Learning Center Spot Blends Branding, DM

Huntington Learning Center, which offers supplemental learning and individualized tutoring programs for children, plans a national DRTV campaign that marries branding and direct marketing.

Leapfrog Advertising, the New York marketing firm behind the campaign, calls the 30-second spot a “hybrid” of branding and direct marketing. It is the first time the 25-year-old Huntington has used national media buys in a DRTV effort.

The spot aims not at positioning Huntington against competitors but at educating consumers about how Huntington can improve children's performance at school, said Tom Attea, managing partner with Leapfrog.

Traditional brand advertising comprises most of the spot, he said. No call to action appears until the end. The campaign uses a slogan that says simply, “We help children do better in school.” Instructions to call a toll-free number appear only in the last seven seconds.

“You want to characterize it as something people really want,” Attea said. “Then you make the offer.”

The spot is testing in several markets, including Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami and Philadelphia. Results from the past few weeks persuaded Huntington to go national with it, Attea said.

With only 30 seconds to tell Huntington's story, Leapfrog used metaphorical images to convey the message, he said. Children are shown encountering a closing door or a wall they can't climb to symbolize troubles at school.

Metaphors also show how getting instruction for a child at Huntington can help overcome those troubles. In one scene, the letter H in the corporate logo turns into a ladder allowing a child to climb over a wall.

Parents are shown seeking advice about how to help their children from friends and neighbors. Study groups have shown that consumers tend to trust these familiar sources more than expert testimony, Attea said.

Leapfrog prepared the marketing campaign for use by Huntington franchisees, which can use the material in their own campaigns. The Huntington parent corporation is sponsoring some of the advertising effort.

Huntington runs its own learning centers and also has 200 franchisees nationwide.

The campaign targets mothers with children ages 6 to 17, typically from households with dual incomes of more than $50,000 a year. Mothers still tend to be the primary decision makers regarding education, so the spot speaks mainly to them, Attea said.

Spots will run on Lifetime, CNN, the Food Network and Home and Garden Television during early morning and prime time. Also, Huntington is buying time on broadcast networks.

The short format helps franchisees, which pay for air time and other marketing expenses, stay within budget, Attea said. The short format also ensures that the spot runs often.

“We need frequency as much as we need to tell a story,” he said. “Thirty [seconds] gets us more frequency, and we think we can tell the story in 30.”

In addition to DRTV, the campaign involves a 60-second radio spot, newspaper ads and direct mail postcards. All use material, including images and sound, from the DRTV commercial.

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