Growth from Within

E. Morris Communications Inc. gained market share in a less than stellar environment by turning to existing clients

for two years. “He’s done a great job working with our team and the senior management. Gene takes the time to listen and understand the client’s needs.”

WORKING ON THE HIGHWAY
One challenge that Morris has met head-on is the hotly disputed $600 million Dan Ryan Expressway reconstruction project. The expressway is a major transportation artery from downtown Chicago through the heart of the city’s South Side in predominantly African American neighborhoods. Residents are concerned that the pending reconstruction will close streets and ramps, and that the community might not receive its fair share of jobs and contracting opportunities.

The Illinois Department of Transportation initially hired another advertising agency to handle the PR nightmare, but it failed, says Robin Black, chief of staff. “Prior to E. Morris, we hadn’t had another firm with as much of a relationship in the minority community nor a background in marketing diverse messages,” Black recalls.

When state officials opened up the bidding process to replace the old firm, EMC’s presentation wowed them. “Eugene has a dynamic team and we saw how they worked together during the presentation, which was visually stimulating, colorful, and very well packaged,” Black says. “So I could tell that they had the capacity and the capability to take on a $600 million infrastructure project.”

EMC got right to work. First was a series of local print advertisements that were not only slick and sharp, but informative. The ads explained the goal of the project as well as what would or would not be affected by construction. Then EMC launched radio ads, a direct-mail campaign with quarterly newsletters, and a series of commun
ity events, including an information fair where construction leaders met with community members to allay their concerns. The results were overwhelmingly positive. “The people are talking,” says Black. “The legislators that represented Dan Ryan are impressed by the sheer volume of mailings they are receiving.

REPAIRING A RETAILER
EMC’s ability to talk to a target audience was key to the expressway campaign, and to the company’s overall success. “Our job is to focus on the target audience and to know them as well as we can,” says Deborah Gray-Young, vice president and director of media and strategic services. The company conducts focus groups to pinpoint its target audience, and crafts discussion guides and questionnaires to learn everything it can about it.

To optimize impact in the black marketplace, EMC also employs proprietary tools such as AATLAS, (African American Targeted Lifestyle and Attitude Segments), a qualitative and quantitative method of analyzing the behavior of consumers across various demographics. “One of the things that AATLAS seeks to do is to understand the life stages as well as the lifestyles [of the target audience],” says Gray-Young. “It helps us, and therefore the client, understand how the message should be crafted.”

EMC will need all the tools it has as it faces another challenge — mending the tarnished reputation of the world’s largest retailer, Wal-Mart. The retail giant has been hit with dozens of lawsuits alleging sexual discrimination and unfair pay practices,

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