Howie Mandel has questions for Staples

Who: Staples, with Jackman Reinvents for strategy and creative, production by Soft Citizen (directed by The Perlorian Brothers), with Saints Editorial, Pirate Toronto and Artjail for post production, media by DentsuX, and PR by Golin.

What: “Let’s find out,” a campaign that continues the brand’s transformation from Staples the office supply store, to Staples “The Working and Learning Company.”

When & Where: The campaign is in market now, using TV and digital/social.

Why: Jackman has been working with Staples since 2017 to reposition the company as a solutions and services provider, rather than just a big box office supply store. “They’ve been undergoing this change as a brand and it was time for the communications to catch up,” said Rachel Abrams, who joined Jackman Reinvents as group creative director earlier this year.

This is the first big campaign to communicate the new positioning connecting the brand to a “universal truth,” she said. “We all have that voice of curiosity inside our heads asking us, ‘What if we take a chance?’ and ‘What potential is out there for us?'” Staples wants to help its customers answer those questions, she said. “They’re the brand that says ‘Let’s find out.'”

How: The English campaign is anchored by an ad starring TV star Howie Mandel, although he isn’t being used as a typical celebrity spokesperson reciting sell lines. “This is a different sort of concept and a different use of a celebrity,” she said.

Mandel appears alongside three different characters as a doppelgänger of sorts, giving voice to some of the questions they have not only about life, but also about work and their business. “We’re basically personifying the voice of curiosity,” said Abrams. “He asks those questions that are the intersection of your curiosity and where Staples can help.”

An ad has to have some truth behind it to connect with consumers, and that’s the case here, said Abrams. “We do all have this voice inside our heads, and especially during a time like this, we question what we’ve been doing, does it matter, and maybe we should try something new.”

“I think it’s really brave work,” said Abrams. Staples is well-known for the “Easy” button and being an office supply warehouse, but it was never a brand with a lot of personality, she said. “I’m thrilled they see the vision to do something that’s so human and so entertaining at the same time,” she said. “This is a breath of fresh air and fresh personality. They’re fun, they’re human, they’re insightful, and all of those things are important when it comes to somebody that you want to do business with.”

Why Howie Mandel? Aside from being Canadian, funny and very famous, he has shown a “spirit of curiosity throughout his own career,” said Abrams. He’s best-known now for being a judge on America’s Got Talent, but Mandel started in stand-up before moving to scripted TV drama, and only later became a host on game shows. “He seemed to be a natural fit for Staples in that regard,” said Abrams. Staples has two more ads with Mandel in the works, and he’s being used in other media throughout the campaign.

En Francais: The company has a different brand name in Quebec, “Bureau en Gros,” and puts a lot of effort into developing distinct marketing for the province, said Abrams. That meant casting Quebec radio and TV personality Pierre-Yves (P.Y.) Lord, who is well-known for interviewing people and therefore associated with curiosity, said Abrams. “We knew that it was important to enlist somebody that would be meaningful to our friends in Quebec.”

And we quote: “Staples’ transformation to ‘The Working and Learning Company’ has been well received by customers—we’re getting real credit for unique solutions and expertise unmatched anywhere else. With this new campaign, we think we will break-through in a far more powerful way, dramatically increasing the number of people we can partner with in our efforts to help them grow. The work is bold, insightful, and fun.” — Dave Mazzone, VP of marketing, Staples Canada

David Brown