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Make Your Advertising Count

The calendar remains king in the advertising world.

September 02, 2014
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Whether it’s for-profit or nonprofit, global or regional, financial or heavy industry, no two brands are the same and no two brand messages are alike.

This may not come as a surprise—we know that companies are complicated entities. They’re finely tuned, staffed by teams of individual personalities, and, more often than not, they operate within a niche to give them that competitive edge.

This is nothing new for those of us in the advertising industry. We expect and want our clients to be passionate about their individuality and to know why they should be the first choice for their customers.

This is why you might be surprised to learn how often we’re asked to convey that message in a single step or a single message—often at the expense of the brand/customer relationship itself.

Today, the challenge certainly is not an easy one for those in my industry. Current estimates find that each of us is exposed to an average of 1,500 advertisements, endorsements, or pieces of branded collateral every single day.

Organizations spend more than $500 billion on advertising worldwide every year, and by the time someone is 65 years old he or she will have watched more than two million television commercials.

With that in mind, perhaps it isn’t enough to simply say that advertising is part of our general culture.

Advertising is part of our everyday lives, and on an increasingly personal level. So how do you make it count?

Contrary to the opinion of some, most advertisers today no longer have the option of just making more noise than the competition. Years ago, when I first entered the industry as a new recruit to the ranks of “Mad Men” in Cape Town, South Africa, our job was to interrupt, engage, and enthuse within those few seconds a potential customer may be good enough to give us.

Advertising was a way to bring to the surface the hidden possibilities and potential of a service or product, using a combination of muscular branding, hints of glamour and aspiration, and an element of creative suggestion to impart a sense of social relevance to an otherwise ordinary item.

We could take an obscure, regional digestif from a family distillery in Europe and turn it into the next must-have on the poolside terraces of Los Angeles. And we could take an unassuming SUV and turn it into the latest accessory for the aspiring young family.

We would do this by making more noise and saying more in the time we were given than the competition—and we were good at it.

But as all good advertisers know, you’re only as important and relevant as your customer allows you to be, and the customer’s priorities are shifting.

In an era of recovery and readjustment, the focus of our concerns today is all about convenience, application, and, most important of all, utility. Generation Y is making its mark across all demographics such that the value of experience, over acquisition, is taking first place in the hearts and minds of the customer.

We all live busier, more socially attuned, and more efficient lifestyles, and in many ways it would now almost be rude to assume it’s OK to interrupt this private journey purely to yell a single message and expect a response.

Today, advertisers need to add value during the process of advertising itself, rather than after the sell, providing a resource consumers can draw upon at their convenience.

There are many new terms for this—inbound and experiential marketing to name a couple—and many manifestations. Native, in-app, and targeted or algorithmically optimized advertising are perhaps the best known in the online world, whereas “point of sale” or “point of purchase” could be considered their offline equivalents.

Each has its own advantages and applies its own subtleties to enhance the customer experience, but the principal is the same: identify those who you can help at every step, keep them in sight and in mind at all times, and ask only that they return the favor when the time comes to make that crucial purchasing decision.

It’s for precisely this reason that, for us, and as part of a whole range of advertising media, the calendar remains king. Our customers take them and the promotions contained therein, and voluntarily incorporate them into their everyday lives with real application.

We get 365 days to drip-feed a company’s entire message in a medium that is practical and unobtrusive, and which adds value at home or in the workplace. The beauty of this is time—time to adapt, time to engage, and time to tell the entire story—by cultivating a relationship with the customer that brings real meaning to their daily experiences and, in turn, real meaning to your message.

TERRY VAN RHYN is managing director for Ashgrove Marketing, the distributors of CUNA Strategic Services’ calendar program.

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October 2014

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