Hill, Holliday

They Know Jack
Nancy Savelle, Karen Agresti, Cindy McKnight, Meredith Moore and Alicia Dean

Car dealers face a lot of questions from prospective buyers. But one they invariably get along the way is, “Well, what exactly is LoJack?”

Therein lies one of the challenges for Hill, Holliday’s media directors as they try to grow awareness of a brand that has had limited media exposure. Not enough consumers know that it is a system used by the police to track and recover stolen vehicles. LoJack has done some radio advertising, but its promotion and sales depend largely on local auto dealers pushing the vehicle-recovery system when they sell a car.

With so many other car features to sell, and with consumers reticent to pay for anything more than the car itself, LoJack often takes a back seat in such negotiations. This challenged Hill, Holliday to get creative with its LoJack campaign last year. “We are at a loss if dealers don’t push the product,” says Cindy McKnight, vp and associate media director for Hill, Holliday in Boston. “There are other services a dealer can sell that will up his commission and cars that are already equipped with their own security devices, so we asked ourselves, ‘How could we get dealers excited about LoJack?'” The answer: sports.

With only $200,000 to spend, Hill, Holliday had to get LoJack on TV without a 30-second spot. After discussing the dilemma with media outlets in LoJack’s home market of Boston, the agency collaborated with regional sports channel New England Sports Network on an idea to pair the LoJack message with stolen bases in a baseball game. “It is the perfect message in a perfect environment in that the inherent benefit of the product is tied to this play in baseball,” says Karen Agresti, senior vp and director of local broadcast for Hill, Holliday.

Last season, during NESN coverage of Boston Red Sox games, whenever a member of the opposing team was caught stealing a base, LoJack’s “Caught Stealing” logo appeared on-screen. In addition, LoJack had sponsorship billboards throughout the game, as well as sponsored score updates. And an on-air contest offered one lucky fan the chance to win a free LoJack system.

The program was introduced to the auto dealers with LoJack-branded sports apparel, including baseball hats. Also as part of the deal, local auto dealers received free tickets to the Red Sox games and invitations to watch batting practice. “Most dealers are men, so what better way to get a dealer excited than to get involved with sports?” asks McKnight.

“Hill, Holliday has always put the challenge out there with this client,” says Brain Erdlen, sales manager for NESN. “As much as possible, we always try to come up with a baseball-themed idea, always keeping in mind what the client’s message is.”

“We are thrilled with the program. It is very innovative,” says Donna Driscoll, vp of global marketing for LoJack. “The police and the auto dealers are seeing the product, which has resulted in higher sales. We have had 11 consecutive quarters of growth, but in first quarter of this year, the rate of growth was higher than in previous quarters.”

Hill, Holliday experimented with a similar program last year in Phoenix, the No. 1 market for auto theft. This time the agency worked with the Phoenix Suns basketball franchise, creating the “LoJack Steals and Turnovers Update” during Suns’ games that updated fans on which team was protecting the ball well and which team had committed turnovers. The program also included an in-game contest that involved having a blindfolded fan try to locate a mini car on the court with a beeper sounding off as it got closer.

Hill, Holliday also created an on-air opportunity with the Phoenix Coyotes hockey team. An on-air crew selected a spectacular save made by either goalie, and the televised replays of the save were labeled the “LoJack Recovery Save of the Game.”

In Phoenix, LoJack sales increased more than 20 percent.

Despite the success with the basketball and hockey teams in Phoenix, the client considered the marriage of LoJack with baseball as the winningest effort. LoJack is again advertising with the Red Sox this season, and the “Caught Stealing” campaign has expanded to four more teams’ home games—the New York Yankees, Anaheim Angels, Arizona Diamondbacks and Florida Marlins.

Television also won the prize for being an effective advertising medium. “If LoJack doesn’t have awareness, what better way to address it than with television?” asks Agresti.

LoJack used TV in its media mix about five years ago, but due to budget limitations has relied mostly on radio and dealer word-of-mouth to promote the product. Thanks to the success of the “Caught Stealing” campaign, LoJack is looking to diversify its media mix to include more TV, outdoor and print. “The product has been around for a while, but there are a number of sales challenges,” says Driscoll. “As we add momentum, introducing new product and new sales channels, we think that a more integrated and layered approach to market is the way we will go in the future.”

The campaign also caused a few more advertisers to turn their heads toward NESN. “It was successful for us,” says Erdlen. “Other clients have expressed a desire to do something with us that is similar to the LoJack campaign. It’s a win-win for everyone.” Megan Larson is a senior editor covering cable TV for Mediaweek.