by Oresti Patricios (@orestaki) Publicis Machine gets inventive and throws conventional advertising out the window for that popular urban lifestyle brand, Stones. Thanks to smart thinking, the pool hall/pub/club benefits from an experience that opens up a new ‘platform’ for beverage brands to promote themselves.

A franchise chain of some 13 theme bars, whose main attraction is a section for pool tables, Stones also sports a relaxed pub setup that includes a dance floor and DJ-driven music, as well as light meals such as pizza. Although the focal points, the pool tables, are coin-slot operated, the club makes far more on drinks, and has also relied on alcoholic beverage companies to sponsor launches and promotions as part of its revenue stream.

But all of that is changing, thanks to a savvy ad agency, Publicis Machine. According to some recent publicity material, the pool bar noticed that its revenues were being diverted to newer, ‘more contemporary’ venues and so the challenge was on to win relevance and to ensure that Stones maximises the ‘cool’ factor — all in a recessionary environment where consumers are spending less and marketers need to innovate and come up with more cost-effective ways of engaging with consumers.

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The key word here is “engage” — a word you may have heard being bandied about more and more recently. Engagement, in my mind, means listening to your customer and giving them what they want, in such a way that they keep coming back for more. It’s clear the the Publicis Machine gurus had this in mind when they put their heads together to come up with a solution for Stones. And a very smart solution it is, too: the Stones BOT, or Bottle Operated Table.

The BOT is a pool table that doesn’t take coins. Instead, it has a special bottle-deposit mechanism able to recognise different beer brands, based on the colour profile of the label. All a user has to do is buy the beer (or cider) on promotion, insert the bottle into the mechanism, and the balls in the pool table will be released for a new game. The mechanism is easily reprogrammed to recognise different brands. As an added promotion, the sides of the pool tables may also be branded to maximise the impact for the beverage being promoted.

Stones BOT collageStones reports that the first promotion went off very well, driving up sales for the featured beverage. Now there are several brands ‘lining up’ to use the Stones BOT.

This just goes to show that you don’t need a fancy, multimillion-rand campaign to engage with your customers. But you do need smart marketing that understands the target customers and how to engage with them.

Publicis Machine rack it and sink it on the break for Stones. And, if you don’t know what that means, it’s time you joined me for a game at Stones. But it will cost you a beer.


Account manager: Jamie Rossiter
Agency art director: Joshua Foster
Brand representative (client): Duncan Graham
Creative production agency: Nurun
Executive creative director: Gareth McPherson
Information architect/UX design: Johan Steyn, Gareth Cozens, Richard Masefield, Vanya Kruger
Programming: Johan Steyn, Gareth Cozens, Richard Masefield, Vanya Kruger
Regional agency group: Publicis Worldwide
Writer: PJ Eales



Oresti PatriciosAd of the Week, published on MarkLives every Wednesday, is penned by Oresti Patricios (@orestaki), the CEO of Ornico, a Brand Intelligence® firm that focuses on media, reputation and brand research. If you are involved in making advertising that is smart, funny and/or engaging, please let Oresti know about it at

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