Empire Lands U-Save's Account

U-Save Auto Rental of America has awarded its advertising account to the Empire Communications Group.

The Jacksonville, Fla., agency won the national car rental franchiser’s estimated $3 million business on the basis of a preemptive presentation made to client CEO Tom McDonnell and his executive team at U-Save’s Jackson, Miss., headquarters.

“We did our research on the auto rental markets, even had a booklet printed up” said Empire president Pete Helow. “They realized I understood how they could niche the voids. So they called off the review.”

Empire had been doing project work for U-Save for a year before being awarded the business.

The agency’s initial charge is to work with U-Save franchisees—the client operates some 400 locations across the country—developing market-specific campaigns. In areas where franchisees can pool re-sources, advertising is likely to include television, outdoor and radio components. In smaller markets, Empire will rely on direct marketing to deliver its messages.

The upcoming advertising campaign’s “creative concepts,” including an umbrella tagline, are still in development, according to Helow. “However, our focus groups pointed loud and clear that ‘personal service’ is something renters are looking for,” he said. “That along with ‘convenient and competitive.’ “

U-Save was founded in 1979 by McDonnell and Joseph Tatum Jr. Unlike Avis and Hertz, for example, U-Save does not focus on business travelers or tourists. Its target market includes individuals who need a rental car to replace their own vehicles while repairs or accident-related collision work is being done; urbanites who rent vehicles; and for hauling, vacations and family excursions. Franchisees are typically lo-cated in residential areas rather than at airports. U-Save’s rivals include Enterprise Leasing and local independents.

Empire’s branding campaign will also support McDonnell’s ex-pressed desire to expand the company’s locations at an annual rate of 15-20 franchisees for the next few years. The growth is intended to substantiate an eventual public offering.

“We are continuing to bring growing value to our franchisees,” said Carrie Kelly, client director of marketing and communications. “Our objective is to take our company public. With Empire’s expertise in brand development, we’re confident we’ll get there sooner rather than later.”