In a sea of choices, sometimes what you really need is a lifeline.

For Ferguson Enterprises, a customer's lifeline is the sales consultant, so the company built a campaign around its consultants that spans several media platforms, winning plaudits from the judges for the ad's clever concept and execution.

Ferguson, which has 300 showrooms across the United States, is the largest plumbing wholesaler in North America. From the outset, the company's design team knew it wanted to use its salepersons as the linchpin of its campaign, and target a new customer–one first identified by the company's consultants, according to brand advertising manager Shawn McLaughlin. That customer was different from Ferguson's core base of custom home builders and remodelers.

"She–and make no mistake, this [new customer] is a woman–wants to have more power in the renovation process," says John Gillespie, whose market research tagged this customer as 35 to 65 years old, highly engaged, highly informed, and the person in the household who influences all home purchasing decisions.

She may be well-informed, but Ferguson's research showed she was often overwhelmed by the plethora of choice in the marketplace–and, by inference, in Ferguson's showrooms, which display thousands of products. These parameters set the direction for the team's work.

> "It was crystal clear to us from the beginning that if you focus on product, that can be duplicated. Experience can't," McLaughlin says. "The consultant is the true point of difference for Ferguson. It was how we got that across that we worked on."

"The new consumer has always been there, but now in greater numbers," says Gillespie, Ferguson's director of marketing and brand development. He says what has made her the focus of Ferguson's campaign is that this consumer is now taking the reins in buying decisions to a much greater extent than ever before. When it comes to the home, women today make or influence 80% of those purchases. "She very much wants to make sure she gets what she wants," Gillespie says.

The television ads the Newport News, Va.-based company created in-house feature an attractive showroom design consultant, dubbed Kate, and a couple she is helping.