By Brad Harbison

“We need to do something really creative to break through the advertising and marketing clutter out there and get our phones ringing.” Those words, uttered by U.S. Pest Protection President Erica Brister, were the impetus behind the Nashville company’s recent viral TV ad campaign/rebranding initiative featuring the newly created “Eagle Steve” (watch on YouTube).

Eagle Steve is the brainchild of Bohan, the advertising firm hired by Brister. Wanting to capitalize on the patriotic name U.S. Pest, Bohan envisioned an animatronic eagle as its new mascot.

“The spirit of the campaign — that the company goes above and beyond in serving its customers — comes directly from its leaders. While the tone of the spot is funny, the promise of performance, service and value is very serious,” said Bridget Deenihan, associate creative director at Bohan.

Bohan enlisted director John Deeb of DEEB Studios in Orlando, whose clients include Walt Disney World, Hard Rock Café and the Atlanta Braves. It also took a puppeteer who has worked on “Sesame Street,” and a songwriter who had a song featured on NBC’s “The Voice” to make the vision come to life.

Creating Eagle Steve was a labor of love. Eagle Steve is “a complicated piece” said Tom Adkinson, vice president, director of communications, Bohan Advertising. “Its talons move and its beak moves — it really is a functional piece of equipment, so to speak. We have video of our creative people holding the eagle doing swooping motions up against a green screen. It looks as goofy as can be. With technology, the people are removed and the results are amazing.”

One scene that shows off Eagle Steve’s aerial maneuvering skills involves him swooping down to “save” a woman standing on a chair to avoid a mouse. In another, he’s reading a newspaper with the headline “Local Hero Saves the Day” before he zooms off in response to his red phone that alerts him to another customer in need.

THE CAMPAIGN’S ORIGINS. In business for 35 years, U.S. Pest Protection has become one of the pest control industry’s great success stories. Now under the leadership of second-generation owner Brister, U.S. Pest is a $7.3 million business, ranking it #81 on this year’s PCT Top 100 List.

Past U.S. Pest advertising/marketing efforts were more straightforward name recognition campaigns, highlighting U.S. Pest’s reputation as a quality service provider. While these campaigns were functional, Brister felt U.S. Pest needed a new direction. “We’ve had a great history in Nashville and in Middle Tennessee, and everyone here has put in a lot of hard work,” said Brister. “From my perspective, looking at U.S. Pest and the growth and the vision we’ve had for the company, I felt like we needed to partner with some really talented people to embolden that vision.”

The Eagle Steve campaign reinforces U.S. Pest’s service ability with the slogan “Whatever it Takes,” a message prominently displayed in the commercial as well as on uniforms, service vehicles, etc.

Brister enlisted Bohan Advertising, a firm she had learned about via word-of-mouth. After meeting with Brister, Bohan picked up on her vision and ran with it. Bohan researched U.S. Pest and the pest control industry, and recommended an advertising campaign that would carry on the company’s “quality service” messaging, while also being fun and memorable.

“We are really strong at customer service, so that was a focus, plus there maybe was a bit of a void for unique and entertaining pest control advertising in Middle Tennessee, so Bohan used that knowledge and capitalized on it.”

While the campaign is fun and memorable, it also reinforces the company’s service ability with the slogan “Whatever it Takes,” a secondary message prominently displayed in the commercial as well as on uniforms, service vehicles, etc.

A MULTI-CHANNEL EFFORT. In just a matter of days, Eagle Steve was viewed by more than 100,000 people on YouTube. But the TV campaign (and corresponding YouTube outreach) is only one component of the campaign.

The original logo has given way to a clean design that capitalizes on the “U.S.” part of the company name, features an element reminiscent of an American flag and is adaptable to many media. It is going on a revamped website, stationery, uniforms, billboards, print advertising and the company’s fleet of 45 vehicles that serve 13 counties in Middle Tennessee.

Eagle Steve is a YouTube star — he garnered 100,000+ views in his first few days online.

“Our look and logo needed updating. We spent years building our skills and client base and had not paid attention to how much more effectively we could present ourselves in the marketplace,” Brister said.

Brister said the rebranding campaign has boosted not only U.S. Pest’s bottom line, but it has re-energized the company as a whole. “It’s not just about the attention we are getting, but our phones are actually ringing. We are a lot more concentrated in our advertising and marketing dollars and have been very strategic in the placement of those dollars. As a result of Eagle Steve and the rebranding of the company, leads are up, sales and morale is up.”

The author is Internet editor/managing editor of PCT and can be contacted at bharbison@gie.net.