As seasonal ice cream business reached its peak in July, Oberweis Dairy, North Aurora, Ill., piloted a four-part television ad campaign on Chicago-area network and cable programs.

The processor of premium milk and ice cream specializes in home delivery, and operates a chain of upscale ice cream/dairy store shops. It also has used aggressive marketing campaigns to help spur impressive growth.

"Summer is obviously the best time to be advertising ice cream," says Marketing Director Mark Vance. "It's the season that drives our ice cream sales, resulting in approximately 50% of our annual business, and we thought it only fitting that we let everyone know about the Oberweis philosophy of providing 'simply the best' dairy products around."

Inspired by the need to break through the advertising clutter, Oberweis realized that to stay ahead of the game, it needed to take advertising efforts beyond word-of-mouth, public relations and radio promotions.

"We've doubled the number of our company-owned stores and we continue to grow dramatically each year. The evolution of our marketing efforts must mirror the evolution of the company. Television advertising was the next, appropriate step in our overall marketing plan, and for a company that's been around for 76 years, this was a good first step." says Vance.

The four new television spots--"Grandpa," "Love at First Sight," "Sunny Side Up," and "It's Your Morning"--all feature Oberweis Dairy Chairman Jim Oberweis as the spokesperson for his family-owned company. Filmed in and around the Chicago area, each spot uses humor and homey situations to underscore the company's old-fashioned American values.

Oberweis' appearance in the commercials raised some controversy, as he is seeking a U.S. Senate seat, and some saw the ads as politically motivated. He contends that television advertising has been part the company's long-term strategy for years.

On its own, the campaign is an example of the company's unconventional approach to selling dairy products. For instance, Oberweis milk and other fluid products are packaged only in half-gallon glass bottles whether for home delivery or for sale in company-owned stores and in grocery chains.

The TV campaign, created in conjunction with Washington D.C.-based agency I-Imagine Entertainment, has been featured on such programs as The Today Show and The Oprah Winfrey Show as well as cable networks including HGTV, Lifetime, TLC and The Food Channel.

"Sunny Side Up" is designed to showcase Oberweis' commitment to exceptional service, and features Jim Oberweis making breakfast for a couple of his home delivery customers. In "It's Your Morning" an Oberweis milkman brings the morning paper to his customers and pours cream in their coffee. "Grandpa," features Oberweis and his granddaughter enjoying ice cream.

"Jim Oberweis has used I-Imagine for his other company, Oberweis Asset Management, and felt that his previous partnership with them would result in an accurate portrayal of the dairy and all that we stand for," says Vance. "They've done an excellent job of communicating our core values and focus on quality."

Oberweis Dairy provides home delivery to more than 40,000 customers in metropolitan Chicago, Central and Southern Illinois, St. Louis, Missouri and Indianapolis, Indiana. The company operates 28 Ice Cream and Dairy Stores throughout suburban Chicago and St. Louis. In addition to fountain treats, the stores provide packaged super premium ice cream, milk and other premium dairy products from the company's manufacturing facility in North Aurora.

"We are a local company with a firm foundation and a strong sense of family principles," says Vance. "We wanted to create a campaign that was reflective of this while still highlighting the Oberweis tradition of providing value and service to the customer.

"We couldn't be happier with our first foray into television and look forward to growing our company and our advertising efforts with that focus on the future."

Oberweis Dairy works exclusively with local family farms who pledge not to use artificial growth hormones. "The quality of our products, the way they are produced and distributed as well as our attention to spectacular service are the fundamentals of all of our marketing efforts," says Vance.

Oberweis is currently planning the next group of television ad spots that are scheduled to appear during the upcoming holiday season.