "What I told the president of Kar's is that he was the best-loved brand nobody knows," Williams says. "There wasn't that connection between the company and the consumer. The campaign was to make that connection."
Williams says he knows the campaign was successful by people's reactions. "We'd say "Kar's Nuts' and they would say, 'you're responsible for those ads. We hate you! I can't get it out of my mind when it rains!' "
Nick Nicolay, the owner of Madison Heights-based Kar's Nuts, says while advertising is difficult to measure, he thought the campaign was a success. "It helped do what we wanted to do and that was to make people more aware of the brand.."
It was successful within the advertising world, as well. Kathleen McCulloch, a New York University social cognition research scientist and a 2005 Summit Creative Award judge, says the campaign was effective for multiple reasons. "One of which is that the campaign links the consumer to its product in a very concrete way. Forming such links should work to automatically evoke ideas or perceptions of the product when the consumer is in the environment specified in the advertisement (when the car's wipers are on)."
Williams says the award, the first for Vanguard, could help raise its stature in the competitive advertising world. "In the end, I want to make sure what we do is raise the stature of our clients."
Williams was a reluctant entrepreneur. He joined his father at the then-dubbed Vanguard Marketing Group Inc. in 1986 after years of saying no to his father's offer to join the business. Father and son worked together for 10 years until the elder retired and Williams took over the reins. The company did design work such as brochures, and advertising specialties, such as putting company names on pens and other items.
Williams wanted to take the business in a different direction and started by changing its middle name to "Creative" and cutting back on the advertising specialties. William says his niche is level two type clients. "We're not set up today to serve a General Motors. But a Kar's Nuts ... that's our niche, small to medium."
Christine Snyder is a Metro Detroit freelance writer.