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At Smith Brothers, our mission is to “Create inspiring ideas for courageous clients.” As students of the advertising business, and marketing in the CPG space in particular, we’re constantly on the lookout for work that not only impresses strategically and shines in execution, but that demonstrates some serious chutzpah on the part of the client who embraced it. We all know that too many clients err on the side of safe, hunkering down in the foxhole, afraid to lift their heads above the horizon line lest they have them blown off by senior management. Courage these days doesn’t come easy.

In this blog series, we will hold up those recent CPG marketers who should be recognized not only for their smarts, but for their bravery. Whether it’s eschewing the norms of a category, diving into uncharted waters in the digital space, committing big budgets to brand new platforms or just doing jaw-dropping creative, we will identify those brands that we think took a little more risk and stood a little taller than the field – those we think deserve a salute.

And, just because we’re an opinionated group, we will also offer a counterpoint to our prevailing opinion (there’s always at least one troublemaker in the group, isn’t there?).  As with most things, it’s more interesting to entertain multiple points of view. Besides, we love a healthy debate as much as the next guys.

So, congrats to the first Courageous Marketer Pick Ragu Pasta Sauce!  You’ve inspired us with your courage.

Ragu Pasta Sauce LogoSmart AND Saucy

You’d have to be living under a rock not to have heard the buzz about the new work from Ragu. It not only taps into humorous childhood moments to delight and entertain, but offers a truly refreshing insight: kids have tough days, too. Their tagline “A Long Day of Childhood Calls for America’s Favorite Pasta Sauce” suggests Ragu as the antidote to those kid-size blues.

In one video, a young boy walks in on his parents in flagrante delicto then slowly backs out of the room obviously traumatized.

A second features a youngster enduring a spit washing by Mom. And in a third, a young girl is rightly suspicious when her pet hamster magically changes color overnight.  Better grab a jar – or three! This work earned our pick for Courageous Marketer for a whole host of reasons, including:

1.       The Bold Creative Is A Category Buster

Not only is this work smart, humorous and unexpected, one could argue it has shaken up a center store category whose advertising has been putting consumers to sleep for well over a decade. Talking to moms (and dads) in a real way with an attitude that hasn’t been shined up for the consumer (no “bite ‘n smile” here!) makes viewers really root for the brand. While it might be slightly premature to call, as Geico did for insurance and Old Spice did for men’s hygiene, this novel work has the potential to set a new standard in jarred sauce marketing. And aren’t we all ready for that?!

2.       The Touchpoint Strategy Is Aggressive

Beyond paid television, this creative is breaking viral records in the digital space with reports of over a million and a half views on YouTube within a fortnight of being posted. Best of all, the simplicity of their creative theme allows the brand to be inventive and fun, reaching out and soliciting, collecting and curating tough moments of childhood from their solid Facebook fan base. Diligent management of their social presence, both visually and through their written posts, means surprisingly fresh messaging from a brand that had been, by objective measure, hidden in plain sight.

3.       Buzz Is The Word

This campaign is making people sit up and take notice – and not just in the ad industry trades.  People throughout our agency each have a story about having heard non-ad community folks (moms in particular) talking about it.   The work has been picked up by major news outlets and talked about constantly online, on the streets and in the grocery aisles – proving that when you do something courageous, tongues inevitably start wagging.

4.       The Brand Isn’t Afraid To Throw Its Weight Around

You might think that with work as provocative as Ragu’s, the brand might consider their recent work as a digital only play. Or perhaps a regional test to get a sense of consumers’ reactions. But this work launched with an aggressive broadcast TV spend and isn’t showing any signs of slowing up.  We respect Ragu’s courage in going “all in” with this campaign and really putting their money (and media weight) behind it.

COUNTERPOINT:

L'Oreal LogoReal Courage Is About Getting Creative With Your Touchpoints

(Presented by David Heidenreich, VP of Engagement)

Listen, I love a great creative idea as much as the next guy. The Ragu “A Long Day of Childhood calls for America’s Favorite Pasta Sauce” campaign is laugh-out-loud good. In a word . . . delightful. It’s clear the brand has invested in the concept wholeheartedly, blasting it on TV and in digital media. And they are doing good things on Facebook, carrying the theme down into visual posts and links to the YouTube series of ads.

