Marketing Sense

A discussion of marketing tools and tactics with a common sense attitude

Posts Tagged ‘Advertising’

6 steps: Creating outdoor billboards with IMPACT

Posted by Colin N. Clarke on February 7, 2011

Outdoor billboard advertising continues to be popular, especially during an economic downturn. They can have steady, continuous impact compared to broadcast messages for example, because the boards are always “on.” Impact that is, IF the message and design have been created effectively.

Look around and you’ll see many advertisers treating outdoor as an oversized print advertisement or expanded business card. BIG MISTAKE. Like all forms of communication, you have to develop your message and design to fit the media – not the other way around. Here are some tips that every advertiser should follow in order to get the most impact out of their outdoor media investment:

1)      Keep it simple. Your audience is on the move, so your message must be brief and eye-catching. You only have FOUR SECONDS to capture attention and have your audience understand the message.

2)      Tell them the most important information ONLY. A billboard is not meant to give great detail. Extra copy takes too long to read, clutters the sign, and can’t be understood in only 4 seconds.

3)      Billboards should be visible and understandable at least 500 feet away.

4)      White space is good. Don’t try to fill it.

5)      Avoid metaphors. Comparisons can be clever but should be immediately obvious.

6)      Be creative. Attracting attention is important – just be sure not to compromise your message.

Here is an example of a poorly designed billboard:

The board calls your attention with TAKE A CLOSER LOOK, but after that there is no message. The graphic provides no hint of the board’s purpose, the logos are too small to decipher who is sharing the message and the URL is much too long to recall with a 4 second glance. Simply designed, but no impact.

Another example:

The board calls your attention with the company name but after that the message is lost. Too many elements and too much information to process. Give yourself 4 seconds to look at this example. What do you remember? What is the key message? In this case white space would be very helpful.

Now here’s an example of a strong billboard:

Message is crystal clear, product is obvious and the company logo is easily identifiable. Clear message, obvious impact.

And one final example:

Clear, understandable, and done CREATIVELY enough to capture your attention.

Don’t get hung up on the fact that the last two boards are done by large corporations. It’s the message and delivery that’s strong. Any advertiser can create a board with impact – just follow the six steps. Get rid of the clutter and tell the world what you have to say. Your customers will appreciate you for it.

I see about 1 great billboard to every 9 cluttered, aimless ones. Which group is your company among? It’s time we change this ratio for good!



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Avoiding ‘Monster Truck’ Radio

Posted by Colin N. Clarke on April 24, 2009

By Colin N. Clarke – You’ve all heard it before. You are listening to your favorite radio station when suddenly the speakers start growling “HERE! NOW!… THE EARTH IS ALREADY SHAKIN’!” You’ve just been witness to yet another station produced radio spot.

Here’s how it starts: You are a business owner and a radio station sales person calls on you with a great advertising package. If you’ve written and followed your marketing plan you can objectively make judgment on whether it is a good opportunity or not. But you hesitate, “I don’t have a radio spot that I can run.” The sales person replies “No problem, we’ll record a spot for you for free if you buy our package!” Sounds great. Done deal. But wait…

I’ve worked with clients who have gone the route of a typical station produced spot, not knowing that they actually have other options. The results are predictable – let me know if these sound familiar:

1) The Monster Truck spot – The booming, growling voice demanding you act here, now, move fast, no time to waste! Sale, sale, sale! Usually with a high tempo soundtrack behind it.

2) The Hip Hop spot – A thick, deep bass track pounds in the background as an announcer pitches a product. Often the bass track is so heavy it becomes hard to hear the announcer.

3) The Canyon spot – As the announcer pitches the product a multitude of synthesized voice effects are layered over the top creating echoes and variations in pitch and tempo (low and slow, or high and fast).

4) The ‘Paul Harvey’ spot – The monotoned announcer speaks with no voice inflection in a familiar sounding, matter of fact voice. There are no background music or effects. 

So what is the unsuspecting business person to do in this situation? First, carefully evaluate the advertising opportunity and make sure it fits within your marketing plan.  Second, respectfully decline the “free” spot. Third, find a professional audio/visual studio (or reputable advertising agency) to record your radio spot and deliver it to the radio station.

Professional studio vs. station production – Let’s look at the differences:

1) Professional studios (and most ad agencies) have writers who exclusively write spots for radio production. They will often ask for positioning or key differentiation information from within your marketing plan and will usually attempt to relate the radio production to other marketing materials you may be running.

2) Professional studios have access to a literal wealth of voice talent through their industry talent networks. Station productions generally use their own radio hosts. Having access to more voice talent allows your spot to stand out from other spots on the station that may have been recorded by the same station talent.

3) Professional studios have much greater flexibility in soundtracks and effects, giving you greater opportunity to truly tap into the ‘theater of the mind’ of your customers with a creative and engaging spot.

4) Professional studios will stay in the studio until it is right. If a dozen takes are required to get the spot right, the producer will be patient and helpful and allow you (if you are reading your own) or the talent to take time to get it right. All too often we hear stories of the station production blazing through 3 or 4 takes and ‘calling it good.’ 

Three options for creating a compelling radio spot:

1) Professional studio produced with professional talent. This will be your highest quality spot and often your greatest investment as well. Take the time and do this right, and you could have a spot with great engagement and strong longevity.

