III Inc. conjures up the 60s in client recruitment campaign

It’s certainly not as notorious as the infamous National Lampoon cover from 1973 threatening to kill a dog if people didn’t buy a copy of the magazine, but independent agency III Inc. is threatening to dump its creative head Joe Nanni if a new B2B campaign doesn’t land some more clients.

“If this ad doesn’t work, our writer is available for freelance,” reads the headline above a photo of a bespectacled 60s-era copywriter.

The long(ish) copy ad goes on to clarify that the agency isn’t really going to dump “Joe,” who joined as partner and ECD last year (and who also wrote the ad), but goes on to say that he’s capable of great things if given the opportunity.

It’s one of three retro-inspired ads from III Inc. as the one-year-old agency looks to grow and diversify its client roster. “We’re trying to branch out a bit, because we’ve got tons of experience in food service [with work on behalf of brands including Pickle Barrel and Durty Dawgs], we’ve got a lot of experience in bio-security, but whatever you’re good at you keep perpetuating,” explained Nanni. “We need to introduce ourselves to new people.”

Other ads in the campaign direct prospective clients to a toll-free phone number (with Nanni providing the outbound message), while another includes a legitimate coupon for a free ad that Nanni said has already been redeemed by a client. “And not a small one, either,” he added. (See all three ads below.)

The veteran creative said that the campaign’s look and feel is specifically intended to conjure up ’60s advertising, which was built on the fundamentals of creative, service and strategy.

“I just wanted the campaign to harken back to where the industry came from, and I think visually the ads remind you of the [legendary DDB creative Bill] Bernbach ads,” he said. “We’re focused on the fundamentals, which is what got us to where we are today.”

And though he wasn’t around then, Nanni knows a thing or two about the ad industry at the time. The person in the desk ad is actually his father Ed, also a respected creative with shops including Leo Burnett, Ogilvy, MacLaren McCann, and Young & Rubicam before retiring in the mid-2000s.

According to Joe, the photo was taken when Ed was interning at an agency in Montreal. He was one of two interns at the time, although the agency’s creative director had informed them that only one would be hired on a full-time basis. “He said ‘That’s why I have a nervous look on my face,'” said Joe.

Joe framed the photo, which has been on the wall of every office he’s had over the course of a 28-year career.

While III Inc. is running ads on social networks like LinkedIn, it also plans to run wild postings and newspaper ads in communities where potential clients might be relaxing during August, such as Muskoka, Grey-Bruce, and Prince Edward County. “We want to go where people are getting a newspaper and sitting on a dock,” said Nanni.

It’s a fun and welcome bit of advertising during the dog days of summer.


Chris Powell