Evolution of an Ad Campaign

A successful advertising campaign must be unique, get noticed, and tell a product’s or a company’s story in a compelling and engaging way using only a few words and images. And of course it has to encourage people to buy, or at least try, the product or service.

AgencySacks, a New York advertising agency, was recently charged with providing a campaign for Lockes Diamantaires, a boutique jewelry store that opened in October 2004.

Over a three-month period, beginning in December, the agency worked with the jeweler to create and fine-tune an ad campaign, then decide which media to use to target the appropriate audience. It was rushed to make the Valentine’s Day shopping season, but changes, holdups, and compromises made that impossible. The final product, however, was something that both parties felt was unique and representative of the jeweler.

The Lockes Story. Lockes Diamantaires is a well-financed branded jewelry retailer located in the Time Warner Center’s Shops at Columbus Circle in midtown Manhattan. The jeweler is owned by Dynamic Diamond Corp., a DTC sightholder in New York City, and was conceived as a Supplier of Choice initiative.

Hillary L. Beckman, chief operations officer for the jeweler, refers to the tiny 650 sq. ft. space as a boutique, but it has more of a salon setting. Created by the Rockwell Group, the space resembles a tiny, luxurious jewel box. Diamond dust is embedded in the walls, quilted fabric drapes the ceiling, skylights are gilded in 24k gold and silver leaf, and neutral carpeting and walls serve as contrast to the gold and silver details. As small as the space is, it is bisected with a sectioned wall, which doubles as a display case. The wall can remain open to reveal the full space or be closed to provide a private retreat.

The intimate, casual, and chic setting is designed to attract a broad group of jewelry buyers including those who buy jewelry at the finest boutiques and those who aspire to.

Beckman says the store’s objective is to provide credibility and value. Lockes sells only loose diamonds and diamond jewelry and specializes in custom pieces. It can offer good value because it owns its inventory and has its own skilled cutters and craftsmen. “This store has every single thing that a customer needs and wants when buying diamond jewelry,” Beckman says.

The space is the only retail establishment on the fourth floor of the seven-level mall complex. The floor’s other tenants are some of New York’s exclusive restaurants. The location has advantages and disadvantages: It limits foot traffic, but those who pass are usually well-heeled, often on their way to a restaurant or performance at the new Jazz at Lincoln Center space, housed in the Time Warner Center. To accommodate this traffic, the store stays open till 11 p.m. on most nights.

Step 1

The Creative Brief. Andrew M. Sacks, president of AgencySacks, explained in early January that it was important that the ad campaign convey credibility and legitimacy while “combining it with the idea of a good value.”

AgencySacks, with input from Lockes, developed a document called a “creative brief.” “It provides the guidelines that the creative team should follow when developing an ad campaign,” Sacks explained.

Among the items in the brief are the demographics of the Lockes customer: New York metro-area female residents 26 to 65 years old earning more than $75,000 per year (but the advertising should also appeal to men).

The campaign’s goal is to portray Lockes as an alternative to both 47th Street shopping and high-end jewelers. Sacks identified those as the two worlds of diamond buying, noting that Lockes combines the quality and pricing of both. As such, the campaign should highlight the store’s lack of a middleman, which results in lower prices than high-end retailers offer. However, as Sacks explains, this type of pitch poses a problem. “It’s ‘direct from manufacturer,’ but we can’t say that because it is a negative association.”

The campaign should also communicate the store’s other offerings, including custom jewelry and diamonds, a trustworthy and reliable shopping experience, and a detailed education system that helps consumers make the best aesthetic and economic decisions.

“Lockes should look smart, informative, trustworthy, professional, and quality-minded,” the document states. Sacks says combining this in an ad is the “Holy Grail.”

Step 2

Creating the Ads. The creative brief, developed in December, changed by January. Sacks said the three creative teams decided that education is not important to the campaign. “I think it’s because it is more important once you get into the store,” Sacks said. “Selling education is something everyone does.”

AgencySacks also determined that the ads should be distinct from the product-focused ads and discussed removing “Diamantaires” from the Lockes name because few consumers know the term.

Two days before their presentation, three unfinished campaigns lay on Sacks’s office table. “I think we’re on the right track but we’re not there yet,” Sacks said at the time. “By Thursday it may all change. … We can’t show them something if we’re not happy with it.”

