Texas blind group hands dollars 1m account to Matthews

AUSTIN: Austin-based Sherry Matthews Advertising (SMA) & Public Relations has landed a dollars 1 million PR and marketing account for the Texas Commission for the Blind.

AUSTIN: Austin-based Sherry Matthews Advertising (SMA) & Public Relations has landed a dollars 1 million PR and marketing account for the Texas Commission for the Blind.

The campaign is renewable on an annual basis, and more than 50% of the budget will be invested in PR activities. According to PR director Robert Nash, SMA competed against other Texas-based agencies and won because of its expertise in social marketing and public education campaigns.

The agency has developed a niche in social marketing by integrating aggressive PR with advertising.

'We integrate PR and advertising throughout each campaign,' said Nash. 'In many cases, PR is the most effective tool to achieve our clients' social marketing objectives - especially when we need to convey complex messages.'

Recently, the agency executed the Texas Department of Health's anti-tobacco PR campaign aimed at teens. Faced with limited funds (pending legislative direction of the state's windfall tobacco settlement), the team decided to use PR to generate awareness of a new law that suspends driver's licenses of people under 18 who are caught with tobacco.

The agency produced materials for just five billboards for pro bono posting in major markets - hardly an impactful media buy for a state like Texas.

However, the billboard artwork was unveiled at a media event that coincided with the mandated statewide removal of all tobacco billboards. The result was massive TV, radio and print coverage in Texas' 19 media markets.

SMA also manages the Partnership for a Drug-Free Texas, the state affiliate of the renowned Partnership for a Drug-Free America. During the first year of managing this public service/PR account, the SMA team generated more than dollars 7 million in media value by staging anti-drug PR events, conducting guerrilla marketing campaigns in schools and soliciting PSA support for anti-drug messages from local media.

When faced with the challenge of warning spring break revelers about the serious consequences of drinking and driving, the agency combined a limited ad campaign with a heavy PR effort. The PR campaign included a VNR shot at Texas' popular South Padre Island.

It featured college students responding with disbelief to news that they could be taken to jail for a first-time DWI offense. The story was carried in TV markets statewide when most Texas students were preparing to drive to the beach. The PR effort also included what the agency believes is a first in anti-drunk driving campaigns: thousands of point-of-sale decals placed on beer and wine refrigerator doors in stores.

'Cause-related public education campaigns are very important to me personally,' said Sherry Matthews, who founded her agency 15 years ago. Today, the agency's roster consists of about 85% government and non-profit cause-related marketing.

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