About the Ads With Legs Archive

AWL-profileAds With Legs (2012-2013) was an award-winning blog I created for The Press of Atlantic City. It offered timely and creative information to local advertisers from Press staff as well as some outside experts. This archive is a collection of my posts.
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Why to Consider Advertorials versus Going Native

group social media_107151458Thanks to the web and social media we have yet another new advertising term to learn - "Native Advertising."  The problem is that even those in-the-know don't know exactly what it is. "The native advertising industry is so new that nobody can agree what it means in the first place," writes Jack Marshall in his Digiday article aptly entitled Native Ad Terminology is a Mess. The easiest way to start to understand Native Advertising is to look at its counterpart in the print world  - the Advertorial. In its most basic format, a native ad is a digital ad that promotes something by trying to appear as if it's not an ad. So why the new term? Simply put -- Advertorials are simple and Native Advertising is not. What Advertorials and Native Advertising have in common are two shared goals:
  1. To create advertising content/copy that doesn't appear to be an ad
  2. To create an ad that is closely aligned with people's expected experience.
The second goal is admittedly jargony as it stems from the web world, but this is what it means: when a reader picks up a magazine or newspaper, she expects to read articles. Hence, advertorial appears as articles. The format of the advertising matches the reader's expected experience in picking up the print product. The good news is that newspapers and magazines have long-established standards so readers can easily spot advertorials and be aware that they are reading "Sponsored or Paid" copy. Industry studies indicate that  readers understand advertorials are promotional, but like the format just as they like to read ads. Advertorials, when measured, continue to show solid returns for advertisers. In the digital world the concept of expected experience also is called intended or organic experience. It means creating content that, similar to advertorials, match the viewer's desired experience when they go on to a specific digital medium. And, here's where it gets complicated as some come to a digital platform to read articles, others to scan headlines, some to watch videos, and still others to search for information, or listen to music. The format of native ads, therefore, changes for each of these experiences. The most common type of native ad is a Paid Search Ad on Google. The intended experience is for searchers to see results based on a defined search term or series of words. The organic search results bubble to the top based on a Google, Bing, or other algorithms. The native experience is to see paid ads next to the organic ads that have been strategically placed to entice the viewer interested in the searched term. Other common examples are sponsored Tweets, and sponsored Facebook posts, but there are many others. Google, Facebook and Twitter provide "closed" native ads - meaning you can sponsor Tweets within Twitter feeds, or sponsor Facebook links within the Facebook news feed.  There are also "open" native ads that run across platforms, but these are too complex to address in one blog post. Unlike print advertorials, digital native ads are not always clearly marked.  According to a 2013 e-Marketer report: "Native ad spending is growing faster than many other forms of digital advertising." And an April 2013 BIA/Kelsey study states:  “Native social formats, including video, and mobile-social advertising will be the principal market growth drivers.” But the jury on native ad effectiveness is still out.  Some marketers love them.  Some consumers hate them. The Walk-away:  Sponsored ads work. It's why advertorials have been popular with so many advertisers for so many years. But, when it comes to the digital world, the best advice is "Buyer Beware."  The medium is so new that it's not yet regulated, and it's easy to spend big bucks that literally dissipate into air. Until there's more agreement on what works and what's ethical, it's best to stay grounded in advertising techniques that have proven their mettle for all sorts of advertisers.
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E-mail is a Powerful Business Tool

