Lots of LBM dealers' television ads look cheap, creating little doubt in the viewers' minds that the commercials were produced locally on a shoe-string budget. Rick Lierz, general manager and co-owner of Franklin Building Supply, set out to do something different.

Past campaigns launched by the Boise, Idaho-based dealer had emphasized retail traffic instead of Franklin's core competencies: delivery, materials, and service. Boise is a tough market when it comes to major pro dealers and solid independents. Some of the nation's largest dealers have a strong presence in the area, including BMC West, Pro-Build, Stock, and 84 Lumber.

Two years ago, the company turned to Closed Loop Marketing, also in Boise, in an attempt to launch an identity that separated itself from the pack. What Franklin ended up with was a series of three commercials on par with a national advertising campaign, arguably reaching the heights of a Super Bowl ad, that combined humor with a strong message. The result was a hands-down winner for judges of this year's ProSales Excellence Awards, who liked the message the advertising sent and the manner in which it came across.

The advertising campaign's theme, "Built to Deliver," zeroes in on Franklin's ability to not keep its customers waiting. "We have the expertise and the drive to help our customers when they need it and with what they need," Lierz says.

In the first ad, a crew appears to be bored to tears on a cold, snowy jobsite. A sense of enthusiasm comes over the crew members as they hear a truck in the distance approaching the site. Could it be the delivery truck? Nope. It actually turns out to be just a passing garbage truck–and a major letdown for the crew.

A narrator quickly interjects, "When you've got schedules to keep, Franklin Building Supply helps you to build homes, not suspense."

A second commercial features a crew hard at work taking measurements and cutting sheets of OSB. Once the crew has assembled its project, it turns out they have built a makeshift wooden couch that they hunker down on to watch television as they await another late delivery.

A third zeroes in on a two-man delivery crew from "Lumber is Us" who opt for drive-thru takeout as opposed to making their delivery on time. When a dispatcher questions their location, the driver pretends they are stuck in a hailstorm and fakes static on the truck's radio. The narrator tells viewers, "If you want help, call Franklin Building Supply."

"My experience has been that it's sometimes difficult to get marketing and advertising agencies to really figure you out," Lierz says. Previous attempts at television looked "clean and homey," in his opinion, but still had a locally produced feel. "They were not anything I was proud of," Lierz says. "I was always concerned that I didn't know what we were spending money for, other than we had our name out there."

Closed Loop helped separate Franklin from the pack by researching its competitors and their tactics when entering new markets. The agency interviewed independents, like Franklin, figuring out what types of strategies were used during the first six months in which a large competitor had entered the market and what occurred two years after they entered a market. From there, Franklin's "Built to Deliver" campaign was formulated, focusing on the dealer's reputation with customers.

Some competitors have turned to price gouging. Franklin stuck with its biggest asset: reliable service.

When it came time to film and produce the commercials, the objective became filming a "Super Bowl spot," according to Brad Surkamer, founder and president of Closed Loop. The commercials were filmed in Boise, and despite the clever, polished result, "part of the magic is that Boise is a lot less of an expensive place to do this than in New York City," Surkamer says. "There are very intelligent people here too, a whole pool of very talented people in this valley."

Accompanying the television ads are six 30-second radio spots. Although they take a more serious approach in delivering Franklin's message to area builders, the radio ads reinforce Franklin's commitment to serving its customers through quality service. For instance, the messages claim that Franklin makes its deliveries "on time, every time." In another ad, the Franklin narrator says "we deliver what we say, when we say."

Other ads focus on the array of materials that Franklin offers, including lumber, flooring, trim, shingles, tools, insulation, windows, doors, and decks. The ads note that the dealer is not relegated to offering materials on time alone; it also provides knowledge and expertise regarding building trends and techniques.

The overall message is that Franklin Building Supply, in contrast to any competitor, is the supplier of choice for professional builders who want a supplier that thinks through the project with the builder while delivering what that builder needs.

Lierz declined to say what the entire campaign cost, but says that Franklin "did not break the bank" when it came to the final price tag.

"It was not outlandish. It was more than we are used to spending, but the finished product was worth it," he says.

Although Franklin had not empirically tracked the sales results of the commercials and cannot point to a bump in sales or new customers who may have joined the commercial as a result, the dealer has received enormous positive feedback from customers, according to Lierz.

While the campaign was in full swing earlier this year, a major competitor opened in Boise and tried to lure both employees and customers away from Franklin. The dealer did not lose a single employee, according to Lierz. "The payoff for me was the customer who would gloat about it, who felt proud that they are a customer of ours when they saw the commercials," Lierz says.

Vital Statistics

  • Company: Franklin Building Supply Year Founded: 1976
  • Headquarters: Boise, Idaho Number of Locations: 12
  • Number of Employees: 850 2006
  • Gross Sales: $227 million
  • Percentage of Sales to Pros: 95%