The teams used Lockes’s branded colors of brown and green and incorporated its branded diamond-shape E. They also used a lot of text, bucking advertising norms. “We have a story to tell,” Sacks says. “People ask, ‘Who reads nowadays?’ But we believe that 10 percent of the people reading the ad will understand the business when they’re done reading it. And the 90 percent will leave the ad knowing we have something to say.”

Step 3

The Presentation. By the time AgencySacks was ready to present the ads to five members of the Lockes jewelry team, the ideas from two days earlier drastically changed. AgencySacks showed Lockes five ads. Sacks prefers to present three ads so clients aren’t overwhelmed. Offering too many choices poses another problem: “If you show it, they will use it,” Sacks says. “You really don’t want to be in a position to compete against your own work.”

Sacks’s presentation described the agency’s process, showed how the ads would look in newspapers and magazines—and subtly promoted the agency’s favorite. “Though we sort of deny this,” Sacks says of the last point.

The Lockes team dismissed the first two campaigns. AgencySacks liked Imagine, which used three black-and-white photographs: one of a man with flowers behind his back, one of children playing by a stream, and one of a sophisticated urban woman fronting an urban expanse. The tag line was, “Diamond Buying Reimagined.”

“We felt it was a winner,” Sacks said a week following the meeting. “It was distinguished, real, legitimate, and unusual for the category. It had a very rich sophisticated tone to it. To me it looks like an ad from a new company.” Sacks said that one of the Lockes representatives remarked, “I’m sold.”

The E campaign, which used several emotionally charged words such as “ecstasy” and the Lockes branded E, was a strong contender. The Stripes campaign featured the Lockes brown and green stripes and three small pictures of single jewelry pieces. The tag line was, “A Different Diamond Experience.”

Step 4

The Decision. The Lockes team took the final three campaigns back to discuss further. “That’s always a scary moment for an agency because there’s a tendency to combine ads,” Sacks said. And that’s what happened.

The Lockes team favored Stripes but wanted the human element of Imagine. “All the ads were creative, fun, and made you think,” Beckman said two weeks after the presentation. She leaned toward the Stripes ad because it better captured the store’s small footprint. “The Imagine campaign reflected a big, powerhouse jewelry store,” she said. “A majority had a clear favorite. They really liked the Imagine campaign. It felt big. It was almost a little too big. Others, she said, leaned to the E campaign, or combinations thereof. “We started to shy away from Imagine. We then moved toward the E campaign,” she said. “We came back to the one we chose [Stripes]. We wanted to add a personal touch, a little bit of a lifestyle image.”

At first Sacks and his creative team had difficulty combining the elements of the two ads. Sacks was concerned that Stripes was a little too “kitschy” for a store that wants to compete with high-end jewelers.

“Allison [Burton-Parker, the creative director,] tried a dozen ways to get the human element into it,” Sacks said. “I thought she totally nailed it. What started as a SoHo and sort of kitschy ad became a sophisticated campaign, and it retained some sense of the boutique while adding the human element. She kept the soft green background and changed the type to something consistent with the color scheme.… This invites back the super-high-end customer. It has emotion and sophistication. And it’s highly authoritative.”

Steps 5, 6, 7

Approval, Deconstruction, Reconstruction. Lockes approved the ad campaign, so the entire ad was “deconstructed,” Sacks said. A photographer and model were chosen and a photo shoot completed, adding more weeks to the project. The colors were scrutinized, the stripes resized, and the wording revised. A calligrapher was brought in to create a script typeface. Lockes reviewed the campaign, leading to more refinements. “We continue to reexamine and question what we’re doing,” Sacks said. “It’s just the normal process.” He says taking extra time is ultimately worth it.

More Changes and Final Approval. The review process continued into mid-March. As the client requested more changes, the ads took on a more traditional look. The model photography was scrapped in favor of product shots, and text was shortened. The headline for the final magazine ad reads, “Create Something Uniquely You.” The black-and-white newspaper ad reads, “Gorgeous Diamonds at Beautiful Prices.” The tag line and use of the branded brown and green colors for the stripes remained the same.

Despite the changes, Sacks insists that the ads retain their uniqueness and are true representations of the retailer. “At the end of the day I think we created something that feels like Lockes. Something that is unique and unusual for the jewelry industry,” Sacks says. “It looks very different than most jewelry advertising in the marketplace. We have succeeded in creating something that stands out while remaining true to the brand.”

The ads will appear in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, New York Post, and the weekly New York Observer; in New York magazine and possibly other regional publications; in bus and phone kiosks; and in the Jazz at Lincoln Center Playbill.