email 78542920It’s hard to learn about e-mail marketing, because if you Google it you get bombarded with ads or links to service providers trying to sell you their solution rather than solid information about e-mail marketing. The first question, of course, is: Are you using e-mail marketing at all, and if so to what degree? The second question is: How do you know when you’ve outgrown the basic providers from Microsoft Outlook to Hotmail, Gmail, iCloud or even Yahoo? Most of these services are meant for one ups, meaning they were designed for individual not business use.  If you’re really doing e-mail marketing – meaning sending regular messages to more than 25 people at a time – it’s likely time to upgrade to a business service. Why 25?  This magic number is a trigger for many spam filters. There are many definitions of spam, but one clue filters look for in determining if a message may be spam is the sheer number of addresses being targeted. When it comes to business providers, the best known name is Constant Contact, due to great marketing investments, and personal representative franchise attendance at local business shows. But, it’s not the only solution. There are alternatives, most notably Mail Chimp. Consider this post comparing the two providers. Choosing an e-mail provider is no different than choosing any other type of service provider. You need know how you intend to use the service, how many people you need to communicate with at a time, and then judge the service providers based on price and how they serve your communication needs. How do you intend to use e-mail? Are you sending out an e-mail on a regular basis, and to how many people? Are youjust sending out a group text e-mail on a seasonal basis, or only when you have a special sale or gained valuable publicity in a local newspaper? Are you sending links to your web site, or sending customer surveys? E-mail continues to be one of the most powerful communication tools in a marketing arsenal, but as with all ads and communications channels, it should be done by plan and with knowledge not only about state regulations, but with intent to strategically grow your business. Due to spam regulations it’s not OK to send your message to another company’s list. But small companies also find it hard to build a list of any scale. It’s the reason they frequently try to send their messages to another company’s list or buy a list. Both tactics teeter on the edge of getting your company known as  a spammer because unless you have relationship with the recipient or their permission to hear from you specifically, you are not using e-mail correctly or effectively. Instead, find a way to create a partnership, either by sponsoring  an e-newsletter, or advertising on one that is going to your intended audience.  That’s not spam, but alignment. The Walk-Away: E-mail is a powerful business communication tool, but only if used wisely. When used aggressively, a good service provider is needed, but which service provider is right for you depends on your strategy and budget.
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When Ads Aren’t Advertising

Not an adSome advertising isn’t advertising at all. It just takes advertising space and usually precious advertising dollars to achieve a different company purpose. Consider these examples where ad space is used to:
  • Announce a new professional or service employee
  • Announce lists of employees with long service
  • Thank sponsors or volunteers for a particular event
  • Promote a preferred charitable endeavor
Each is a legitimate use of space or time, but should not come out of an advertising budget. They are not effectively advertising the business, but fulfilling a different role. But, you might argue, “Announcing a new employee such as a famed doctor or hair dresser is advertising how our business has captured a great new talent and it will drive traffic to our business from those who follow this person.”  True to a degree, but it’s also likely true that the talent came with a “book” of their own and have already emailed and called regulars to announce their new location. More often, this type of ad is used as an ego-soother, just to make the new employee happy, and even might have been part of a negotiated package to bring them to a business from a competitor. The same could be said of the next two bullets.  The ads are goodwill to employees, volunteers and sponsors.  A personal thank you note or gift may have worked as well and even been less expensive. The last bullet is a charitable donation not an ad spend.  It's a legitimate way to help a cause or organization gain recognition that it cannot afford on its own.  In this case, the ad should be written to promote something about the charity so that the ad works hardest for the cause being promoted. Then the ad is an ad, but not for the business paying the bill. For that business, the charge should be seen on the books as a valued, and likely non-deductible charitable donation unless the donation is given to the charity directly to purchase the ad space on their own. Many charities welcome and desire this type of donation over cash, because it improves their own effectiveness to  raise donations, or encourage volunteers from others. Dollars for these types of ads should, ideally, come out of marketing budgets, HR budgets, or community service budgets for larger companies. For smaller companies, they should also be allocated to a non-advertising line to be accounted for accordingly and not skew the company's review of its own ad effectiveness at year's end. Last, but not least is image advertising. Large companies know not to look for an ROI in dollars with image advertising because it’s not the purpose of the ads.  Instead, they might measure awareness effectiveness. The lesson in this is that not all ads are equal. Don’t judge them all the same way or look for the same metrics in reviewing their effectiveness as each serves a distinctly different purpose.  The Walk-Away:  Advertising is a serious and not inexpensive endeavor. If using advertising space for reasons other than directly advertising a business, don’t allocate the dollars from your advertising budget.  Spend them from lines that allow you to see what you did during the year in an honest way, and allow you to measure true advertising results accurately.
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How to Multiply Ad Effectiveness

