W.B. Mason Rides The Airwaves Once Again!
In December 1996, the W.B. Mason company assembled all of its trucks and most of its employees— plus its hopes and vision for the future—on the campus of Stonehill College in Easton, MA. We were there with a film crew to take my branding effort for W.B. Mason to its next logical phase—the airing of television commercials! This was a milestone I had long envisioned but, more to the point, had long and deeply feared. For how was I to take a brand I had fashioned for letterhead, trucks, newspapers and magazines and convey that same sense of circus-like fun and entertainment in a 30 second TV commercial? The most obvious answer when looking at the colorful illustrations we had used in our advertising was to create animated TV commercials. But the cost of animation immediately ruled out that solution. So what could we do…?
#1: “The Boston Invasion” (where it all began)
The background on this, our first real TV commercial, is quite interesting; it shows how one’s journey is never as straight as it appears in hindsight. I had previously created a low-cost cable TV spot for W.B. Mason in which we advertised the opening of our Hyannis furniture showroom. When initially discussing the cost of creating the Hyannis commercial I had promised my client we would amortize its cost by re-using it when we were ready to promote our showroom opening in Boston. So, when Boston was about to open, I met with the Mason partners, intent on keeping my promise, and found, to my surprise they were not as agreeable to my ideas as they usually were. Clearly, the four partners had little love for the TV spot we ran on the Cape, or for the idea of reusing it in Boston. One of the partners argued with my music choice while another criticized my script. Up until that meeting, my clients had never questioned my lead on anything.
Back then, of course, I held such power with the Mason partners that I eventually got them to agree to most of what I had planned. But that night I awoke at 3 AM with the startling realization that I was wrong and my clients were right. Being honest with myself, I had to admit our TV commercial was bland, nothing that complemented or added to our already successful brand identity. As I later told the partners, this was the first time they had taken the lead, instead of me, in building and protecting their brand. Once I came to that realization, I began to envision the exact kind of TV concept I knew would serve as a companion and enhancement to the Mason’s brand. It was titled “The Boston Invasion” and its driving spirit was equal parts, parody, farce and comic earnestness. Going forward I would use this blend of broad, almost cornball humor to present the Mason brand on TV. For our first outing, we parodied a major military operation, something akin to “Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo,” only instead of B-52’s on a mission to bomb Tokyo, we would send our trucks in convoy to rescue Boston. With tongue firmly in cheek, that was the beginning of a series of black and white TV commercials, some with W.B. Mason and some without, that established our brand presence across TV market after TV market.
It’s interesting to note the Mason partners liked the Boston Invasion so much we ended up introducing it on the Super Bowl that year.
Mason was always one to back up its passions with money.
Here are five other TV spots that followed and built upon the resolute archness voiced by our Cronkite-like announcer and displayed by our heroes. In those ads featuring W.B. Mason, Adam Twiss played the role of W.B. to perfection; his archness and melodramatic urgency giving W.B. a depth and vibrancy I could never have imagined when writing the scripts. It’s only fair to mention, all of my W.B. Mason TV commercials were written by me and directed by Bob Noll of Boston Productions, now BPI.
#2:” The Amazing Delivery” (Highlighting our amazing commitment to service)
#3: “LPAD Cold Call” (From The Files of W.B. Mason’s Low Price Assurance Detectives)
The LPAD concept came about after Leo Meehan, CEO and President of Mason, called me on his way back from a New York City business trip where he accompanied Mason sales people on cold calls. “Something very interesting happens each time people in New York see two people enter an office wearing dark business suits,” he told me over the phone. “There’s a moment when they’re trying to figure out whether we’re from the FBI or the Immigration Service; and in that moment we have their undivided attention. I don’t know what you can do with that, but there must be something.” Out of that phone call came the Low Price Assurance Detectives who archly enter an office and declare “We’re here to save you money!” In case you’re curious, I’m proud to say I still have my LPAD badge!
#4: “A Farewell To Arms” (Helping to Introduce Same-Day Delivery Service)
#5: “The Couch Detective” (Thereby proving my crying need for therapy)
#6: “The Lineup”
One of a series of “BuyRight” themed TV Commercials focused on W.B. Mason’s BuyRight program, which features the quality name brands our customers prefer rather than the proprietary (and inferior) branded products often sold by our competitors.
I recently revisited these and others of my early W.B. Mason TV commercials. To date, I’ve created between 80 and 90 spots for Mason, not all of them parodies or black and white. But all, I believe, with a distinct sense of my comic spirit which deftly permeates not only the commercials, but the entire “Who But!” brand I first crafted back in 1986.
#7: Oh, what the hell, here’s one more, just for laughs!
These commercials were always meant for people like you to enjoy. So, please, make me happy, go ahead and enjoy!
To view my #1 Greatest Hits advertisement, click here. To view #2 in the series, click here. To view #3 (which required reposting, for some strange reason),click here. To view #4, click here. To view #5, click here.To view #6, featuring my favorite billboards, click here. To view #7, click here. To read my essay about creating the “Who But W.B. Mason!,” brand click here. Or, if you’re interested in seeing other examples of my mind at work, visit my web site. To speak with me about building or creating your company’s brand, contact me at 857-389-2158 or at PaulStevenStone@gmail.com.