Small Agency of the Year, Northeast, Gold: Nail Communications

Rhode Island Shop Is a Master of Earned Media, Sparking Social Engagement

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For clients looking to jump-start conversations about their brands, partnering with the 21 staffers at NAIL Communications is like hitting the jackpot. The team at the Providence, R.I., agency has shown its prowess in boosting earned media for brands and has a proven track record in sparking consumer engagement on social-media channels.

Take what they did with an old-school, little-talked-about candy brand. In 2012, Nail embarked on a campaign to gain traction with younger customers by seeding this outrageous story with the media: After 72 years, Mike & Ike were splitting up over, staging a gay divorce. The elaborate, fabricated tale saw boxes on store shelves with one of the partners' names crossed out. An online video explained that Mike pursued a new career as a rapper, while Ike immersed himself in art.

So absurd was the story that it made news shows and late-night TV, including "The Daily Show," "Late Show With David Letterman" and CNN. Within two months, Google-search traffic had overtaken rival candy brands such as Good & Plenty, Hot Tamales and Twizzlers. The earned media buzz was followed by a TV campaign on Nickelodeon and MTV, plus other paid media channels such as outdoor, PR and radio.

The firm, which was founded in 1998, and has three owners -- Jeremy Crisp, managing partner; Alec Beckett, creative partner; and Brian Gross, creative partner -- had just over $3 million in revenue last year. Other clients include Vibram Five Fingers, Gore Tex and The Providence Journal.

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