Allen & Allen Co. is 80 years old this year. Last spring, the San Antonio-based building material supplier used that birthday as the platform for a five-week-long, television-centric marketing campaign that cost it relatively little but ended up benefiting itself and four key suppliers.

Allen & Allen recruited a quartet of suppliers and then brought in KSAT, the area's top-rated TV channel, to shoot stylish 30-second commercials inside its showroom. The spots associated the dealer's "80 Years of Excellence" slogan with an esoteric mix of participating vendors: Toto (bath fixtures), Fusion Hardware Group (door hardware), Jeld-Wen (windows and doors), and Schlage Link (home security). Allen & Allen also created a fifth advertisement to showcase its custom millwork shop.

The ads generated more than two million impressions among adult TV viewers. Such an outreach matters in the San Antonio market, because surveys indicate 70% of the area's homeowners say they rely on television to learn about products.

Suppliers were sold modules that ran for a week, and the station helped select where the ads would be placed for maximum exposure, including morning talk-show programming, noontime news and Oprah Winfrey's afternoon show. The campaign was buttressed with e-mail blasts to Allen & Allen's customers, a story about the supplier on the dealer's website, social media posts, in-store promotions, and mentions of each vendor on Allen & Allen's invoices and statements.

Christina Martin, Allen & Allen's vice president of marketing, says her company approached fewer than 10 suppliers about participating in this campaign. It focused on those vendors with which it had a long-standing relationship and therefore would be open to co-op advertising. The whole campaign cost about $35,000, but Allen & Allen's contribution was only $4,000, mainly for that millwork ad.

Martin says the suppliers that got involved "represent our big-volume categories, so there was some strategy in the way we picked vendors." Each of the vendors agreed to offer special discounts of as much as 50% off during its promotional period.

"We were able to create a TV campaign that told our story in an effective way," she says. "We were able to make our suppliers happy in the process because their story was told effectively as well. It was a win-win situation."

Martin says the marketing effort not only increased customer traffic at Allen & Allen's yard and showroom but could also lead to copycat campaigns.

Jeld-Wen was so pleased with the results that it asked Allen & Allen to help write an article for its internal sales newsletter outlining the full program, the dealer says. Another participating supplier told Allen & Allen it was working with distributors in other markets to replicate the dealer's campaign. Martin adds that other vendors have approached her company about becoming involved in future marketing efforts.

Even suppliers that didn't participate in the TV campaign "were able to step to the plate in other ways," says Martin, by doing things such as updating their displays or volunteering to help fund vendor days by paying for giveaways, food, and beverages.

Allen & Allen, says Martin, is open to trying another similar promotion at some point. To that end, the company would also like to refine how it tracks the effectiveness of its marketing to generate business. But Martin doesn't think the dealer will wait for the arrival of the next historic event, like its 100th anniversary. "The real story being told is about great products."