How 'Scott' the Scottish lawn expert became a US advertising superstar
You might wonder why it took them so long. But Scotts, the giant lawn care people in the US have adopted a sound-alike Scotsman as their official face.
Now Scots character actor Phil McKee, who has played roles in Taggart and River City, as well as on stage at the Traverse theatre, looks set to become the best-known Scotsman in the United States.
Because of the mnemonic with the company name, Edinburgh-based Phil, 47, has been renamed "Scott" for the part, which could run for years. He plays a tartan-shirted man who knows everything there is to know about growing grass .
"Scott" will be in TV commercials and will also be the official voice on radio. There are also plans for him to be a big presence on social media.
Sharing the limelight with Phil will be his dog Haggis, appropriately a Scottie. Scotts Miracle-Gro, which has committed to an extra $50 million advertising on top of its $85 million overall budget, says this will be a "very long promotion"
The campaign is being referred to informally as "Scott the Scot for Scotts", says the New York Times.
Their headline reads, "Ads for Lawn-Care Brand Take a Highland Fling."
The campaign is the work of the Richards Group in Dallas, which Scotts Miracle-Gro recently hired to create campaigns for the Scotts brand.
Jim Lyski, who joined last year as chief marketing officer, said, "The concept of a Scotsman promoting Scotts to his neighbors in middle America may seem silly or corny, but there’s so much noise out there. You need a little something to break through the clutter.”
This week “Scott” was filming at the main Los Angeles baseball ground, baseball bat in hand.
"Baseball grounds have some of the best lawns in the country and Scott really wanted to demonstrate how good grass can be using our products," said the advertising man Scott Crockett - a principal at Richards.
"That was always my name," he laughed. “They didn’t ask me to change it!”
Once the Americans decided that it was a Scotsman they wanted, they held auditions in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and finally Glasgow - where they found Phil.
"We wanted an authentic Scotsman, not just someone who could put on a Scots accent," said Scott Crockett.
"Phil was just what we were looking for. He is a real pro and great to work with. He has a great sense of humour. And he is passionate about lawns!"
Research among more than 4,000 consumers found that “people would change their behaviour if an expert on their street spoke to them about lawn care,” said Lyski .
Despite his tartan shirts and Scottish accent, “he’s still pretty Americanised,” Lyski says.
In one television commercial, Scott tells a neighbour in his distinct accent about the “tiny voices crying out, ‘Feed us,’” on his lawn and how “they’re peckish to the point of starving.”
“Your grass, man, it’s a living, breathing thing,” Scott says. “It’s hungry, and you’ve got to feed it with Scotts Turf Builder.”
On commercials on the Scotts website, he says things like “Finding the right way to care for your lawn is as easy as clickin’ a mouse” and “Feedin’ your lawn’s never been easier!”
Scott Crockett said it was “part of the original concept to name the character Scott,” and “to have him be Scottish” in order for him to be perceived as “authentic.”
In tests, consumers found Scott’s accent “to be friendly and approachable - they liked it.”
The character has a back story, growing up in Scotland and having “a love for lawns”which is likely to be developed in social media.
In one commercial a neighbour's dog has damaged his lawn. Scott recommends he use a different patching mix. The neighbour spots Scott’s dog and asks, “So how come Haggis is so well-behaved?”
Scott replies, “’Cause he’s a Scottie.”
Phil is still very much in the film business. As soon as he is finished in LA he is heading back across the Atlantic for more filming, said Scott Crockett. Among many other shows, he has appeared in Band of Brothers and in the film Clash of the Titan, and on stage at the Traverse in Edinburgh.