However, in order to claim the courageous turf these days, marketers must move beyond a clever idea and raw impressions into the realm of engagement, activation, and advocacy. It takes a bold move into the uncharted territory of a new medium where you know your audience is . . . well . . . playing . . . but challenging them to do more than just watch your stuff. So, while I love the creativity of the Ragu program and recognize the solid job they are doing with their integrated use of media, I respectfully dissent from the agency’s official position in order to nominate L’Oreal for their gallant move onto the XBOX platform this fall.

L’Oreal has teamed with Conde Nast’s Lucky Magazine to deliver an immersive content experience. The app they built also encourages interaction and WOM sharing in addition to consumption of cool branded messaging. This is a hybrid of content marketing, gaming, and social media all taking place on a platform that is relatively unproven as a marketing channel to women specifically.

Three reasons why I thought L’Oreal deserved our first Courageous Marketer Pick:

 1.       Gutsy First Mover

XBOX Logo

XBOX is a fantastic platform, situated squarely in over 25 million family rooms across the good ole USA. It’s got reach and frequency numbers that make it attractive to a lot of marketers, but L’Oreal’s “The Next Level” is the first and only “female-centric” app to launch on the XBOX. To be a first mover like L’Oreal takes much more courage than plowing extra dollars into a TV spend behind a nice creative concept (sorry Ragu).

 2.       Getting Lucky with Content

Lucky Magazine

By tapping Lucky Magazine – L’Oreal is handing over the proverbial keys to a media partner. But how smart is that? Lucky churns out content . . . much desired by the target audience . . . flowing into the app on a daily basis. This keeps it fresh. So, while L’Oreal cedes some of the credit to Lucky, they get to demonstrate a larger value to their audience, proving they “get” the women who interact with the app. This builds the brand’s credibility even more than a standard 30-second spot because L’Oreal is intertwined in the beauty, style, entertainment life of their consumers. Nice content marketing move, L’Oreal.

 3.       Activity Built In

The program has a points system built directly into the app, so consumers can earn offers & rewards by getting more involved. In turn, they can ask questions and are encouraged to invite friends – so the app is social by nature. This sort of engagement and advocacy gets the beloved earned media impressions flowing. Sure, the Ragu commercials might get passed around organically, but the call-to-action is not built into the campaign. Win – L’Oreal.

I’m not going to take anything away from Ragu.  Their spots kick ass and they did a solid job in the social sphere. I’m just in favor of a more innovative media ecosystem that directly involves the consumer. I think the gutsy move by L’Oreal to carve fresh tracks on the XBOX is the definition of a courageous client. Kudos.

As we continue to look for work that inspires us and demonstrates remarkable bravery on the part of marketing teams, we invite you to submit your own “courageous” submissions.  We look forward to your thoughts and identifying and talking about more courageous marketers in the future.
Lindsey Smith
Lindsey Smith
Partner and Co-Creative Director

Lindsey is an award-winning creative director and copywriter with a particular passion for consumer packaged goods marketing.


Lindsey took a circuitous route to the creative department, starting his career as an assistant media planner, then account executive, working on several P&G CPG accounts, including Folgers, Duncan Hines and Hires Root Beer. While he learned valuable lessons about strategy, writing the perfect brief and speaking the client’s language, business suits didn't suit him very well. His heart was in the creative department and his feet were out the door- taking his first copywriting job (and a 50% pay cut) at Campbell, Mithun, Esty working on Froz-Fruit Bars, The United Way and The Travelers Insurance.


Yearning for more opportunity to work on consumer brands and, honestly, for a little more change in his pocket, Lindsey took his next job at Avrett Free & Ginsberg. In his ten years there, he honed his craft, working for dozens of clients and taking the creative lead on over 100 pitches. Not only were his campaigns bold and spot on strategically, they garnered outstanding results for clients as diverse as Meow Mix Cat Food, Johnnie Walker Black Label, Crayola, Bacardi Rum, Outward Bound, Dewar's Scotch and the Financial Times of London.


Lindsey founded Smith Brothers Agency with (surprise!) his brothers, Miles and Bronson, in April of 2002. His mission? Do great work and have a great time doing it.


Lindsey holds a B.A. in English and French Literature from Georgetown University.