Young & Laramore launches all-digital campaign for Scotts

In what’s equivalent to adding grubs to the once-lush lawn of traditional media, Indianapolis advertising agency Young & Laramore is launching an all-digital ad campaign for client Scotts LawnService.

The majority of Scotts' ads for this year’s lawn care season will be in the form of website banner ads, social promotions on Facebook and those short commercials that run ahead of videos on online sites like YouTube. They will focus on consumers talking about their neighbors' yards, applying a subtle form of peer pressure to check out Scotts' professional lawn care services.

“Usually, digital tended to be more of a support medium. This is different because it is the core of this campaign,” said Tom Denari, president of Young & Laramore.

In fact, only a few years ago, digital campaigns were the first to be cut from the media plan, said Paul Knapp, CEO of Y&L.

Denari declined to specify how much is being spent on the campaign, but Scotts is one of its top-three clients. Y&L landed the national ad account for Scotts in early 2011, handling radio, print, direct-mail and digital marketing for the firm.

Young & Laramore had annualized billings of $45 million in 2011, according to IBJ research.

Scotts LawnService, known for its trucks that arrive at customers' homes, isn’t slashing traditional media entirely this season. It will still use direct mail. And the Marysville, Ohio-based firm makes heavy use of television for its consumer-applied lawn products, such as fertilizer and grass seed. That advertising is separate from the Y&L account.

Scotts LawnService’s emphasis on digital marketing follows an overall industry trend. Shoe maker Nike slashed its television and print spending by about 40 percent from 2009 to 2011. In 2010, it spent almost $800 million on non-traditional media.

A survey of marketers by Duke University Fuqua School of Business found that business-to-consumer marketers plan to boost digital marketing by 14 percent in the year period ending next February.

At the same time, those marketers planned to trim traditional ad spend by nearly 1 percent.

“Traditional marketing ad spending has been on a decline over the last two years,” said Kim Saxton, a clinical professor of marketing at the Indiana University Kelley School of Business.

One issue with traditional media, particularly television, is that it has become fragmented, with an seemingly endless number of channels. Except for events such as the Super Bowl, “it’s harder to find a lot of eyes at once,” Saxton said.

Digital marketing is no nirvana, however, and it can be just as challenging to find the appropriate channels. “Everybody is trying to figure out how to provide relevant and engaging content where people are looking for information,” Saxton added.

For example, she said, the effectiveness of banner ads that appear on websites has come into question as they become ubiquitous. Denari acknowledges that they often get a “bad rap,” but said there is more agencies and marketers can do to develop “creatively compelling content.”

Y&L is looking to target particular websites in certain geographic markets for the digital content, he said.

“Breaking through on one of these underrated platforms holds great potential for using creativity to reach a targeted audience,” Denari said.

One way marketers are trying to make Web ads relevant is by the use of "remarketing"–harvesting the Internet addresses of those who visit their websites and then pushing out ads later to those visitors as they surf online.

Saxton cited a study that showed shoppers used online information in 65 percent of their buying decisions. That could pay off for Scotts—already a household name that doesn’t need to use its ad budget to introduce its brand.

In crafting the current digital campaign, Y&L found that consumers tend to view their own lawns through their neighbors’ eyes.

Denari said most people realize they’ll never have the best lawn in the neighborhood, but rather are motivated to improve theirs if only not to be seen as having the worst lawn on the block.

Young & Laramore is the city’s fourth largest full-service ad agency. Its other big clients include Schlage, Farm Bureau Insurance and Brizo.

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