Tuesday, April 21, 2009


The word is out on digital billboards! They are a hit!

The Center for Media Research just reported that those flashy, rotating digital billboards that you see along the highways of America attract more attention than the old conventional boards. The study was actually conducted by Center for Crash Causation and Human Factors at Virginia Tech's Transportation Institute. The major finding was that they really do not create a dangerous distraction which might cause accidents. It did conclude, however, that drivers (on average) glanced at digital billboards for 1.6 seconds longer than looking at conventional billboards. There were indications that the billboards were actively glanced at during the night. In an open-ended question, 10% of the drivers mentioned billboards as the single most memorable item on the trip, and two referred specifically to the digital billboards as being memorable.
This is great news for the outdoor advertising industry. You can expect to see more digital billboards springing up around you soon!


Big Spenders Change Their Strategy

According to the latest research from the American Affluence Research Center, some pessimism has is being recorded among "luxury consumers." It appears that the wealthiest U.S. households have cut their spending plans, lowered their expectations for personal income and have a less than positive outlook for an improved economy. The Center also reported that the numbers are at their lowest point since it began this twice-yearly survey of wealthy consumers in 2002.
What’s the new strategy? It really is a shift in changing their primary financial objective -- from capital appreciation and growth to preservation of assets.
The study reports that: “Multiple reasons, more than four on average, were given for cutting expenditures, with the top being "uncertain when the economy will recover" (80%), followed closely by "decline in the value of our investments/savings." Both were mentioned twice as much as in 2008, when "possibility of a recession" was cited by more than 50%.
Nevertheless, those in the higher income bracket that have assets that the study calls “investable” are not reducing spending and are much more optimistic about the future of the economy. In addition, the “over-50 group” is also more optimistic, although efforts to reduce expenditures in the past year and plans to so over the next year were found to be consistent across all demographics.

Thursday, April 16, 2009


Is Advertising Losing Its Charm In this Economy?

Is it true that "60% of all advertising, globally is wasted," according some experts quoted in several marketing papers last week? A few of them are even blaming the advertising and marketing world for the bank failures. They also imply advertising (as we know it) is being threatened by social media. The appeal of social media is exploding for two reasons: 1. it’s less expensive; and 2) it is being given a higher credibility level from a communications standpoint because it is interactive. The real issues are: How much is the world of marketing communications changing?” and “Will the changes be long lasting?”

My opinion is that the changes associated with social media will last for quite some time. This does not mean, however, that we should throw out all the marketing techniques and best practices we have learned over the years just because there’s a new (and maybe more effective) delivery system (i.e., online). First of all, it will take many moons before traditional marketers really can understand the advent of social media. Exacerbating this situation is the fact that they will have to sell their bosses and Upper Management on these tools before they will even be allowed to use them.

Some of my clients today are admittedly “afraid” of blogs, rapidly becoming the most impactful form of social media. Most of that fear is based on not knowing what a blog is or what it can do for a company or a brand. As direct result, they will stand by on the sidelines and watch the parade go by.

Secondly, if you believe in marketing at all, then you know that everything you do should revolve around the brand. If your brand (be it company and/or product) is not positioned correctly in the marketplace, it will fail. If your brand is not “connecting” with your target audiences’ needs, it will fail. And, if your brand is not nurtured and revitalized constantly, it will fail. In short, if you are not brand-centric from a marketing purview, you will ultimate suffer the consequences.

I’ll talk more about this in the next few posts, but for now, remember that we, as marketers and ad people, have to embrace the new and combine it with the expertise of the past.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Everything Old is New Again!

When I was listening to the radio in my car on the way home, I heard an AVIS commercial. At the end of the spot, the voiceover (announcer) said “We try harder!”
This is a theme line that made the company number two to Hertz over 40 years ago. Later on, I saw a Citibank commercial on the news and it ended with the line, “The Citi Never Sleeps!” This line may be as old as the AVIS line. I began to wonder why this was happening. Marketers are realizing that time-tested taglines that literally launched products and services just may need to be used again in this topsy-turvy economy. This could be the beginning of a trend.
Of course, some companies never changed their themes. Consider, for example, Allstate, Maxwell House and Campbell’s soup. I bet you can name their theme or taglines. More importantly, however, it does pay to do a little research to see how much “equity” is left in a given tagline before reviving it. Years ago, when Christie Whitman was elected Governor of New Jersey, she wanted her own theme line. This has become the norm. After we created a line that she liked (“What a difference a state makes!”) and ran it for a year, we did some surveys. While the line didn’t do that badly, it did not score as high as a line that was used for several years during the Kean administration. The line was “New Jersey & You. Perfect Together.” It had a 28% recall vs. 20% for the new line. So, we successfully made the argument to bring it back. Within six months of advertising the old line, the recall went to 72%! This rarely happens in our business. Nonetheless, when the new Governor came in, he wanted his own line which today no one can recall.
The point is when a tagline works for you, don’t let go of it too soon. You may regret it.


