By Jason Anderson
Last year, Dotted Line began taking steps to expand beyond its business-to-business (B2B) marketing foothold and deepen its business-to-consumer (B2C) portfolio. And when Associate Creative Director Mitchell Jordan and I hopped aboard in January, we came equipped with ideas to help Dotted Line make a real name for itself in B2C.
One of our first steps was to demonstrate the agency’s knack for consumer-facing work by taking on several strategic pro bono projects. Mine and Mitchell’s partnership began several years before joining Dotted Line, where we worked on several grassroot creative campaigns, including an award-winning poster campaign for King of Pops, so that felt like a natural starting point. Beyond the obvious promotional incentive for the recipient, pro bono campaigns also offer creative marketers the opportunity to gain attention, attract clients and indulge in creative output that fuels the agency.
For our first pro bono creative campaign with Dotted Line, we pitched Scoop, a small-batch ice cream shop in The Fan of Richmond. (After a popsicle-based campaign, ice cream seemed like the logical next step). Dotted Line Account Director Christie Hach knew one of the shop’s employees, which helped us get our foot in the door. From there, we collaborated on, tinkered, went back to the drawing board several times and ultimately delivered a campaign as unique as their ice cream for the brand to feature on social media.
Scoop loved the final product and began sharing the new visuals online earlier this month. But beyond that success, our pro bono project was a real-world example of several of our agency’s key virtues. By exhibiting creative ingenuity, off-the-clock ambition and a bold embrace of fun, our Scoop campaign demonstrates the spirit of Dotted Line and hopefully gives other marketing professionals something to think about.
While a contracted client would typically expect us to deliver a product that adheres to a set of previously established standards, our partnership with Scoop was a little different. We approached the company and said, “This is something we would like to do for you — money isn’t an object.” This less formal relationship allowed Mitchell and me to flex our creative muscles a little more and jump off from Scoop’s established visual identity to create something eye-catching and unique.
Since the shop first opened several years ago, its social media content has largely consisted of two-dimensional imagery, a pastel color scheme and close-up photography highlighting its frozen treats. This strategy has clearly been successful, earning the brand more than 12,000 Instagram followers and considerable levels of engagement.
But we wanted their images to take on a singular visual language of their own — not just for the sake of being different, but to parallel the uniqueness of many of Scoop’s culinary concoctions. (The menu features such flavor choices as “sweet corn and blackberry” and “strawberry-hibiscus sorbet.”) We opted to pair an eccentric visual sensibility with messaging that would promote Scoop ice cream as a rescue for hot weather — which turned out to be a fitting choice for this sweltering summer.
Our team eventually landed on visuals that blended photographs of Scoop ice cream with sunny outdoor landscapes as well as quirky, even psychedelic visual frills, topped off with punchy messages like “Treat the Heat.” Aside from photos of the Scoop product itself, everything in the frame was produced in-house, including photographs by Dotted Line Production Designer John DiJulio. This display of creativity is, we hope, a testament to our creative team’s range of skills and “let’s have some fun,” do-it-yourself spirit. But to see just how dedicated we were to the project, one must look beyond the final product.
Initiative, self-improvement and the extra mile
As our previous pro bono campaign earned us awards attention (including two Gold Cannonballs from the Advertising Club of Richmond) and inclusion in industry publications, Mitchell and I already knew that some of the most attention-worthy marketing work isn’t necessarily contracted. By taking on a creative side project to help put Dotted Line on the B2C map, we embodied the value of creating one’s own opportunities in the marketing space — even if those opportunities aren’t necessarily billable.
While we weren’t held to a concrete deadline (another plus of pro bono work), we wanted the campaign to come together by summer’s end so the weather-based messaging would remain effective. One early idea for the campaign involved engaging consumers in an online and in-store cups-versus-cones debate. Another involved close-ups of people eating ice cream while sporting face mask-shaped tan lines — which hit the cutting room floor when Virginia dialed back its COVID-19 mask mandates.
We could have gone with the first idea that came to mind, but a drive to refine the Scoop campaign to its best possible version kept Mitchell and me cranking. This ambition ultimately earned our product a spot in Scoop’s social media feed — and exemplified the extra-mile mentality that fuels all of Dotted Line’s output.
A feel for fun
While promoting Dotted Line and Scoop was our primary impetus, we were especially driven to take on the pro bono campaign because we simply enjoyed the work and the Scoop product. Passion projects with increased creative freedom serve as a reminder that — as Mitchell puts it — we marketers are “pretty lucky to do what we do for a living.” He and I also kept the rest of the Dotted Line staff up to speed on the creative campaign, and their enjoyment while watching the project unfold only motivated us further.
Even if it sounds paradoxical at first, having fun with creative marketing projects is a time commitment. It took us time to stretch our brains and stimulate our creative juices so that the product could embody the whimsy and spirit it was meant to evoke. You can’t come up with a graphic featuring an old-timey zeppelin, unicorn balloon animal, parrot and garden gnome all congregated around a cup of ice cream on the beach without having a good time.
Our creative team and the rest of the Dotted Line family bring innovation, ambition and enjoyment to every task — whether on or off the books. By employing these attitudes, creative marketers can both foster their own growth and deliver the most effective possible product for their client. If that’s the mentality you seek in your own marketing strategy, we’re here to create exponential impact for your business. Click here to contact us.