It isn't pushing a gilded, Swarovski Crystal-studded hamster cage.
Hell, yeah. Advertisers are supposed to connect with their customers, to elicit feelings of empathy and identification (at least, to the extent one can achieve that with toothpaste or laundry detergent). In a weird twist of irony, the recession may even make messaging easier because it puts literally everyone on the same page. Employed or unemployed, worker, student, housewife, or retiree, everyone's hurting.
There's an elephant in the room, in case you haven't noticed. Brands, products, and services that can position themselves as necessary and relevant, comfortable, environmentally friendly, wholesome, and nurturing have a real edge in this environment.
And as Aegis Media CEO Sarah Fay pointed out in a discussion we had earlier in the week, economic downtimes present very real opportunities for product launches into a marketplace where competitors have often become quieter, thus opening up more room for the noise factor.
Just make certain you're making the right kind of noise. In an era when those who can still afford to shop are doing so in secret, it's time to pull back on the sell that promises luxury, exclusivity, or indulgence.
Yet some advertisers soldier on, oblivious to the fact that Rome is burning. Clearly, account planning had gone beyond the point of no return, the only possible explanation for the oxymoronic ubiquity of Visa's Black Card campaign:
The message's positioning of the high-net-worth individual at this time is insulting. But tempered, perhaps, by Visa's big out-of-home push. When I see this campaign in the subway, first I'm shocked, then I laugh a little about Visa's hopes to reach that exalted one percent on the Queens-bound F train.
The Medium, Not Just the Message
There's only one advertising channel solidly on the upswing these days: search. Hypertargeted to user intent, a solid search engine marketing campaign is self-financing, so what's not to like? Print advertising is withering on the vine -- and planned postal rate hikes in May couldn't be more ill-timed for an industry that's beginning to appear almost beyond redemption.
Television is familiar, a source of comfort and reassurance for tree-hugging advertisers, particular consumer packaged goods. And interactive channels other than search are holding their own, if not thriving. As Fay confirms, familiarity is soothing in troubled times, even to advertisers. It's back to banners and e-mail and less experimentation with flashy, new gee-whiz formats, placements, and technologies.
Despite layoffs in media buying and planning departments and increasing conservatism among advertisers, some may stand to benefit in this climate. Over a recent lunch, Madison Avenue Consultants president Wendy McHale told me her firm is cautiously optimistic of having not just a good but a great year. With growing layoffs, someone's got to assume media responsibilities. Firms like hers could stand to benefit.
Advertisers are also advised to go social, to think more "marketing" and less "advertising" when budgets are stretched to the breaking point. Over half of this country's leading retailers have already established a presence on Facebook, for example (and at considerably less expenditure than a Super Bowl spot). There's blogging, online video, and participatory chatter, all of it in the zero-cost budgetary realm.
The going's gotten tougher, but that's no reason to lose share of voice. Just make certain the message, products, and services you're vocalizing about come through in messaging appropriate to these tough times.
Rebecca is off today. Today's column originally ran on January 30, 2009.
How do high-performance brands achieve branding goals while increasing ROI? Join us on Wednesday, October 7, 2009, at 1 p.m., for a free Webinar to learn how you can add transparent CPL advertising to complement your existing banner and search campaigns, and round out your media plan.
Join the Industry's Leading eCommerce & Direct Marketing Experts in Chicago
ClickZ Live Chicago (Nov 3-6) will deliver over 50 sessions across 4 days and 10 individual tracks, including Data-Driven Marketing, Social, Mobile, Display, Search and Email. Check out the full agenda and register by Friday, Oct 3 to take advantage of Early Bird Rates!
Rebecca was previously VP, U.S. operations of Econsultancy, an independent source of advice and insight on digital marketing and e-commerce. Earlier, she held executive marketing and communications positions at strategic e-services companies, including Siegel & Gale, and has worked in the same capacity for global entertainment and media companies, including Universal Television & Networks Group (formerly USA Networks International) and Bertelsmann's RTL Television. As a journalist, she's written on media for numerous publications, including "The New York Times" and "The Wall Street Journal." Rebecca spent five years as Variety's Berlin-based German/Eastern European bureau chief. Rebecca also taught at New York University's Center for Publishing, where she also served on the Electronic Publishing Advisory Group. Rebecca, author of "The Truth About Search Engine Optimization," was ClickZ's editor-in-chief for over seven years.
IBM Social Analytics: The Science Behind Social Media Marketing
80% of internet users say they prefer to connect with brands via Facebook. 65% of social media users say they use it to learn more about brands, products and services. Learn about how to find more about customers' attitudes, preferences and buying habits from what they say on social media channels.
An Introduction to Marketing Attribution: Selecting the Right Model for Search, Display & Social Advertising
If you're considering implementing a marketing attribution model to measure and optimize your programs, this paper is a great introduction. It also includes real-life tips from marketers who have successfully implemented attribution in their organizations.
September 23, 2014
September 30, 2014
1:00pm ET/10:00am PT
October 23, 2014
1:00pm ET/10:00am PT