Seussian Success

Posted on Jul 1, 2009 :: Small Business Spotlight
Sharon Verbeten
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

DuFour Advertising Production Manager Kathryn DuFour (left)

They really want to be on top…
And with six awards (and counting) they may never stop!

With a touch of Seussian genius, DuFour Advertising has gone beyond making a corporate annual report interesting – all the way to award-winning. The Sheboygan firm’s design and production of the 2007 annual report for Acuity Insurance has garnered six prestigious awards, ranging from local to international.

“We do something a little quirky or offbeat in all our marketing campaigns,” says Bret Blizzard, Acuity’s director of communications. “We view this as a marketing piece rather than just an annual report.”

The annual report, titled “Hop on Top,” was written, illustrated and produced to mimic a Dr. Seuss children’s book. So far, it has won a silver ADDY at the local level, a gold ADDY and special judges’ award at the district level and is up for a national ADDY. The ADDYs are sponsored by the American Advertising Federation.

On the international stage, it has won two platinum level MarCom awards for design and writing, as well as a Hermes creative award, all judged by the Association of Marketing and Communication Professionals.

DuFour – owned by Tim and Kathryn DuFour – has been creating the Acuity report for about 10 years, and each year the report is one of their most avant-garde efforts. Previous reports have been modeled after the “Guinness Book of World Records,” album covers and The New Yorker magazine.

“It’s the biggest thing they [Acuity] do,” says Tim DuFour. “People actually read it. It helps support their brand, and it showcases them.”

Blizzard agrees. In the competitive world of insurance, he says, “You have to do something to differentiate yourself.”

DuFour Art Director Drew Foerster, a veteran of the Acuity projects, brainstormed the initial Seuss idea. “I thought it would be a fun way to present the information,” he says. Once Acuity approved the concept, work began in earnest, both in illustration and text. “It’s collaboration – a good partnership,” Foerster says.

Production manager Kathryn DuFour illustrated the annual report. She made black-and-white sketches, striving to replicate the distinct and whimsical flavor of Dr. Seuss’s characters. Sketches were later colored and paired with text for the final layouts.

“I don’t think I realized how many drawings I would be doing,” she recalls. “It was fun. I was sorry to see it end.”

“They did the design around the text,” Blizzard says. “Part of the challenge you have is to get across insurance concepts, boiled down to a few words.”

Blizzard says Acuity considered hiring a children’s book author to write the copy, but he offered to attempt the project. His first draft, written in just a day and a half, was eventually used.

Blizzard says Acuity’s report does more than relay the company’s annual statistics. “It really resonates with a large number of our agents,” he says.

Although winning creative awards is a bonus, creating a product that both looks great and accomplishes its goals is the primary purpose.

“The [annual report] mimics the culture of the company,” says Tim DuFour, “but the bottom line is, you still gotta get results. We feel very fortunate that we get a project like this.”