Staples goes retro to show small businesses it can print big

The campaign, by Muhtayzik Hoffer, leans on the hit ‘90s pop song “I Saw the Sign” to showcase its printing services.

Staples wants small businesses to know that it can print signs of any size at its stores – no matter how large they are.

The office supply retailer partnered with San Francisco-based agency Muhtayzik Hoffer (M/H) to get the message out with a retro twist. The resulting campaign is based on the 1993 hit single from Swedish pop group Ace of Base, “I Saw the Sign.” 

In the spot, a woman walks into a Staples store and says, “I wanted to get a big banner printed, and I saw the sign.” She points to a large sign hanging on the wall that says “This is your sign: Staples prints big.” 

Staples staffers then break out into a ‘90s music video revival of the song, directed by none other than MTV music video veteran Joseph Kahn. 

Allen Yu, M/H creative director, told Campaign US that the inspiration for the spot came when the song came on during a brainstorming session. 

“The brief was clear: ‘People need to know Staples is printing big signs for small businesses,’” he said. “Suddenly, the song came on Spotify while we were concepting, and it just clicked.”

Kahn started making videos in the 1990s with Aaliyah, and has filmed music videos for iconic early aughts artists including Backstreet Boys, Blink 182 and Britney Spears. He’s also made a more modern impression as the eye behind Taylor Swift’s videos.

“When I started making music videos in the ‘90s, I always did two things: go to Staples and listen to Ace of Base. This commercial was destiny,” said Kahn via an official statement. 

The national campaign, which will run through June, launched with a 60-second spot on Instagram and YouTube. Thirty-second cuts will air on broadcast television, and 15-second clips will run on TikTok and Instagram Stories. The campaign also has an audio component on streaming and broadcast. 

“Right now, the song is our hero, so all our executions are focused in places where you can get that earworm moving around in your head,” Yu said. 

Staples employees are getting involved as well with a TikTok challenge in which they create their own music video featuring the song and small business signs for prizes. 

“So far, the challenge has been well received,” Yu said. “Store teams are showcasing their small business customers and the signs made for them.”

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