Thursday, January 22, 2004

Third- World artisans benefit

By Amy Higgins
Enquirer contributor

[IMAGE] Maggy Lindgren of Clifton looks over a puppet from India while shopping in Ten Thousand Villages on Madison Road in O'Bryonville.
(Tony Jones photo)
O'BRYONVILLE - Ten Thousand Villages, a non-profit gift store, had a mission - but not much of a message.

But getting the word out meant creating better lives for the Third World artisans who make the store's products - so believed store manager Cheryl Ruh when she applied last year for a creative grant from Barefoot Advertising.

And so believed the executives from the Cincinnati agency when they chose Ten Thousand Villages from among 40 applicants for the grant, worth $25,000.

Just months later - in time for the holiday shopping season - billboards, bus and print ads were asking shoppers: Why give a fruitcake that no one actually eats when the gift of a handmade pillow feeds a Third World family? Who wants a singing plastic fish that benefits no one, when giving a beautiful woven basket benefits its needy maker in Cameroon?

"We wanted the consumer to understand that an everyday gift, something that would otherwise be silly, could instead have much more meaning," said Reba Miller, Barefoot account executive in charge of the Ten Thousand Villages campaign.

More dogs and cats found loving homes this holiday season thanks to the second creative grant worth $25,000 from Barefoot Advertising.

"We just felt like we had so many people who still didn't know we existed," said Terri Fermann, member of the board of directors at the League for Animal Welfare in Batavia. "We weren't getting our name out there good enough."

That was until billboards and print ads showing dogs and cats, with captions capturing their unique personalities, started running. Fermann estimates adoptions from the no-kill shelter are up 20 percent since the campaign started.

Reba Miller, account executive from Barefoot Advertising, said the Cincinnati agency is expecting to again offer two grants to local non-profit organizations later this year.

Miller said the store was chosen for the pro bono campaign creation because of its impact on people's lives around the world.

Ten Thousand Villages was started in Cincinnati 14 months ago by the Cincinnati Mennonite Fellowship, Ruh said. The fellowship would have periodic sales of the Third World artisans' goods at its church in Oakley. Years ago, someone suggested starting a store to support the artisans year-round. The store opened Nov. 1, 2002.

Barefoot creatives conceived of the ad campaign after visiting the store, and realizing they would rather receive gifts from there than some of the traditional holiday doozies.

"We were all laughing about those awful gifts," Miller said, explaining how ugly sweaters and singing fish made their way onto billboards comparing them with the Ten Thousand Villages merchandise.

Ruh said the advertising worked, but it's impossible to tell just how much. The store's business had already doubled from a year ago even before the advertising campaign started in November.

"It definitely had an impact, there's no doubt about that," Ruh said, adding that despite the holiday season ending, the creative gift from Barefoot is sure to keep on giving.

"Not only was the advertising campaign successful, but it also taught us, the people in charge of (the store's) advertising and marketing, something else," she said. "We know what we have to do now."


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