KinderCare prepares $4.5 mil fall effort

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Direct marketing agency Alcott & Routon introduces its largest general advertising effort with its fall campaign for KinderCare Learning Centers.

KinderCare, a Portland, Ore.-based daycare chain, recently consolidated its $10 million-plus account at the Nashville direct shop after the agency hired a creative director and media director--both from the company's former agency--as well as two new senior-level account executives to handle general ad work.

"To do KinderCare's work we knew we needed to bring in folks who were as good at general advertising as we were with direct," said Jim Alcott, co-founder and president of Alcott & Routon. Two of the new executives came from Slaughter Hanson, Birmingham, Ala., KinderCare's former agency of record.

GENERAL AD ASSIGNMENTS

The 35-person Alcott & Routon, which handles direct work for clients including National City Bank and Wachovia Bank, has done direct marketing for KinderCare since 1998 and occasionally has done general ad work for clients in the past. Alcott & Routon would not disclose billings.

The $4.5 million KinderCare campaign includes the recent delivery of 1.5 million direct mail pieces. Radio and cable TV ads also are part of the new campaign.

"Our experience has been that radio, in combination with direct mail, is very effective in our major markets," said Roger Long, senior director of marketing for KinderCare. He credited Alcott & Routon with helping the daycare company analyze its clients and measure results of campaigns.

KinderCare is targeting more than 20 radio markets this year, up from 12 last year. Its ad spending is up 10% this year, including a doubling of the radio budget.

The two 30-second TV spots being aired in four markets--Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, Portland, Ore., and San Diego--are the chain's first test of TV advertising and are being targeted to cable subscribers living near KinderCare centers.

KinderCare serves approximately 120,000 children at 1,055 centers in the U.S. and the U.K. The company sends nearly 4 million pieces of direct mail a year. Past KinderCare direct mail campaigns contributed to a 157% increase in the enrollment rate at its centers; the company wouldn't provide exact enrollment figures.

`NO TWO-HEADED MONSTER'

Mr. Alcott expects other clients to take advantage of his agency's general ad expertise, but said Alcott & Routon won't stray from its direct marketing roots.

"We don't want to be a two-headed monster doing both direct marketing and general [advertising]," he said.

"We see ourselves as a knowledge-based marketing communications agency with a strength in analytics. Our business is still going to be about applying the knowledge we can gather from databases and research."

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