multi-legsIn an new booklet called What Business Are You In?, media consultants Paul Kurnit and Steve Lance give a quick 50-page overview of what most businesses need to know to start a sensible marketing plan. Many businesses ask “what media should I be in?” The answer on page 29 states: “Your communication plan should identify the vehicles and platforms that will best connect with your consumer… How can you best reach your consumer multiple times in multiple ways at multiple times of day that will inspire multiple sales opportunities and occasions?” In case you missed it, the key word is “multiple.”  In advertising this is frequently called “Frequency,” and is often overlooked by small- and medium-sized businesses. Ad studies show that consumers need to be “touched” several times to integrate a message into their psyches.  One quarter-page ad run four times is more powerful than one full-page ad, because of frequency. This is not to denigrate full-page ads.  Size does matter, and one full-page ad run four times is more powerful than both a quarter-page ad run four times, or a full-page ad run one time. This is not just a print formula. It’s an ad formula. For instance, one 30-second spot on radio is more likely to not only be heard, but remembered if it’s run multiple times either over a day, week, or month. It's the reason you'll sometimes hear one 30-second ad run twice in the same minute.  We know people hear without listening, listen without retaining, and only retain after a message breaks through to their brains after multiple repeats. As our mothers long suspected, things really do go in one ear and out the other. The goal of effective advertising is to get the message stuck in a brain before it exits out the other ear. When considering an ad campaign, frequency can’t be discussed frequently enough. It’s what makes one message into multiple messages and multiplies the effectiveness of any ad campaign. Even famous Superbowl TV commercials don’t run once. They just get their debut at the Superbowl and then, if they don't bomb with the public, are the start of a usually much longer campaign.  The Walk-Away:  A step is not a walk. One ad is not a campaign. To get anywhere in advertising, make sure your ads aren’t just one step forward, but a true walk toward getting you the results you want.
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How Does Social Media Make Money for You?

trust-agentsSmall- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are increasingly asking how they can create a presence on Facebook and other social media sites. But they should also be asking how that presence will make them money. If Facebook or any other type of media doesn't help you make money, it simply isn't working correctly for you. It doesn't necessarily mean the media is wrong, but it likely means you're not using the media correctly. This is as true of newspaper and TV advertising as it is of Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. I recently attended a webinar by Chris Brogan, a well-known and respected modern media guru and author of the 2010 best-selling book Trust Agents - Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation and Earn Trust. More recently, he’s published the book The Impact Equation subtitled "Are you making things happen, or just making noise?" With 112,464 Google+ followers and 7,062 Facebook likes, you’d think Brogan would be a raving social media fanatic. But, in a recent talk sponsored by Market Wire, an online PR distribution service, Brogan stated, “My bank gives me no loans based on Facebook likes.” And therein lies a huge story. In an earlier post, Shannon Miranda wrote about Mike Blinder  author of Survival Selling Even in The Toughest Times. Blinder has been known to say most small business websites and Facebook pages are tantamount to having a billboard in a basement. Their digital presence doesn't work for two key reasons: First because no one sees their page, and secondly because no one would want to. Many SMBs are crazed to get a Facebook page, fearful they may be missing out on some important and cheap social media marketing tool and may get left behind. But even if  you have 7,000 fans like Brogan does, how can it be monetized so a bank loan officer cares when you come a calling? More importantly, how does a small business use Facebook and all the other social media platforms to drive business and create revenue? It’s worth studying Brogan. If you go on his website, Facebook site, or Google+, you’ll see he’s dedicated to educating people about his areas of expertise. Then, he makes sure his most loyal followers are aware of his offerings and get the best deals on things that he sells from speaking engagements to book sales to online courses. That revenue is what he  shows to his banker for mortgage financing and other financial ventures. How does this apply to you?  Let's pretend you’re a local jeweler and have a Facebook site. Are you merely posting coupons for jewelry or creating posts that hype ongoing sales? Or, instead, are you teaching people about gold and diamonds and new jewelry designers? Can you occasionally post a coupon? Sure, but most SMBs only post sales notices and very few help educate the public, or position themselves as experts in their field. What’s the better question? "How can I position my business as the go-to resource in my area of expertise for my  community of motivated clients?" Facebook and Google+ will likely be part of the answer, but only a part. The Walk-away:  The key to business marketing is not more marketing, or even more social media marketing. It’s knowing the right question to ask and then getting it answered both for your own positioning and to drive the right customers to walk in your door.
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Print Ads Used in Phenemy Positioning War

