Crotch-kick wins ad award

The Las Vegas marketing firm behind the ubiquitous "What happens here, stays here" campaign has won its first Effie advertising award.

All it took was a little old lady and a kick in the crotch.

Representatives from R&R Partners were in New York City last week to collect a silver, second-place Effie for the edgy conservation campaign it developed for the Southern Nevada Water Authority.

The national honor, whose name is a play on the word "effectiveness," has been awarded since 1968 to creative marketing campaigns that achieve demonstrable results.

"This is really the only results-oriented award in the business," said Randy Snow, executive vice president and creative director for R&R. "It’s a real big deal for us, because it is a national award."

R&R’s campaign for the water authority featured several 30-second television spots to remind residents about seasonal restrictions on sprinkler watering.

The most talked-about commercial opens with a close-up of sprinklers spraying water on a green lawn.

The woman with a cane and a sour expression walks to the door and rings the bell. A man answers, and the two stare at each other for a moment before he asks, "Can I help you?" That’s when the woman, nicknamed Mrs. Nuttington, rears back and kicks him in the groin.

The ad closes with the tag line: "Don’t make us ask you again. It’s a desert out there."

R&R’s silver Effie came in the "Government, Institutional & Recruitment" category.

The University of Minnesota took the gold in that category with a predictably groin-kick-free promotional campaign.

Scott Huntley was part of a small group of water authority officials who attended the award ceremony.

The authority’s public information manager said the Mrs. Nuttington spot was a big hit among the Effie crowd.

"They played it twice," Huntley said. "There were a thousand people at the ceremony, and the place just erupted with laughter."

The commercials first hit the air on Nov. 1, 2006, just in time for the start of the winter watering schedule, when sprinkler use is restricted to one assigned day a week.

The campaign also featured print ads, radio spots, stickers, drink coasters and signs on gas pumps.

It marked the water authority’s first foray into targeted advertising. The goal: to prod "Joe Sixpack" off the couch and into the garage to reprogram his irrigation timer.

"People just forget about their watering clocks or neglect them, especially in the fall and winter months," Snow said.

Water authority General Manager Pat Mulroy said she gasped the first time she saw the Mrs. Nuttington spot, but she is delighted by the way local residents responded to the none-too-subtle reminder.

"It definitely got their attention," she said.

Before the ads, research indicated that less than 40 percent of residents knew about the seasonal watering restrictions, let alone followed them. In surveys conducted after the campaign, 87 percent of residents said they changed their watering clocks to comply with the restrictions.

In the first full year the ads ran, local water consumption fell by more than 9 percent even while the valley’s population grew by 5 percent.

R&R produced the campaign for about $125,000.

The water authority has spent another $1 million or so buying ad time on television, much of it during ballgames, poker tournaments and other male-centric programming.

The commercials continue to run periodically and are timed to coincide with seasonal changes in the watering schedule.

Snow said valley residents can expect to see more of Mrs. Nuttington and other characters in the future.

"Come fall, it will be time to remind people again," he said. "One thing about men and their clocks: If you remind them one year, you’ll probably have to remind them again the next."

Contact reporter Henry Brean at hbrean@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0350.

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