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Ads Try to Jolt L.A. About Its Homeless

September 08, 1987|BRUCE HOROVITZ

In "Father Knows Best," TV folk-father Jim Anderson used to amble in the front door with what seemed to be the only greeting he knew: "Honey, I'm home."

But Jim Anderson never slept on the street.

Now, Suissa Advertising, a Santa Monica ad firm, has taken the phrase, "Honey, I'm Home," and placed it smack above a photo of a tattered tent pitched on Skid Row. It is a powerful print advertisement aimed at jolting Southland residents into action.

For 35,000 Los Angeles residents--nearly a third of them family members--home is often little more than something that fits inside a paper bag. That message is about to be advertised in amanner usually reserved for the likes of beer and blue jeans.

"I want to grab someone by the neck, stomach and heart at the same time" said David Suissa, president of the 2-year-old agency. "It's the only way to play this game."

In another Suissa-produced ad, three sad-faced youngsters find some warmth by a trash can fire, all under the headline, "How the Other Half Lives." These ads are all for a 6-month-old group called Building a Better Los Angeles, a nonprofit organization that hopes to raise more than $1 million over the next six months to aid the Los Angeles area's homeless.

Although Suissa's company is producing the ads for free, there is more than altruism involved here. The young company--whose biggest client is Marie Callender's Pie Shops--hopes to generate some attention for itself in the crowded Los Angeles ad market.

And the ads will try to correct a common misconception. "It's not just bums and mental patients walking the street," said Richard Mahan, a spokesman for Building a Better Los Angeles. "More than half of the homeless in Los Angeles are either runaway youths or families." They are often referred to as the "New Homeless."

Officials estimate that nationwide, nearly 3 million people are homeless. In big cities such as Los Angeles and New York, the homeless rate is believed to be growing at an annual pace of up to 25%.

Advertising executives and officials at agencies for the homeless are clearly divided over how to best portray the plight of the homeless. Some even question whether advertisements on the subject have any impact at all. "Just walking around the streets of the city may be the best advertisement," said Jessica Marshall, assistant director of the New York-based Coalition for the Homeless. The advocacy group--which raised $1.2 million last year--brings cases for the homeless to court.

Most organizations for the homeless, however, are reluctant to spend donated dollars on advertising. "None of us," said Peter P. Smith, president of the New York-based Partnership for the Homeless, "want to take our resources from the mouths of the poor and put it into advertising."

Porsche Speeds Over to Chiat/Day's Rival

Porsche isn't used to getting left in the dust. But that is exactly what happened last month when the ad firm Chiat/Day drove full-speed after Nissan's $150-million account and dumped the $20-million Porsche Cars North America account.

So there was a measure of sweet revenge last week when Porsche announced it had selected the one ad agency that a growing number of ad executives have begun to recognize as a creative rival to Chiat/Day: Fallon McElligott. The two agencies are consistently the leaders in winning advertising industry creative awards.

In the last few years, the Minneapolis agency has cornered such big-name accounts as Federal Express, Lee Jeans and the Wall Street Journal. Now, the ad firm may face its trickiest test: give Porsche an advertised image of being even more upscale than it already is. After all, the same bottom-of-the-line Porsche that sold for $19,900 in 1985 now sells for about $26,000. So, Porsche needs a class of customer even wealthier than the buyer it was chasing two years ago.

Porsche buyers are supposedly becoming more sophisticated. "Our customers are no longer just buying Porsches so they can throw their keys on the counters of bars in Marina Del Rey," said John A. Cook, president and chief executive of Reno-based Porsche Cars North America. "Beyond status, we want to stress performance."

NBA Asks Tandy Corp. to Slam-Dunk Outfits

Lots of folks might like to suit up in a Los Angeles Lakers uniforms. But the National Basketball Assn. has taken the unusual step of warning Tandy Corp. not to put on the famous purple and yellow in advertisements.

Since mid-1986, Fort Worth-based Tandy has been running print ads--primarily in computer trade magazines--that pitch specialized computer systems that the company sells to operations such as police and fire departments. The ads show a team of Tandy basketball players dressed in Laker look-alike uniforms. "Join the Tandy Team," the headline says.

But after receiving an angry letter from the NBA a few months ago, Tandy changed the purple uniforms to dark blue. "The artist who created the ad is from Tennessee," explained Mike Wood, Tandy's national advertising manager, "but he's a big basketball fan, and I guess he subconsciously picked the Lakers colors."

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