by Max Marbut
“Most agencies have to struggle for 30 years to even be able to pitch a client like this,” said Spark Inc. President Rich Davis of the track record his advertising and creative services agency is developing with companies like Papa John’s Pizza and international entrepreneurs and financiers like Carl Icahn.
Spark has identified a new market in the form of internal marketing initiatives that motivate a company’s employees to do things like lose weight, stop smoking and exercise to improve their health. The data supporting how those concepts can improve a company’s bottom line by reducing health care costs and lost productivity has lately become part of the American business landscape.
How to go about achieving those results is becoming something of a specialty for Spark, and Davis believes it will be a source of continuing growth for his agency.
He said the amount of research and time that goes into creating a marketing campaign that will be seen exclusively by 15,000 employees as in the case of the Icahn project is no different from developing any other project.
“Internal marketing programs are a growing trend because companies are hoping to mold their corporate culture or improve morale,” said Davis. “Company boards always want employees to buy-in, but they usually try to attain that through traditional meetings or by e-mailing a PowerPoint presentation. People don’t respond (to that). Today it requires the same level of sophistication used to get the attention of external customers or clients.”
Davis said while it may sound like developing a campaign that only a small group will ever see might be a different job than developing one for network television or a national publication, it’s actually the same process.
“Good advertising is all about trying to win over people’s hearts and minds to persuade them to take a desired action,” he said. “Whether that audience is internal or external, you have to go into it with the same gusto. You need to ask what can we do that really stands out and gets results.”
Davis also said an in-house campaign can have its advantages in terms of impact.
“These campaigns get 100 percent exposure because it’s in-house and targeted directly to everyone who works for the company. When you do a mass-market campaign, you’ll achieve on average about 1.5 percent, so that would be 15,000 impressions if you’re talking about a one-million-person market,” he said.
The campaigns also have to appeal to a wide demographic base as in the case of a wellness campaign Spark is currently developing for 15,000 Papa John’s Pizza employees. They come from all walks of life and work at 3,000 locations and at the company’s headquarters in Louisville, Ky.
“We’ve got to impact everyone from high school students who work part time making and delivering the pizzas all the way to the MBAs in the corporate office,” said Davis.
The projects created by Spark have been a hit, said Davis. He’s currently negotiating with Icahn Associates Corp. to develop an even more comprehensive in-house campaign that could be targeted to as many as 100,000 employees worldwide.
The most memorable moment in terms of developing the new market came the day an envelope from Papa John’s arrived in the mail. Davis said when he first glanced at it, he thought it was probably full of pizza coupons, but he looked at it again and realized it was the wrong size to be direct-mail advertising.
“Don’t get me wrong – I like pizza as much as anyone does and I like getting coupons,” he said. “But when I opened it, I found the agreement for us to do their campaign.”