Ad Campaign Looks to Honor the American Construction Worker

A new campaign aims to redefine what it means to be in construction by encouraging construction workers to get the respect and recognition they deserve.

📅   Tue August 18, 2015 - National Edition
Irwin Rapoport - CEG CORRESPONDENT


Launched last spring in Chicago, the “Born to Build” campaign initiated by Chicago’s Ozinga Bros. Inc., plans are already in the works to initiate a second phase of the advertising campaign. Partnered with creative agency Cultivate Studi
Launched last spring in Chicago, the “Born to Build” campaign initiated by Chicago’s Ozinga Bros. Inc., plans are already in the works to initiate a second phase of the advertising campaign. Partnered with creative agency Cultivate Studi

Launched last spring in Chicago, the “Born to Build” campaign initiated by Chicago’s Ozinga Bros. Inc., plans are already in the works to initiate a second phase of the advertising campaign. Partnered with creative agency Cultivate Studios, the goal of the campaign is to “honor and celebrate” the American construction worker and those in construction-related trades.

Ozinga Bros., a fourth-generation family-owned business founded in 1928 on the south side of Chicago, a ready mix concrete producer and supplier, is currently run by five brothers and a cousin. The family is covering the cost of the campaign and is pleased with the results.

“It’s a significant investment and the message has been received well and is spreading,” said Tim Ozinga, co-owner and the firm’s marketing communications director, “and we have a lot of people that we are talking to that are interested in participating with us in the next campaign. I was most surprised by the reaction on Facebook. We posted the campaign commercial on there, with some supporting promotion, and the video has been viewed over 240,000 times and it was shared and liked by thousands.

“There are also a ton of comments from trades people across the country affirming the message,” he added. “They felt like the campaign spoke to them directly and clearly there was an outpouring of pride, ownership, and excitement that somebody was finally telling their story.”

“The family had taken a close look at the construction industry as a whole and noticed that the trade profession is commonly overlooked, discounted, and generally under-appreciated,” said Tom Donda, an associate of Motion PR. “Through the campaign, Ozinga also aims to redefine what it means to be in construction by encouraging construction workers to get the respect and recognition they deserve. These individuals make up the very foundation of the industry — they hard work, demonstrate perseverance, and are singular individuals that have specialized knowledge and experience.”

This a three-phase campaign: billboards placed in 16 locations throughout Chicagoland, northern Indiana and south Wisconsin in the spring until mid-summer; a 60-second ad placed on tel-evision stations throughout the area from March through May, as well as radio ads; and an ongoing social media outreach on Facebook and other venues.

Marty Ozinga IV, the president of the company conceived of the idea for the campaign in 2013 and Tim Ozinga immediately got on board.

“It was something that we genuinely felt and it made a lot of sense to head in this direction,” said Tim Ozinga, “and since 2008, when the recession started, the construction industry and the trades were hit hard. There was a lot of uncertainty about the future of the industry, but the construction workers and the trades stuck it out and we’re on the move again. The campaign is a rallying cry to say ’we realize the hard work that you do and the tough times experienced by all, and we’re excited now that we can see the end of the tunnel.’

“But it’s deeper than that,” he added. “Often times they are under-estimated or people think that being in a trade or construction is somehow less of a vocation than some other alternatives and we really wanted to challenge that and stress that these are indispensable people that we need in order to build communities and country. These are the people who build the roads and bridges we use daily, the homes and the buildings that we live and work in, and the places where we go to shop and play. A lot of people take it for granted the amount of hard work that goes into mak-ing this lifestyle possible.”

The commercial was produced with the support of local general contractors —footage taken at construction sites operated by Walsh Construction and Alpine Demolition Services and with co-operation of local tradespeople at Superior Furniture Repair and Builder’s Ironworks who consented to be filmed.

“There are a few other videos that came out of that — some short vignette pieces,” said Tim Ozinga. “We’ve been contacted by some trade locals and unions that really appreciate the mes-sage. We’re continuing the dialogue with them and sharing ideas.”

Marty and Tim Ozinga approached Cultivate early spring 2014.

“Working with them over the last 10 years,” said Chris Pierik, Creative Director at Cultivate Studios, “we have known Ozinga to be big supporters of their workers and advocates for the American worker in general. It made perfect sense to us that they would want to celebrate tradespeople. They received the ’Top 100 Workplaces, 2014’ award from the Chicago Tribune, so this initiative aligns perfectly with who Ozinga is.

“Using Marty’s idea ’to celebrate the construction worker,’” he continued, “we set out to craft a message that was true to the sentiment of tradespeople who have a deep attachment to their work. The beginning of the video script talks about a stigma that exists about tradespeople, the middle of the script paints the picture as to how tradespeople defy the stigma, and the end of the script is a sort of rallying cry to tradespeople to continue building our communities and country, and overcoming the odds. It was important to feature real tradespeople to be authentic to who they are and we used handheld camera movements to put the viewer in the scene with the workers.”

To craft the billboards, Cultivate photographed tradespeople using dramatic lighting and pose that would celebrate him/her as a hero.

“By pairing the campaign message ’You Were Born To Build’ with the photograph,” said Pierikk, “we were able to convey that Ozinga understands the best tradespeople don’t get there by accident and that they understand it to be their destiny or a sort of calling. They work hard to make something of themselves and support their families, while also having an impact on our communities and our country. They are our everyday heroes who deserve to be celebrated.”

The upcoming phase of the campaign, expected to be launched next spring, has Ozinga Bros. bringing in new partners and additional resources. A key element of it shall be finding a way to maintain the drive and imagination that children have when they are young about constructing and creating buildings and objects, when they play with Lego, building blocks, and construction vehicles, and building structures in sandboxes with shovels and buckets.

“Somehow that notion is challenged and that being involved in construction is not a good vocation,” said Tim. “This stigma exists and it has to be challenged. This was driven home to us by our annual ’Touch a Truck’ events where the kids of our employees can come into our yard and touch a concrete mixer and go for a ride in one, and get a chance to dig in the sand with real construction vehicles. We have one every Father’s Day so that the children can see what their par-ents do.

“This gives them a real feel for what it is like to be in the construction and building industry,” he added, “and you can see that sense of excitement in the faces of the little girls and boys. We also participate in a lot of community events that are organized through park districts.”

Many note that many parents place an emphasis on their children attending university and not considering the trades as a viable option and that education authorities and bodies at various levels do not place enough resources into promoting the trades.

“We’ve worked with some of the trade schools in the past and we’re hoping to pull some of them in with the upcoming campaign,” said Tim Ozinga. “It’s a message that needs to be put forward and it’s not being pursued enough today. There are a lot of great paying jobs with benefits that our company and the industry-at-large are having a hard time filling. We’re facing a skills gap and the work force in construction and the trades is aging, and many younger people are not seeing this as good opportunity.”

Tim Ozinga and his brothers have a lot of experience in the construction industry due to their parents insisting that they understand the industry from the bottom up.

“We all had to go through the ringer to get where we are at today,” he said, “and it has given us an extensive insight into the industry and the people in it. This campaign has been a first for us and I would venture to say that this is a first time that any ready mix concrete producer has ever done anything like this.”

He added that many construction and trades people who commented on the commercial also come from families that have had several generations in the trades, which demonstrates that skills and experiences are being shared and passed down, that children and grandchildren have access to good jobs. This also includes several Ozinga employees.

Tim Ozinga is hoping that this Chicago initiative can be replicated across the country.

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