Marketing Agency Takes On Big Project For Free

April 16, 2002
| By Katy Rent |
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GRAND RAPIDS — Every year Hanon McKendry donates 10 percent of its time to a nonprofit organization to help seed the program. This year’s project is a “Big” undertaking.

As in Big Brothers/Big Sisters.

About a year ago, the organization approached Hanon McKendry about putting together a campaign that would raise awareness of the program, which currently has 400 children on the waiting list for a big brother or big sister.

“What we want people to know is this isn’t a large commitment,” said Bill McKendry, co-founder and chief creative officer of Hanon McKendry. “In our research we asked people what they felt was the biggest barrier between them getting involved in the program, and the most popular answer was lack of time. We then went a step further and asked kids what they wanted from a big brother or big sister and they kept it very simple: just someone to watch, play and listen.”

The campaign consists of one radio spot, three outdoor billboards and several posters in athletic clubs, and is based on the three concepts of watch, play and listen. McKendry said volunteers should know that it doesn’t have to mean spending a day with a child, just an hour here and there to create that bond.

“Jim Dreyer has been bringing a lot of attention to this program lately with his swimming, but it hasn’t really been a good recruiting model. With this tool, we feel we can take advantage of the name Jim is bringing to the table and then recruit volunteers from there,” McKendry said, referring to Dreyer’s nationally chronicled quest to swim across the Great Lakes.

Also involved in the campaign are big names such as Malcolm-Jamal Warner, formerly Theo Huxtable from “The Cosby Show,” who provides the voice-over work for the radio ad. “Warner was perfect for the spot because he is a passionate advocate for children,” said John Ferin, copywriter for Hanon McKendry. “At the same time, he has a nationally recognized voice that is associated with family and values.”

Hanon McKendry also recruited sound expert Jean Yves Munch in the creation of the radio spot. Munch contributed his skills acquired from 16 years of experience in location sound recording, sound design and editing in both France and the United States.

Munch and the Hanon McKendry team created a piece that was cost-effective and strongly reinforced the message that being a Big Brother or Big Sister does not take more than a little time and attention.

For the billboards and posters, the firm approached nationally recognized photographer David Maisel to provide the images. Maisel has created advertising pieces for national companies including Mercedes Benz, Adidas and Reebok, and his personal work is displayed in galleries and art museums throughout the country.

Maisel donated the images he had captured of children dancing, telling a story and playing. McKendry said they chose Maisel’s photographs because they reinforced the message that these children are simply seeking attention.

“We are so excited about this new campaign to recruit ‘Bigs’ for children in the community,” said Paul Miller, program director for Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Greater Grand Rapids. “Each of the components of the campaign accurately conveys what being a Big Brother or Big Sister is truly about. I think people in the community would be really surprised to see what a little bit of attention does for a child.”

The Big Brothers/Big Sisters campaign is actually the work of Hanon McKendry’s “Good Things Gang,” which is a group of employees who take on a community project each year. The makeup of the gang changes annually.

“We use a different organization and a different group of people every year, and when we started this program we started with Mel Trotter Ministries,” said McKendry. “Four or five years ago some of the staff here had a chance to walk around Mel Trotter Ministries and see what they had done with the place and the people it helped. The effect on the staff was amazing because it was like we had helped build that place. It is easy sometimes to lose perspective when you are in the office all day. But when you get out and see what your work has done, that is when it makes it all worth while.”

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