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Super Bowl

Intuit's B2B Big-Game Foray Paying Off

Marketer and Agency RPA Embark on Uncharted Waters

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After initial positive feedback of its first B-to-B Super Bowl ad spot, which highlighted a small business over the company itself, Intuit and its agency RPA are plotting what's next as both embark on uncharted waters.

RPA has been Intuit's agency of record for nearly two and a half years. Intuit, known more for marketing its consumer brands such as TurboTax and Quicken, is now focusing on building awareness for QuickBooks and getting businesses to make it the platform of choice for all small businesses. As such, it needed to "go big."

"Intuit has never had the burst of exposure and positive name recognition than we have had in the past six months," said Intuit's VP-marketing, small business division, Ken Wach. "We now know we can do this kind of stuff, we can say with confidence 'what's next?" That will come to light over next couple of months."

The big splash came in the form of a Super Bowl ad for one of the hundreds of thousands of small businesses that use QuickBooks to run their business. The spot was free for Goldiblox – a growing company that makes engineering toys marketed towards young girls -- while the social-media buzz and overall impressions more than paid for Intuit's cost.

"The overall program behind this campaign was much bigger than the [Super Bowl] spot itself, which was less than five percent of the effort," said Mr. Wach. "We knew we needed to do something to get Intuit and QuickBooks on the world stage; this ad was up-leveling in a big way, but we did it in a way that was less talking about the products as much as what we stand for, and that's small business success."

"In the end we had a campaign that said 'we know small business, they are the unsung heroes of the U.S. economy,'" he added. "During the Super Bowl the national companies get all the exposure, but what about the 29 million small businesses no one knows. To us, they are the hero, but how do we put them on the big stage?"

RPA came up with the idea to have a Super Bowl spot and presented Intuit with five separate ideas, and the one that resonated was an ad that did not directly promote the company or its products, but the small businesses it serves.

After an eight-month long contest to "win" a Super Bowl ad with tens of thousands of participants, the finalists were narrowed down to four companies last fall and the agency had to come up with ideas for the creative each company before a winning company was chosen.

RPA claims it worked on behalf of Intuit to negotiate and license all talent and music usage for the spot, which used a rearranged version of "Cum on Feel the Noise" by the '60s and '70s rock band Slade (and repopularized by heavy-metal band Quiet Riot in the '80s). The agency also worked on the contest Website and social media monitoring.

The challenge now for both marketer and agency is what to do next.

"What we came up with had never been done before, giving away a SuperBowl ad to a small business, but we had come up with four other ideas before that one stuck," said RPA creative director Nathan Crow.

"The spot was about the small business and not directly about the client. We didn't really think [Intuit] would buy [into] it but it was about what was leading up to it that was the value," added creative director and copywriter Adam Lowrey. "No one gives away a Super Bowl spot, but for Intuit their goal was for that to pay for itself before the spot even ran and that's what it ended up doing. Once you do something that big, we have to think even bigger."

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