Marketing Minute: The case for advertising - April 2020

By Paul Friederichsen

Jeb Bush spent $130 million on advertising in the state of South Carolina alone in 2016 and lost big time. Michael Bloomberg spent $500 million on advertising in 2020 to win Super Tuesday and only picked up American Samoa. Does this mean advertising doesn’t work? No. It just means that no amount of advertising can salvage a flawed promise, product or service. In fact, advertising can make things like the Edsel, New Coke, WOW! Chips, smokeless cigarettes and the Starbucks “Race Together” campaign implode even faster.

According to, U.S. businesses will spend about $263 billion this year in advertising media (not counting strategy, planning, creative and production). A 30-second spot during the Super Bowl runs about $5.5 million. Social media ad spending is increasing simply because more time is spent on social media than on TV. Some estimates claim that Americans are exposed to, on average, about 5,000 ads per day. Advertising, it seems, is alive and well.

Advertising has been around for a long time. Promotions were found in the ruins of Pompeii; use of trademarks emerged in the Middle Ages; ad agencies began in 19th century England; and the “Mad Men” era blossomed in mid-20th century Manhattan. Throughout history, advertising has worked off the power of suggestion, as it does today, whether you’ll sleep better on a My Pillow, lose weight faster with Nutrisystem or save money on a new floor with Empire Today.

Ads with a direct call to action to make a purchase, donate money or ask for information are called direct response (DR) and can be tracked for performance by creative execution, programming, daypart, publication, geography, etc. DR campaigns (such as Empire Today) connect the customer directly to the brand to make or begin the transaction. Brand or promotional campaigns to build awareness or foot traffic (such as Rooms To Go) rely on sales lifts to gauge performance effectiveness.

Unlike consumer advertising, business-to-business advertising (B2B) can be harder to track but is just as important for the success of the brand. Where advertising gets a bum rap is that the business advertiser becomes disillusioned that “it doesn’t work” and, after all, there are so many other marketing tactics that are less expensive than the cost of producing and running ads.

Compounding this issue is the common notion today that advertising is about “selling something” and that today’s marketing zeitgeist is all about “relationship building.” This is based on the assumption that consumers and business decision makers, most of whom are Millennials now, are simply too sophisticated to be influenced by a tawdry ad. The classic “Four Ps”-product, price, place and promotion-have even been replaced by the “Four Es”-experience, everyplace, exchange and evangelism-as reflective of the trend started by social media’s dominance.

Unfortunately, as with most marketing activities, advertising is sometimes viewed with contempt by CEOs and CFOs-a necessary evil to be expensed and cut if need be. Rather than losing budgets, some marketers are shifting funds away from advertising-the most vulnerable line item-and moving them into less contentious tactics or risk losing them altogether.

Advertising is the tip of the marketing spear. It penetrates the marketplace with the advertiser’s message and desired perception in order to start building relationships that follow. Unlike the romantic idea that one clever ad works magic-think of the old TV series “Bewitched”-advertising is only one part of an integrated communication process that, over time, persuades the correctly targeted people to part with their dollars.

No discussion of advertising would be complete without acknowledging its attributes:
• You’re in control. No other communication tactic affords the timing, placement, frequency and impact that advertising does.
• You’re on target. Properly done, advertising can deliver a precise rifle-shot to your ideal customer.
• You (and your content) can become known. Advertising is the master conduit between you and your market.
• You gain credibility. Even the most cynical people will have their perception altered in your favor if they are the right target for your brand.

But there is one more sublime power that advertising has, particularly advertising delivered via mass communication vehicles such as radio, cable TV, newspaper, magazine or outdoor. It’s the power of public pronouncement and prestige. Even paid ads have the power to convey a perception of importance for the brand when viewed in the context of a public forum.

Aside from obvious timing or seasonality issues, advertising should not be executed without a thorough understanding of the target audience and a sufficient budget to reach them with enough frequency to have an effect. Follow the “Rule of 7,” which states that the prospective buyer should hear or see the marketing message at least seven times before they will buy from you.

If you are a flooring retailer, chances are you are well established in your advertising calendar, and so the question you need to ask yourself is, are you leveraging your advertising with other marketing activities to create synergies in a campaign? If you are a flooring manufacturer, you should leverage editorial alignments with your product category and always support new product introductions or event participation with advertising.

Match the size of your ad with the desired perception you need in your category. “Go big or go home” is usually the best advice. Size is equated with prestige, plus it is more likely to be seen than smaller ad units.

Think of your customer’s sales journey and that’s where you should be. Today, that’s primarily online if you’re a flooring retailer and you want to catch the consumer while she’s in the shopping process. In that situation, your customer is online more than in print and TV. But if you’re trying to get the consumer to buy flooring versus another consumer item, print, radio and TV are valid options. Just like the investment balance your broker will advise, you need a balanced portfolio of media-so find the mix that works best for you in your market.

Copyright 2020 Floor Focus 

Related Topics:The International Surface Event (TISE)