Why should you hire an expert blogger?

First of all, if you aren’t keeping up with the ever increasing power of company blogs and how effective they have become in building Web site traffic and credibility with the media, you won’t even be interesting in hiring an expert.
The fact is that, sooner or later, your company will have a corporate blog. When that happens, you have to be sure you develop the best blog possible. It isn’t, however, all that simple. In fact, it’s tricky to define a good blog. The closest I can come to a definition is that a good blog should impart valuable and timely information in a user-friendly way. The starting place, then, is to make sure you have a professional writer at the helm.
Some folks are great marketers but not great writers, some are great writers but not great photographers, others are lacking charisma, others can’t design a Web site, or program, or SEO their way out of a paper bag. Not that there’s anything wrong in that, it’s just that in my eyes, in order to truly call somebody a “blogging expert”, you need to have all of these.
At SGW, our blogwriters are mostly print journalists, publishing articles regularly in national publications, in addition to writing blogs. One of our bloggers also has as legal background, ensuring communications that won’t get you into trouble. The main thing that all our bloggers have in common is that we come from an integrated marketing communications background. We know how to use relevant media and target messages effectively using the right language to get people involved.
You cannot afford to take someone without this kind of experience and make that person your corporate blogger. There’s a lot more to it than that. When you need to know more, we’ll be happy to discuss this with you further.


Tuesday, April 14, 2009


Turbulent times call for a Return to Traditional Thinking

Whenever I have had to find the best way to navigate through troubled business waters, I remember when an wise old friend told me “It's time to get back to the basics and focus on keeping things practical.” I start to think long and hard about how easy it is to take knee-jerk reactions to issues that may be changing the way people think about my business.
I have to sit back and say that just because it’s 2009 doesn’t mean that business marketing shouldn’t still be simple and basic. I start by looking at how my “brand” might have been affected. To find this out, I conduct a simple research study among several key customers. They’ll be honest with me and provide some initial thinking that will help me to develop communications strategies. I could “second-guess” what’s going on, but I learned that it hardly ever works. Once I am off to a good start, it becomes a matter of going back to the marketing basics.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009


Sienfeld-Gates Campaign

The results are in! Microsoft has announced that their somewhat "weird" campaign featuring Jerry Sienfeld and Bill Gates launched last September is a success. They stated that their market share is up by 10% since the campaign started. I really never stayed involved long enough to appreciate why these guys were invading an ordinary household or how they even got together in the first place. It appears, however, that maybe it wasn't the message of the ads, but the fact that the publicity the ads got was equal to four or five times the cost of the media buy.

This is some what of a revelation in that the cardinal rule for using celebrity testimonials has also been their relevancy to the product. Simply put, the more people could identify with the celebrity actually using the product he or she was endorsing, the more credible (and consquently, effective) the message would be. I guess now the rule is if you use enormously powerful people in your spots, the public relations effort will carry the day, regardless of how good the actual commercials are. Imagine how it could work if the spots delivered the message in a more creative and entertaining way. It's a new world out there.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009


What is a brand?

It amazes me how much people can say about branding. I went through 64 definitions of "branding" and came to the conclusion that a brand is nothing more than a collection of thoughts one may get when seeing a logo or an icon for a product or service. You don't need a psychoanalytic reading or some scientific formula to understand that all a brand has to do is to connect with the right target. There must be hundreds of different branding programs out there that are, in my opinion, somewhat of a scam.

I like the theory of "brand essence." BMW did this when they did their branding research and found out that you could reduce the description of what they made in two words: "brilliant car." Now, of course, that is not advertising language, but from those two words, their wonderful theme ("The Ultimate Driving Machine") was developed. Makes sense, huh?

So, the next time you see a brand, especially one you can identify with, try to guess what the brand essence is.

Monday, April 06, 2009


Why is advertising becoming less creative?

I have been in this business for over three decades and I am amazed at how the quality of television ads has gotten to such a low level. Given the cost of an average 30-second commercial starting at around $400,000, it amazes me that many (or most) commercials I see today are ordinary at best. I often wonder why people, especially clients, are willing to settle for such mundaneity. How many times can I see the CEO of Sprint walking down the street in a black-and-white spot? Though I have seen this ad at least 100 times, I still have yet to listen to what he's selling! It's just too boring.

Granted, there are some cute spots with kids and animals, but how many geckos and geese do I have to be exposed to? And, let's not even talk about the new visual effects and how they are used to get totally in the way of the message. We used to call this "video vampire." You know, when the graphics outweigh the main message. I'll be commenting on some of the newer spots from here on out and would love to hear about the ones you wish to comment on as well.

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