By Michael Stodola Special to Published Apr 19, 2008 at 11:57 AM

I'm a landlord. And, currently, a friend and I are also fixing up a home to "flip." Most people -- including myself -- would consider this home to be in a pretty sketchy neighborhood. I can't say where exactly, but my wife won't let me work there alone.

Several months ago, we started getting vandalized. A few rocks through some windows and some graffiti -- nothing too big. More irritating though, we got our WE Energies meter pulled off the house, and the copper wire providing power was stolen.

This means calling WE Energies technicians, calling a professional electrician, paying out about $150 and waiting about three days until it's fixed. The first time we were hit, we decided to put some lights on -- timers to make it seem like someone was home. This security measure held up for a couple weeks, until we were hit again. Another $150 down the tubes. We then had lights on and off, and added the porch light and started visiting the house more often. Soon after, we were hit again. Ditto on the $150. (Now, remember, the crackhead stealing the copper to pay for a fix only gets about $10 for his trouble.)

I then thought, "Hmmm, who is my audience and how best can I communicate to them?"

After thinking about leaving a $10 bill in the box for them or mounting a surveillance camera to catch them in the act, I decided to appeal to a basic fear. Fear is the universal motivator applied by millions of advertisers over hundreds of years. I employed my graphic skills, a few well-chosen words, the right placement and I got the message directly to my audience. Specifically, I made a sticker that straddled the meter box itself.


A nice big WE Energies logo, some orange and black stripes, and voila! It's been months now and other homes have been "hit," but we've remained secure.

My "focus group" taught me that getting fried isn't worth $10. It's something I'll apply to my future work and a lesson for us all: Speak in language relevant to YOUR audience. After a few rounds with the local addicts, I found success with an economical usage of my ad dollars. Now, if I can only find a way to get them to buy a couple State Fair tickets -- BINGO!

Michael Stodola Special to
Michael Stodola is the Creative Director at Boelter + Lincoln – a Milwaukee advertising agency. He loves his job, but not as much as he loves scuba diving, crab cakes or playing with his kids. His favorite thing is sneaking off for dates with his hottie wife. Born and raised in Nebraska, he’s been calling Milwaukee home for well over 10 years. After Michael’s impending death, he’d like to return to this world as your next American Idol®.