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KERKER, Minneapolis / YMCA / 2002

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BACKGROUND: The YMCAs of Minneapolis and St. Paul had never done joint marketing even though they are in the same DMA and only separated by the Mississippi River. Rather than working together they had been working in counter productive fashions, basically competing against each other to meet their new membership goals.GOAL: To have all seventeen YMCA branches in the Minneapolis and St. Paul area achieve their membership goals using limited marketing resources. The specific goal was to achieve a total of 2,872 new members in a four-week period.PROBLEM: How to create major impact for a brand that has existed for 150 years, has high levels of brand awareness and is viewed positively for its contribution to the community. Historically, the YMCA never had a media budget. Advertising insertions were garnered through PSAs or deep discounting by the major daily newspapers and local community newspapers. Kerker’s recommendation was to establish a budget and then focus all of those available dollars on television. This strategy helped the YMCA achieve a number of objectives and goals. First, by having an actual budget, television spots could be bought more effectively. The target audience was specifically defined as Women 35–54, therefore the objectives could not be achieved by running PSAs on a ROS basis. We worked closely with the network-affiliated stations and had them submit proposals at “off-rate-card” rates. Even though these rates were lower, there was income for the stations. Second, because the stations were generating income, a number of high quality bonus spots were negotiated. The gross audience reach increased by 20% via these bonus spots. Taking the YMCA out of the PSA/public affairs office and into the regular sales department, they gained access to unsold inventory before it was turned over to the stations’ public affairs office. Third, by recommending television, the marketing efforts of all of the YMCA local branches were combined and they all benefited from the advertising. Fourth, it was also important to convince the YMCA to move out of the passive medium of newspaper and into the active and emotional medium of television. The YMCA needed to connect with potential new members on a psychographic level; the looking good, self-image level. The impact that was created in the market and the success of the media programme is proved in the results. Every year the YMCA sets membership goals, but they were never reached. This advertising campaign changed that. For the first time, every one of the YMCA’s seventeen local branches exceeded their membership goal. The goal of signing 2,872 new members for all locations combined was exceeded by 193%. At the end of the promotion there were a total of 5,576 new members. In addition, not only were these new membership goals achieved, but all of the local YMCA branches were supported through a single television campaign. The media strategy of using television instead of community newspapers combined the local branches’ marketing efforts into a powerful and cohesive voice.

While the YMCA primarily used newspapers in the past and had never ventured into television, the Kerker media team was able to sell the concept of exclusive usage of television to the client and the creative group. In addition, based upon the client’s small budget, the team focused the YMCA to a single medium. Most importantly, the Kerker media team developed a unique and innovative approach to buying television for a non-profit organisation. And it helped the stations understand this process. This process resulted in more airings than the client ever imagined. Therefore, the media team convinced the client and creative group that two commercials were needed. The creative that resulted was as powerful as the heavy television levels negotiated. The power of these combined created additional buzz and media coverage that gave the campaign additional exposure. Newscasters referred to the television spots, and one station actually did a feature story on how a spot was made. The “butter” spot was the talk of the town among other agencies. A new television-buying paradigm for non-profit, pro bono accounts was created. Instead of negotiating and relying on free airings at the discretion of the stations, Kerker worked with the YMCA to establish a budget for this campaign. Essentially, this took the client out of the traditional PSA category at the stations and allowed us to deal directly with the sales department. While the stations were not getting a considerable amount of dollars, they were at least getting paid. This process achieved two important media tactics. First, it gave the YMCA guaranteed placement. Second, the client was able to negotiate more bonus spots and get them to run during better time slots. The unique media buying process that was created was smart, strategic, and resulted in exceeding the client’s goals.

Execution

While the YMCA primarily used newspapers in the past and had never ventured into television, the Kerker media team was able to sell the concept of exclusive usage of television to the client and the creative group. In addition, based upon the client’s small budget, the team focused the YMCA to a single medium. Most importantly, the Kerker media team developed a unique and innovative approach to buying television for a non-profit organisation. And it helped the stations understand this process. This process resulted in more airings than the client ever imagined. Therefore, the media team convinced the client and creative group that two commercials were needed. The creative that resulted was as powerful as the heavy television levels negotiated. The power of these combined created additional buzz and media coverage that gave the campaign additional exposure. Newscasters referred to the television spots, and one station actually did a feature story on how a spot was made. The “butter” spot was the talk of the town among other agencies.

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