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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2014

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In Marketplace Commentary

David Gruber now has about 80 people working in his office, including his son and his wife, both attorneys. (PHOTO: David Bernacchi )

Rodgers spots confirm Gruber's commitment


"One Call! That's All!

That is the ubiquitous slogan that's been part of Milwaukee's television landscape for a quarter of a century.

The slogan, of course, belongs to David Gruber, the personal injury attorney who is on television about as often as your favorite news anchor or weather forecaster. His practice is eloquent testimony to the power of advertising as long as two things exist: Advertising needs to be consistent and frequent, and the promise that is made in the commercial needs to be fulfilled.

"When I started advertising on television, almost 25 years ago, the office consisted of me," Gruber said as we sat in his office which is a paean to the world of sports, especially basketball. Jerseys and balls of all sort fill his office.

He now has about 80 people working in his office, including his son and his wife, both attorneys. I asked him about this idea that there is a risk that television advertising can fall flat if the ads promise things that can't be delivered.

"We have always been a very direct law firm," he said. "We meet people face to face, eye to eye. And we work very hard for our clients. That's the way the promise in 'One Call! That's All!' is met."

Naturally skeptical, I fully expected Gruber to be a slick kind of snake oil salesman type who could talk the talk, but not walk the walk.

Instead, Gruber is a genuine, smart attorney who runs a successful law firm and has carved a place for himself in the world of charity work and in giving back to the community that has been so good to him. That's something lots of people say, but Gruber's actions speak loud and clear that he truly believes in what he does.

The most visible thing he does is a series of spots with Aaron Rodgers, the Green Bay Packers quarterback. Each commercial is designed to highlight an organization that deserves to have a light shined on it and which ought to get applause for the work it does.

The hook is that Rodgers shows up unexpectedly and meets with a young person. They have a conversation that revolves around the individuals and the organization they represent. They are remarkably effective television spots, but the long-form videos are incredibly moving.

"I met Aaron at a MACC Fund event," Gruber said. "We started to talk and after awhile we became casual friends. We did a couple of spots about certain issues and we got along."

The first one had the two of them sitting in overstuffed chairs, looking awkward as could be, talking about drunk driving or something. The message and the style has come a long way since that one.

"That was the first," Gruber said. "I agree, it was pretty stilted. But after awhile the discussion turned to doing something more than just sitting there and talking about an issue."

They all knew they wanted to do something different, something more meaningful, and Greg Marshall, the chief storyteller at CI Design in Milwaukee came up with a raft of suggestions.

"These spots were at the end of the spectrum from the kind of things that you would normally see an athlete do," Marshall said.

That was the birth of the "It's Aaron" spots.

They've shot six of them, two seasons worth and the goal is to have season three up at the start of the football season.

These spots fill a couple of holes. For one they do, indeed, highlight the work of a special service organization. They also shine a light on young people who face some difficulties and who face those difficulties with a smile on their face and a measure of success.

The third thing is that you really get to look at Aaron Rodgers outside of a football uniform and outside of a news conference answering questions from reporters. Think Rodgers with a guitar in his hand or jumping on a trampoline with kids. He's open and honest and funny and a very appealing person.

"Aaron is great to work with," Marshall said. "It's all ad libbed and informal. We set up the initial meeting, but from there on it just happens naturally. I have great trust in Aaron. He has the ability to get outside himself and be fully present with these kids. He's very sharp and when he suggests something I trust that it's going the way it should go."

These spots are incredible. Go to the site here and look at the long-form videos which are two or three times longer than the spots you see on television, and you will see what I mean.

It would be easy to claim that this is all a self-serving idea for Gruber. But it's clear there is no self-serve in this. Go and watch the spot with a young girl named Kelly who has spina bifida and who shares a song with Rodgers, all the while building awareness for Independence First. "Touching" doesn't begin to capture it.

Gruber really believes in what these kids and these organizations do and he puts his hopes for a better world into action. This whole thing costs him money and time, but when he says it's worth it, I'm convinced that he means it.

After all, to help a child or a friend or an organization, all it can take is just One call. That's all.


Talkbacks

scotbear8175 | June 5, 2014 at 10:49 a.m. (report)

I would imagine that MR. Rodgers' has donated his time in lieu of compensation.

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TosaJim | June 5, 2014 at 8:00 a.m. (report)

He may be a nice guy...but I hate the ads and I hate the fact that he does "good deeds" with Rogers all while a camera follows them around...hopefully any money Rogers gets is donated to a charity...

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