N.H. Shop Goes Psycho

Filias’ Multimedia Campaign for New Client Eastern Propane Gas Includes Movie Parody
BOSTON–Filias Advertising parodies Psycho, presents a dimwitted husband and introduces a cartoon character in its first work for Eastern Propane Gas.
The Portsmouth, N.H.-based shop picked up creative and media duties from the client this summer following a review that included The Brodeur Group in Boscawen, N.H., and Barradas Yeaton & Wold in Portsmouth, N.H., according to Denis Gagne, vice president of sales and marketing at Eastern Propane.
The account had been handled in-house, but the Rochester, N.H., company had done only occasional radio and cable TV ads in the recent past, Gagne said.
The current campaign broke last week and will run for several months using the tagline, “No one delivers like we do.” Initial annual spending is less than $1 million and includes buys in New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Maine markets in which the client does business, said agency president and creative director Greg Filias.
The work, which comes at a time when the energy and home heating segments are growing increasingly competitive due to industry deregulation, marks the company’s “first major foray” into advertising, Filias said.
A 30-second black-and-white spot called “Shower” mimics the famous Janet Leigh murder scene in Psycho. A woman, who apparently did not use an Eastern Propane heating system, screams in horror as icy water sprays from the showerhead.
As soon as the creative team began discussing ways to promote the company’s water heating systems, the scene from Psycho immediately came to mind, Filias said.
The parody seemed especially timely in light of Universal Studios’ upcoming remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 suspense classic, which is set to be released in December, said Filias.
A second spot, titled “Couch,” shows a middle-aged husband sleeping on the living room sofa. He’s been banished from the bedroom for various marital faux pas, but he’s warm and cozy because his home is heated by Eastern Propane.
The effort also introduces Eastern Man, a cartoon character that adorns TV, print and direct mail executions.
Filias co-wrote the television ads with art director Joe Higgins. Harry McCoy directed the spots. Filias and Lance Helms share copywriting credits on print, direct mail and collateral executions, with Todd Fipz handling art direction.
The agency’s strategy, according to Filias, was to use a light touch to remind consumers that propane is a viable alternative to natural gas and other heating alternatives.
The timing of the campaign was another important consideration. A Canadian pipeline set to begin operation in the next few months will make natural gas more readily available throughout New England, Filias said.
In addition, established oil companies are starting to offer propane in an effort to open new profit streams, Gagne said. Given the atmosphere of heightened competition, Eastern Propane felt compelled to shore up its base of 70,000 customers through paid media, Gagne said.
A second campaign for the spring is already in the works and more ads may follow late next year.