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OfficeMax Goes Optimistic With New Campaign

Brand Teams With Fast Company, BusinessWeek for Online Initiative

By Published on . 2

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Is business looking up? Are execs feeling optimistic? OfficeMax is banking that the answer to both questions is yes, and its enlisted Fast Company and BusinessWeek on its optimism crusade.

The office supplies retailer is launching a new brand campaign, its first since 2004, under the banner "Good News for Business." The comprehensive effort represents Office Max's biggest marketing investment in four years, said Bob Thacker, senior VP-marketing and advertising.

"It's substantial," said Mr. Thacker. "We feel it's time to start focusing on the 90% of the population that is working. That's not to minimize the 10% that aren't. But for business to thrive, we have to get beyond fear and focus on hope."

OfficeMax spent $25 million on measured media in 2008 and $18 million on measured media in the first three quarters of 2009, according to TNS Media Intelligence. The Escape Pod, Chicago, is OfficeMax's creative agency of record.

Marketers have been looking toward more optimistic campaigns for some time now. Pepsi and Coca-Cola launched dueling upbeat messages nearly a year ago. And Sears partnered with AOL to launch Good News Now, a site churning out positive stories, in June. While some of those efforts were criticized as premature or overly cheery, Mr. Thacker says OfficeMax isn't looking to be "Annie or Mary Poppins." And Fast Company and BusinessWeek say that businesses are ready to hear a bit of optimism.

Jessica Sibley, senior VP-worldwide publisher at Bloomberg BusinessWeek, said the publication has been seeing glimmers of optimism since last summer. In August, its cover featured the headline "The Case for Optimism."

"Our position has been moving forward and looking at where the opportunities are," she said. "It's not that things are great and euphoric now, but there are signs of progress. The outlook is more optimistic than what we were living through six or nine or 12 months ago, in terms of sentiment."

BusinessWeek is lending its Optimism Meter, launched last March, to the effort. OfficeMax is the official sponsor of the meter and will be using Twitter to promote deals, increasing the number of offers as the meter rises. (The Optimism Meter is now at 52, up from 49 in the closing days of 2009 and a low of 25 the week of March 9. It spiked at 67 the week of Sept. 22.)

Fast Company is creating custom content, in the form of a blog called "The Upswing" and infographics illustrating positive economic news. OfficeMax is sponsoring those pieces at fastcompany.com, as well as running digital ads.

Christine Osekoski, publisher at Fast Company, said it's the first time the publication has produced a blog or infographics for a marketing partner. She added that because Fast Company has long believed innovation and creativity will help the country out of the downturn, the partnership with OfficeMax has been embraced by the business and editorial teams.

"We're not a massive reach vehicle, but we're entrenched in their target. And it's exciting because [OfficeMax] is really investing in this," she said. "Truly sharing content assets and going after the same target. For us, those are the types of partners that will see us through."

The campaign includes TV, radio and print, as well as digital and social-media efforts. Depending on the traction it gets, it could last throughout this year, Mr. Thacker said. Plans for a dedicated site, goodnewsforbusiness.com, were put on hold on yesterday, however. Initially, the site was set to include Fast Company and BusinessWeek content, as well as the @goodnewsforbiz Twitter feed and deals from OfficeMax. Businesses were to be encouraged to publicize their good news through the site, as well.

"We decided that there was room for improvement in the way we were presenting the site content. We are evaluating the best way to bring the Good News content to professionals in a meaningful and more interactive manner," Mr. Thacker said in an e-mailed statement.

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