What’s Wrong with an “Off-the-Shelf” Solution? (Part Two)

What makes a great advertising or advocacy campaign? Why do some hit the mark and others fall flat? Our most successful client relationships start with an innovative approach rooted in a deep, evolving understanding of the problem.

We often say, “Don’t call and say you need an ad.” An ad may be exactly what’s necessary. But it just as easily may not. Instead, the E&V approach is to focus on the key problem or opportunity. Before settling on a one-size-fits-all approach, consider this: What does the communication need to achieve, and what action do you want your audience to take?

Eckel & Vaughan develops unique solutions for clients, leaning heavily on six key principles:

  1. Break through the clutter to arrest your targets’ attention.
  2. Consider more cost-effective methods to reach your target audience.
  3. Look inward first before creating outward change.
  4. Are you communicating with the wrong audience?
  5. Evolve and embrace new communications channels.
  6. Be authentic.

In Part One, we delved into the first 3 principles. In Part Two, we’ll tackle principles 4-6.

Key Principles for Developing a Campaign that Makes an Impact

4 Are you communicating with the wrong audience?

Underage drinking is an issue that cuts across all communities. The problem is that most campaigns to reduce underage drinking target students in schools and haven’t been proven to move the needle. The NC ABC Commission wanted to design an innovative initiative that would make a real impact in North Carolina.

Eckel & Vaughan began by executing a first-of-its-kind study of parents, middle schoolers and high schoolers in NC to determine their perceptions on this issue and identify potential solutions to the problem. What we found was enlightening. Fifty-eight percent of students felt that underage drinking was a serious problem, yet only about a third of parents felt the same way. Interestingly enough, more than 4 out of 5 students (84%) felt parents talking more with them would help stop underage drinking. We had been talking to the wrong people. It was the parents—not the kids—whom we needed to reach. In response to our research, we launched the Talk It Out campaign to educate parents about the dangers of underage drinking and the power they had to influence their children, empowering them with the tools to act.

The campaign was a strong success, increasing the frequency that parents spoke with their children about underage drinking and increasing the percentage of parents who understood the severity of the problem in our state.

5 Evolve and embrace new communications channels.

Yeardley Love, a 20-year-old student athlete at the University of Virginia was killed by her boyfriend after a pattern of domestic violence. If anyone in her life had truly understood and knew how to recognize the unhealthy relationship behaviors they were seeing, the act could have been prevented. Founded in 2010 to honor Yeardley, One Love works to ensure everyone understands the difference between a healthy and unhealthy relationship.

In 2018, on Valentine’s Day, One Love launched the #LoveBetter campaign with the goal of improving our knowledge about healthy relationships and enhancing our ability to bring healthy behaviors to our relationships with the people we love.

As a launching pad for this new campaign, One Love did the unexpected. Using disruption to bring awareness to the ways in which we can all #LoveBetter, they created a Valentine’s Day #LoveBetter store. This experiential pop-up shop not only highlighted some of the most common unhealthy relationship habits, but also provided a clear pathway for anyone to stop these unhealthy behaviors and strengthen their relationships.

Eckel & Vaughan has leveraged the power of new and atypical channels to educate voters about energy, raise money to support flood victims, and fight childhood hunger in North Carolina.

6 Be authentic.

Humans are driven by emotion, and we connect most deeply when there is an underlying foundation of mutual respect, honesty and trust between us. The same holds true for relationships between humans and brands. Companies spend years—or perhaps decades—building a brand that partners, customers and employees trust and respect. The communications strategies you choose will reflect your identity and protect and enhance your reputation—or put that investment at risk. Don’t try to become something you’re not.

Companies like Dove have embraced their authenticity and transparency, and this resonates with consumers. Those who have fought it—Uber and Pepsi—continue to struggle to regain footing with an audience who will now watch their every move with skepticism.


The next time you’re developing a marketing or advocacy campaign, think twice about green-lighting an “off-the-shelf” solution. Developing a unique solution might just make the difference between achieving your goal and heading back to the drawing board.