Ogilvy Takes Up Fight Against ‘Pen Theft’ For Paper Mate

Though the pen has slipped during the digital-communication era, there’s still a place where it remains mighty: in schools. With that in mind, Ogilvy & Mather in Chicago is targeting preteens and teenagers in its first campaign for Paper Mate, a print and radio effort that stresses the value of a favorite writing implement.

“A pen is a central thing to [a student’s] collection of stuff,” said John Gass, group account director at the WPP Group agency. “When you’re in the classroom, teachers don’t let you pound out things on your BlackBerry.”

Paper Mate said it is spending about $5 million on the campaign, which breaks July 5 and will run in major markets including Chicago, New York, Minneapolis and Boston. It plays up the protective feelings people often have toward pens and pencils—a category whose sales, not including those from Wal-Mart, slipped about 9 percent to $370 million over the year ended April 17, according to ACNielsen.

In one radio spot, a principal tells students that the back-to-school season is “pen- theft season.” After describing Paper Mate’s new Tandem, a combination ballpoint/ highlighter pen, and its ability to construct a “neatly written essay” and accentuate phrases in a love letter, the principal says: “Guard your pen. Your homework and your love lives are counting on it.”

A voiceover introduces the tagline, “Protect yours,” and encourages consumers to visit www.stoppentheft.com. The “Protect yours” concept was born out of focus groups in which teens said they feel less confident about taking tests without their favorite pens, Gass said.

Similar spots touting Paper Mate’s new Advancer mechanical pencil aim to thwart pencil theft (“pen theft’s ugly sidekick”).

Print ads show teens going to great lengths to protect their pens and pencils. One features a teen with an Advancer attached to her earring via a chain. “Pencil theft is on the rise: Take action,” reads the headline. The work breaks in August issues of Teen People and Teen Vogue, among others.

Paper Mate’s last major effort was a 2003 campaign from Interpublic Group’s McCann Erickson in New York tagged, “Where’s yours?” A TV spot depicted a business traveler using a pen on a plane and falling in love with it at home. It ended with a flight attendant knocking on the traveler’s door to reclaim her pen.

The client scrapped TV this year because of radio’s ability to reach teenagers, said a rep for the Bellwood, Ill., company, owned by Newell Rubbermaid. Paper Mate, whose competitors include Bic and Pilot, will also work with retailers to sponsor live radio remotes and concerts where kids can try the new products.

Targeting this audience offers a chance to lock in customers before they develop preferences for specific styles, said Barry Calpino, Paper Mate vp and general manager. “No matter how the world has changed in terms of technology, consumers—particularly teens—love the category,” he said. “If we can seed an innovative product with them, we think that’s good for the brand long-term.”

Paper Mate plans to introduce 20 products during the next year, said Calpino. “This whole category has been undermarketed,” he added.

Ad spending in the category totaled about $15 million in 2003, down by about a third from 2002, according to TNS Media Intelligence/ CMR.

Ogilvy won the account in March.