ADVERTISERS ARE USING POWERFUL IMAGES AND NEW MARKETING TO CONNECT WITH CONSUMERS
ADVERTISERS ARE USING POWERFUL IMAGES AND NEW MARKETING TO CONNECT WITH CONSUMERS
Nubile young women flirt with handsome men, rebellious teenagers leap off soft-drink machines, and small children munch happily on cheese. Alternately sensuous, energetic and heart-tugging, more and more television commercials and magazine advertisements are directed at the viewer’s heart—fighting to deliver a message before he changes the channel or turns the page. It is all part of the fierce new warfare for the attention of consumers. To gain that attention, Canadian advertisers will spend $9 billion this year on advertising and sales promotions. Said Ann Boden, national media director for McKim Advertising Ltd. in Toronto: “It is much more difficult for traditional advertising vehicles than it was five years ago. Advertising budgets are not high enough now for campaigns in both print and broadcast, so often one has to be cut.”
High stakes and savage competition are creating high-pressure conditions in the advertising industry. Ad revenues are the lifeblood of television, magazines and newspapers. And the commissions generated by advertising campaigns also support Canada’s advertising agencies. But stagnant corporate advertising budgets and the burgeoning number of television stations and publications across Canada have resulted in cutthroat competition for advertisers, as well as fragmentation of the reading and watching consumer audience. Zapping—changing television channels by remote control when a commercial begins—also has
caused concern among advertisers, as has the growing use of video cassette recorders, which can flash through advertisements at high speed. Sales promotions, including direct mail, and colorful store displays are also continuing to cut deep into revenues from other forms of advertising, such as television commercials. Said Linda Saul, vicepresident of the Torontobased Environics Research Group Ltd.: “The competition is ferocious.”
Advertisers are now in a position to demand—and receive—far more value for their dollar. Peter Swain, president of Media Buying Services Ltd. of Toronto, said that firms are now paying far more attention to where their money is spent, partly because 80 to 90 per cent of any particular advertising campaign budget goes directly toward the cost of the space or time purchased in a publication or on a radio or
television station, with the remainder going toward the cost of producing the advertisement. To convince companies that they _ are getting their money’s
worth, special deals are becoming more and more common.
Newspapers, accustomed to historically steady ad revenues, are fighting hard to increase advertising linage as competitors launch aggressive raids on their traditional customer base. For its part, The Toronto Globe and Mail is struggling to expand its career advertising market this month by offering three advertisements for the price of one. Executives say that they hope to recapture ground lost to The Toronto Star, which offered a similar deal in the past. Other media
outlets are also offering more inducements. Radio stations increase revenues by offering perks to their major advertisers, including free sponsorships of traffic reports and other promotions.
That strategy is helping combat competition from such sales promotions as direct mail, price discounts and in-store displays, which are on the upswing. Those promotions attract advertisers because they deliver strong sales results in a relatively short period of time. As a result, more and more advertisers are siphoning off dollars from their traditional advertising budgets for promotions. Some industry experts estimate that sales promotions now account for between 50 and 60 per cent of total advertising spending.
But for many advertisers, even good deals may not help them reach a wide range of consumers. Fragmentation of some advertiser’s target audience increases every year as magazines, radio and television become more specialized and consumers become more selective about what they watch and read. General-
interest magazines are also benefiting from the trend toward increased advertising revenues. Said Linda Saul: “Revenues are up at newsmagazines because, in general, the population is better educated and reads more. The percentage of women readers is also up.” Television, which could once guarantee almost total market coverage, is particularly susceptible to fragmentation. Swain said that the booming market for video cassette recorders as well as zapping are “very disconcerting for advertisers, because ratings then come into question.” That is because zapping decreases the number
of viewers who may see a particular commercial, without the decrease being monitored by normal television rating techniques. Zappers actually account for the loss of less than five per cent of the viewing audience, Swain said, but the perception by advertisers is that it is a much higher figure.
Still, the attraction of television for advertisers is almost irresistible. It is commonly perceived by advertisers as the leading medium because of its powerful combination of sound and motion, and advertisers who can afford it still line up for prime-time spots on large networks. To help fight the fragmentation effect, more television commercials try to get the viewer’s attention quickly and impart a single, strong message. They are becoming shorter, more direct and frequently emphasize image and emotion, rather than long lists of information. Said Terrence O’Malley, president of the Toronto-based Vickers & Benson Advertising Ltd.: “Emotion is one of the most common platforms of understanding.” He added, “There is a new discipline with the 15second commercial—they are much more focused.”
The approach seems to be making an impression. Consumers polled by Environics about advertising campaigns last year particularly remembered those which concentrated on image and feeling. Among them were Carling O’Keefe Breweries of Canada Ltd.’s sophisticated black, ^ite and red ads for its Black Label brand of beer. Elders Ltd., which has given Foster’s beer to the world, also scored with a campaign that stresses ordinary people and individual values. Foster’s commercials end with the phrase “It’s what’s inside that counts.”
But while advertisers are now also placing more emphasis on tangible results, it is still not clear that they are receiving them. Traditionally, the connection between advertising and sales has been difficult to make. Saul said that “nobody can really measure whether advertising works, in terms of increased sales,” adding, “You just hope that they will notice and pay attention to the product.” And last week, Gerard Tellis, an associate professor of marketing at the University of Iowa, released a study that concluded that television commercials may indeed have little or no effect on the buyers of detergents— z the product he studied. £ Coupons and in-store dis| plays affected most deciI sions to switch products, he 5 found.
I Still, most experts say § that advertising’s domiu nance will remain for a lengthy period. Said Saul: “Everybody believes in advertising—there is no loss of faith. But because it is harder and more expensive to reach consumers, advertisers are looking for other avenues as well.” And many advertisers say that they have never doubted the force of their campaigns. Ray Verdón is president and chief executive officer of Nabisco Brands Ltd., a Canadian subsidiary of RJR Nabisco, one of the world’s largest advertisers. Said Verdón: “There is a direct link between advertising and sales, no question.” He added that some types of advertising, including image commercials, simply take more time to work, and he pointed to Nabisco’s long-standing success with its “Mr. Christie” series of cookie commercials. “We look fçr ‘charmth,’ ” he said, “a combination of warmth and charm.” For advertisers, the psychology of cozy feelings could well be the ultimate selling tool. And the ability to deliver that message to the right viewer at the right time will help determine the future outcome of the ever-escalating advertising wars.
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