The phones are ringing more than usual at Plunkett’s Pest Control in Fridley, Minn., but you might be surprised why. Clients are calling with hopes of being put on hold so they can catch the ending of their favorite radio ads.
It all began four years ago, when Plunkett’s President Stacy O’Reilly brought on Client Experience and Marketing Manager MaryLou Wick. “Four years ago when I came we were a 95-year-old company who hadn’t done marketing in literally 95 years,” said Wick. And one of her first marketing plans was radio ads.
Wick heard an assortment of clever ads on local radio stations in the Plunkett’s service area, all done by one-woman advertising shop Lynda Crotty of Lynda Crotty Advertising, Creative and Production. After meeting, Crotty came up with a series of seven radio advertisements, in which O’Reilly goes toe to toe with an assortment of creepy crawlies and vermin. “Lynda wrote the script, chose the actors and ran the recording session,” said O’Reilly. “She’s the mastermind of this thing.”
The conversational ads include O’Reilly playing herself in conflicts with a wasp, a spider, carpenter ants, a mouse and a horde of insects seeking shelter for the winter. “They all end with Stacy getting the upper hand of course,” said Plunkett’s Technical Director Jay Bruesch. Bruesch said what really sells the ads is O’Reilly’s natural humor.
The most popular ad, however, was one that almost didn’t make it to production. “The one I was sure we weren’t going to do was the one we did first and was nominated for an award,” said O’Reilly. “The first time I heard it I cringed, I should have told the kids no, but they were right.”
The ad titled “Freaky” is set to a ’70s romance track with a Barry White-inspired voiceover commenting on the reproductive habits of mice. “Stacy comes from a long line of conservative business people,” said Wick. And because of her conservative business background O’Reilly initially gave the provocative propaganda the red light.
“Lynda and I talked her into it because we just knew,” said Wick. “And that has by and far been the best ad we ever did.” The scintillating radio piece was recognized with the likes of advertising giants like Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and Budweiser at the Academy Awards of advertising, the Radio Mercury Awards.
Customers were even more impressed than the critics when it came to the Plunkett’s radio spots. “I can give several examples of people who called in to us and asked how to hear our commercials more,” said Wick. Plunkett’s posted the audio clips on its website, but when the company installed a new phone system last year and Wick heard they would need to choose a hold message she had another idea.
“If they’re on hold we may as well market to them,” said Wick. And today all the ads are played on a loop as hold tones.
“The feedback I’ve been getting is that people wish that I would have been slower to pick up the phone,” said Bruesch. Other departments have gotten the same response. Wick said just recently an associate in billing picked up the phone and the customer on the other end requested to be put back on hold so she could hear how the ad ended.
“We try incredibly hard to not have people wait at all, but if they do they need a payoff, a laugh. Give them something to reward them for their attention,” said O’Reilly. “If I were on hold I wouldn’t want to be tortured with some sales pitch, I’d want to be entertained.”
The ads have proven to be more than entertaining — they are also effective.
“We track where people heard about Plunkett’s on every inbound call,” said O’Reilly. They also call radio stations and gauge the interest in the ads.
Although the ads are expensive to produce, Wick said they are well worth the company’s while. They plan to use the current ads for three to four seasons and hope to produce more for the company’s 100th anniversary in 2015. — Laura Straub, PCT contributor
Editor’s note: To hear Plunkett’s ads, visit www.pctonline.com and click “online extras.“