It started at the Consumer Electronics Show at the beginning of 2013, then moved to a full page ad in major nationphone legsal papers, only to be countered in the same papers soon thereafter.  What is it?  The newest phone ad wars between AT&T and T-Mobile! Newspapers love ad wars almost as much as oil companies like price wars, and divorce lawyers like contentious divorces.  But, besides bringing in unexpected ad revenue, there are lessons to be learned from these phenemy (phone enemy) ad campaigns and not all of them are positive. Companies have two basic ways to get their side of the story out -- PR and advertising.  Effective PRcan get company spokespeople on pundit talk shows and inches in commentary sections of newspapers. If done really well, it can get the company quoted in an actual news article. But there are never any guarantees with PR.  On the other, Advertising does guarantee placements. It’s why during strikes, elections, employee recognition periods, and even phone wars, you’ll see a proliferation of print ads, because nothing tells a story better or quicker than a full-page ad in print. Unfortunately, it’s not clear the recent AT&T and T-mobile ad wars were effective. Here’s why.
  • The campaign was limited to national publications.
  • It was based on a conference speech that was also limited to industry insiders.
  • The company with the leadership position gave free press to the competitor.
Here’s what happened. The new CEO of T-mobile made a snide remark about AT&T. Few might have heard the comment or given it credence since AT&T has the leadership position. But, instead of letting the comment slide, AT&T came out fighting with limited national ads. Most people never saw the ads, but others started talking about it as it hit the trades. In essence, AT&T gave a broader voice to the initial T-mobile argument. The AT&T ads could have worked if they had been more widespread, but the creative also gave unnecessary ink to T-mobile. The AT&T ads claimed T-mobile had two times the dropped calls, two times the failed calls, and 50% slower download speeds. This drew added attention to the ongoing complaint about AT&Ts own dropped calls rather than playing to its strengths. As noted in the now classic marketing text “Positioning The Battle for Your Mind” by Al Ries and Jack Trout, “At almost every step of the way, the leading brand has the advantage.”  By responding to the T-mobile posturing, AT&T gave up some of that advantage and opened minds to the possibility that T-mobile may be right. Or, as T-mobile’s CMO Mike Sievert said to Advertising Age, “AT&T doth protest too much.” broken legCheck out the AT&T and T-mobile ads and judge for yourself.  Then, take a step back and think how the full page ad space could have been used more effectively, because a full page is a terrible thing to waste. The Walk-Away:  Advertising should never be done defensively or off your main message because instead of giving a campaign legs, it creates confusion.  It's more like trying to run on a broken leg. All you get is more injured.
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Advertising Extends Seasonal Sales Cycles

Being in a seasonal business can mean one of three things:
  1. Your business is seasonal catering to a defined seasonal market. Summer amusement parks fall into this category.
  2. Your business is located in a seasonal market, but isn’t generally considered seasonal. Grocery stores that cater to local residents, but see an increase in sales during tourism seasons share this category.
  3. Your industry is considered seasonal.  Many retail businesses fall into this segment, with high holiday and back-to-school selling seasons.
carlegsRegardless of your category, great marketing helps you either broaden your season length, or create additional seasons. For instance, some category 1 B&Bs previously known only as for summer destinations have successfully positioned themselves as off-season resorts in addition to their regular high season. By advertising these new selling propositions to both standard clientele and new customers looking for different or more cost-effective vacation experiences, these B&Bs have effectively created a second sales season that didn't exist several years ago. When in a category 3 business with a seasonal selling cycle, it’s important to stay abreast of ever-changing consumer trends to ensure that what has traditionally been your key selling season hasn’t changed the game. The auto industry is a great example of how consumer shopping patterns have shifted just within a two-year time period. Take a look at the table below from the US Census, which tracks retail sales by category every year. In 2010, two years after the recession hit high gear, auto sales by auto dealers were highest in December as consumers waited for late year models to go on sale.

