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Have a More Active Role/Argentina

By Dec 01, 1998

What kid playing at the beach hasn’t been tempted to put a note in a bottle and set it adrift in the ocean to satisfy an innate desire to connect with the world? This year’s Best Promotion in the World, executed by Buenos Aires-based Stopromotion for Ledesma, was, simply put, the ultimate message in a bottle.

The four young winners of the Have a More Active Role contest made thousands of connections around the globe. Their winning drawings of endangered species were turned into stamps by Argentina’s postal service and, by Stopromotion’s count, have landed in more than 170 countries. About five years ago, Ledesma, Argentina’s largest sugar company, developed a process to make paper out of sugar cane husks. It acquired two writing paper brands – Gloria and Exito – and poised to go to market with an ecological pos itioning.

But there was a problem. The sugar cane paper lacked resilience and tore if one tried to erase on it. Public perception said the paper was sub-standard. Ledesma scientists and manufacturing executives eventually perfected a viable product, but that meant little if consumer skepticism could not be counteracted. Enter Stopromotion.

The key market for Exito Ecologic and Gloria Ecologic writing tablets was school children. The marketing problem obviously called for a sampling solution – but how to get writing paper into the hands of kids at school?

Stopromotion found two ways. On five successive Sundays, spread ads ran in newspaper magazine sections reaching two million Argentineans a week. A sheet of Ecologic lined notebook paper was inserted in the middle of the spread. Copy told of the unique environmental benefits of the product and invited kids six to 18 to draw pictures of endangered species on the paper and enter them in a contest. Winners in four age groups, chosen by a judging team of internationally known philatelists, would have their drawings immortalized on an actual set of Argentine government stamps.

(Stopromotion ceo Ernesto Dorfman says that the government postal service – which has consumer perception problems of its own – quickly agreed to hitch on to a program with concern for ecology, endangered species, and education.)

The second sampling program was aimed at the primary influencers: teachers. Stopromotion distributed paper and contest forms to public and private schools and encouraged teachers to make entering the promotion a class project.

“On the first day of school in Argentina, most teachers give students a list of the materials they will need to buy, and most times they suggest the name of a [Ledesma] competitor’s notebook,” explains Dorfman. “We knew that if we could get them to try our paper, they would see it was as good as the competitor’s. And teachers like environment-friendly products.”

Ledesma received more than 90,000 drawings from school children. Sales of Exito and Gloria brands grew a combined 11 percent, gaining Ledesma a three-point share gain. And throughout Argentina – as well as around the globe – Ledesma’s lined paper could be detected behing the endearing animal drawings on the stamps. That’s exposure that cannot be bought.

The four winners and their families also got a trip to the south of Argentina for a whale-spotting expedition – a fitting conclusion to a whale of a promotion.