BtoB's Best Creative: Hubbell Inc.

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Knowing the audience and what will draw them in is key to the success of any advertiser, but it's particularly critical for a b-to-b advertiser trying to reach a niche audience with a print ad. Without the moving images and interrupting sounds of broadcast ads, print has to rely solely on strong visuals and tight copy to get the point across.

BtoB's choice for the best print ad of the year, created by ad agency Maier True Communication for client Hubbell Inc., uses the tried-and-true tenets of advertising to tell an audience of architects and lighting designers that Hubbell is the company behind many of their favorite lighting brands.

The ad features a photo of the Shawnessy Light Rail Station in Calgary, Alberta, a structure that is illuminated with lighting by Hubbell. Lighting is front and center in the image, leaving little doubt as to what's being pitched. The idea, said Rick Mellon, VP-creative at Maier, was to take something that is typically mundane in nature—in this case, a rail station—to show how lighting can help transform it into a place that is architecturally notable.

"It's really making the application the hero and saying, `Hey, we helped achieve this' instead of beating our chest and saying, `We're Hubbell, we sell lighting' and thinking that's enough for people," Mellon said.

The ad doesn't really have a headline, but the copy is strong enough to fill that void. It begins, "If you ever board a midnight train to Calgary, you might find yourself in an exceptionally well-lit station—thanks to a creative architect, and illumination provided by Hubbell. Yes, that's right, Hubbell."

The copy goes on to explain that many of the target audience's favorite brands are part of the Hubbell family—something that may be surprising because Hubbell is better known for its wiring devices, Mellon said.

Normally, we'd say the white type reversed against the blue of the sky is a bad idea for readability. But in this case, it's easy enough to read the copy, and showcasing lighting at dusk or night was important to the ad's success, Mellon said. "It's very easy to get photos of these places during the day," he said. "B ut how do you show lighting during the day?"

In addition to the main image of the rail station, the ad has three insets of other eye-catching projects that feature Hubbell lighting: the Brown County War Memorial in Green Bay, Wis.; the Milwaukee Art Museum; and the Cincinnati "welcome" sign. Together, the main image and insets, along with the straight-talking copy, send the strong message that Hubbell's lighting brands should be on the architect or designer's short list. 

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