Percentage of Auto Sales by Auto Dealers in 2010

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun
7.3%
7.2%
8.4%
8.3%
8.5%
8.4%
Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
8.4%
8.5%
8.1%
8.3%
8.6%
10.2%


Sales in December were 2-3 points higher than any other time of the year with January and February being the off season. Traditional car advertising followed this pattern, tending to run heavier during the holiday seasons and staying low during the early winter months. But, buying patterns have changed and if a car dealer today is still buying advertising based on the 2010 model, they would be missing a significant amount of  2012 buyers, who are far more consistent in buying cars throughout the year. Check out the buying patterns for 2012 below.

Percentage of Auto Sales by Auto Dealers in 2012

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun
8.0%
8.2%
8.2%
8.2%
8.2%
8.2%
Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
8.2%
8.4%
8.6%
8.4%
8.7%
8.8%


This new data set shows that consumers are actively buying cars all year long with December still being a key buying month, but no one group of months being significantly different from the others. What was once a semi-seasonal business has evened out. What this means is advertisers not adjusting their media plans to attract consumers all year long are missing those consumers who are actively in the market at any point in time. The data is available from the government for most key industrial codes. The Walk-away: Assumptions made about key selling times of the year can cause businesses to unnecessarily miss key selling opportunities. The recent past is not always a good indication of current or future buying trends. SOURCE: Monthly Retail and Food Service Sales, 2012 Sales, census data, http://www.census.gov/retail/mrts/www/data/excel/mrtssales92-present.xls
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Real Estate Study Shows What Advertising Works

In real estate advertising, a recent study shows that print and digital ads are a powerful combination. Seeking to determine effects of both print and digital advertising on effectively selling a home, the study found:
Homes for sale that are advertised in both print and online are 20% more likely to be sold than those that use just one medium.
Furthermore, the study showed that “properties that used a combination of both print and online advertising had lower discount levels and spent less time on the market.” The study, considered the first of its kind,  was conducted by News Limited, the majority owner owelcome matf Australia’s website realestate.com.au,  to determine what marketing worked in moving more than a half million properties within a 12 month period. Previously, realtors swapped information on what they thought worked or didn’t in advertising campaigns, but the field was sorely lacking in valid statistical data. The industry in the U.S. is great at tracking metrics on homes for sale, homes listed, and prices achieved, but has a lack of information on what fosters the sale. The Australian study starts to shed light on advertising effectiveness that can be insightful not only for American realtors, but other small to medium-sized retail operations in the U.S, namely:
  • Inventory that sells fast tends to not to have to be discounted.
  • Using a combination of print and digital advertising increases exposure for items you have to sell.
  • The added exposure can increase your advertising return by up to 20%.
The Walk-away: When creating your media plan to sell inventory, don’t just think of one medium. Print and digital are a strong combination. Because of their strong local reach, the print/digital combo should be the foundation of any local advertising program, with other medium added for effect.
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Visibility and Traffic in Advertising

billboard_77386345What do business locations and advertising have in common? Both, if chosen and used carefully, bring the two elements of visibility and traffic to foster business growth. Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) generally have an easier time understanding the importance of location and visibility in choosing real estate than they do with choosing advertising, but the principles are the same. A business that can’t easily be found loses traffic – both planned and serendipitous. If a trip to a business is planned, and it’s too hard to find the location, a consumer can simply give up. And if the location is not easily seen from main roads, a business can lose impulse traffic from those just passing by. The same holds true for business advertising regardless of medium. For instance, outdoor bulletins on unlit billboards can’t be seen at night and the extra fee for billboards with lighting is likely worth the expense in added visibility for evening hours particularly during winter months. On TV, ads positioned at 2AM or even 2PM have far less visibility than ads positioned during prime time or news hours. In newspapers, ads positioned on key editorial pages and designed large enough to dominate share of space gain much higher visibility than ads that are smaller and stacked with other ads. There are different ad positions for higher visibility and targeted to specific audience based on your advertising objectives. The key to ad visibility is clarity and not making a consumer choose between viewing your ad or someone else's. It’s the reason that half billboards (where two advertisers each take one half of a billboard) are never recommended. Motorists barely have time to read one ad while speeding by at 60 mph, much less two. The Walk-away: One key to advertising success is to insure that ad placement gives you a great location for consumers to see you and that the ad is positioned  in such a way as to be clearly visible without fighting with other ads for consumer attention.
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