Uses Humor to Position Itself as Key Incentives Provider

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Show a shot of an executive dozing off on the filing cabinet drawer and add the headline, "Hard-working, creative and highly motivated." Then write "After 5:00pm" next to that line.

Take another shot of someone face down on his desk, doodling with two stress balls. Use this headline, "Smart, resourceful, deal-closer." Next to that line add, "At the bar tonight."

Finally, show a pair of multi-striped, sock-clad feet dangling from a sofa above this headline, "Eager. Decisive. Big spender." Elaborate with this line, "At the espresso bar."

So what's up with gift certificates seller and incentives services provider's new print advertising campaign?

"This particular campaign is designed to communicate that, in order to change employee or customer behavior, you really need to think about a comprehensive incentives solutions," said Tim Barefield, CEO of, Seattle.

"It's not that they're not productive at all," he said of the people in the ads. "They're not just productive at work."

The campaign -- which runs through December and was produced in-house with creative from Seattle agency Hydrogen -- has a clear mission: position as a firm that can help marketers tailor an incentive program encompassing strategy, administration, promotion, implementation and communication. The tagline underscores the point: "Incentive solutions."

Print ads broke in May in trade publications like Workforce Management for HR, Sales & Marketing Management, HR Executive and DM News. E-mails are being sent to current customers, ahead of direct mail and more print ads this summer.

All ads point to a toll-free number and

The target for this effort includes Fortune 500 executives in the human resources, marketing and sales departments making decisions on corporate and consumer incentives programs.

"We want to put them in touch with a consultant and help them create an incentive solution," said Jill Ambrose, vice president of marketing at

The campaign kicked off soon after the company formally launched Communication Services. This suite of marketing services is intended to help clients drive awareness, encourage education and increase participation in programs for employee recognition, sales incentives, customer acquisition and appreciation gifts.

Part of its promise includes help on integration with existing programs and creation of fully scalable programs with end-to-end marketing services or single components.

The suite also covers the identification and creation of pertinent messaging for targeted audiences as well as the creation of vehicles like fliers, posters, HTML Web pages, training materials and redemption Web pages.

Communication Services is part of's six-pronged offering for an incentive program. Other elements are program strategy, technology tools, program administration, universal rewards and fulfillment.

Online travel firm Expedia Inc. is a user of Communication Services. is betting that its new ad campaign will draw customers to the tools it offers. Its use of humor also signals a willingness to go the extra mile to stand above the competition's typical use of over-enthusiastic ad imagery to signify happiness with rewards.

"I think it's the lack of creativity that doesn't make the case," Barefield said of other incentives-related ads. "If you get three or four companies coming to you and their campaigns all look the same, you might have interest when the first one arrives and then it'll dissipate when you see the second, third or fourth."

Mickey Alam Khan covers Internet marketing campaigns and e-commerce, agency news as well as circulation for DM News and To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting

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