2) Professional studio recorded spot with YOU as talent. OK, I need to caution you here. If you are really comfortable in front of the microphone and can tell your story without it sounding like you are reading off a script, this is a great option. But if you can’t pull it off, you could end up with a eerily uncomfortable and amateurish sounding spot. Lean on your studio producer and ask him/her to be honest. If you can do it, good for you!

3) The announcer read spot. With this, your professional studio or agency will write your script. Then the script will be read without effects or music either by the studio’s professional talent or by a radio station host during a broadcast radio program. DON’T UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF THIS TYPE OF SPOT. I have heard so many station produced spots that simply over-do-it with effects, noise and echoes that the announcer read spot really stands out. This is by far your most economical spot. Simple and clean, easy to hear and understand. And if you’ve done a good job of differentiating your company within the script, you will have a radio spot that resonates with your audience. 

In simple straight-forward marketing sense, if you are buying radio, plan on making an investment to produce a professional spot. We’re talking about your BRAND here. It does you no good to spend thousands on buying air time to share your message if you haven’t taken the time to develop a spot that is truly representative of your brand. It’s like getting a haircut to look presentable, then leaving the house in the morning without brushing your hair. It’s YOUR BRAND. Treat your brand with respect, be professional and connect with your customers. You’ll be pleased with the results!

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Clever, yes… but keep it relevant.

Posted by Colin N. Clarke on November 20, 2008

By Colin N. Clarke – Lately I’ve been seeing a television ad for British Airways. Sea life fluidly swimming throughout what appears to be an airport terminal. A sea lion swims by, then a giant whale, and a school of fish dart about. No narration, just pleasant music and visuals. And at the end the advertiser’s name flashes across the screen with a reminder “Upgrade, to British Airways.” 

What does this TV ad mean? OK, I’ve worked in the marketing communications field for years and I am also a relatively frequent business traveler so I thought I could figure this one out. After stretching my brain to agonizing lengths, I finally gave up… I was completely stumped. So I turned to my Facebook network which contains a significant group of “creatives” from the realms of writing, design, strategy and interactive. They finally clued me in to the campaign… but only after THEY researched the campaign online to try and solve the puzzle (they couldn’t figure out the TV ad by itself either). The ad is meant to convey how efficient it is to move throughout the new Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport in London, England. What lost me was the fact that an airline was advertising an airport – in a country on another continent. Sorry, I just wasn’t connecting the dots right! I guess I am not used to airlines advertising about airports. I though airlines advertised about, well… airlines.

Apparently the campaign is quite progressive in execution with multiple communications touch points that are triggered by a myriad of tracking tools and metrics, all designed to keep the campaign fresh. Wonderful! But it doesn’t do me any good – the ad executive business traveler guy who keeps seeing these ads on TV.

So where did the the “communication” falter? Simply put, it was clever but not relevant. In order to be relevant the TV ad relies on the audience being exposed to other communications from within the campaign. Trouble is, the campaign is really about an airport terminal in London, England and the other touch points from the campaign are directed at people who fly OUT of London, England. The problem? I am watching the TV commercial in the U.S. and I am not flying out of London, and I am not receiving ANY of the other communications, so the “cleverness” of the TV ad is almost completely lost on an American audience.

What should they have done differently? For the purpose of the U.S. audience which does not have access to the supporting communications, British Airways should have worked harder to tell the story as to why people will notice an “Upgrade, to British Airways.” In this case some narrative or some visual contrast more clearly describing the point of differentiation was needed in order for the TV spot to be relevant to U.S. audiences. The advertiser was extremely clever in execution, but the ad lacked relevance. The result being a very extensive U.S. media buy ($$ millions) carrying a message that few understand.

The lesson illustrated here, in straight-forward marketing sense, is clear. Develop communications means and tools that have impact, break through the clutter and have stopping power with your audiences. Just be careful that your clever communications also carry enough of a message to be relevant to your audience too.

[Want to learn more about the British Airways campaign? Go to British Airways at Terminal 5 or British Airways North America. ]

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The King is dead. Long live the King!

Posted by Colin N. Clarke on June 10, 2008

By Colin N. Clarke  – For years we’ve been hearing about the pending demise of “advertising.” From the inevitable crush of the newspaper business to the emergence of prophetic authors writing books with such titles as The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR. The truth is, “advertising” continues to march on at an ever increasing pace.

The convincing truth to me has been revealed through what is being called Web 2.0. Social networking hot spots such as MySpace, Facebook and Ning are thriving in the virtual world through advertisers’ rush to reach their users. As a matter of fact, every article I have read in the past year that has dealt with Web 2.0 upstarts of any sort has clearly described the success of the upstart as being 100% reliant on an advertising revenue model.

But its not just the web that causes me to believe that there is a future for “advertising.” Every major sports stadium in North America serves as proof as they give up their proud heritage for the dollars that come with granting naming rights; every municipal bus in America serves as proof as they roll down the street wrapped in some marketers message; and every maternity ward serves as proof as they send home first time mothers with a care package of “baby’s first” items. So I will agree that yes, in terms of traditional communications means such as television, newspaper or magazines, “advertising” may be a diminishing art form. But marketers are not going away. They still have products and services to hawk and they want YOU. Its just that their communications means are reaching audiences in various and more creative forms, and honestly, with greater frequency than ever before.

With this I have come to believe that like it or not, advertising makes our world go round. And if you don’t believe me, tomorrow when you walk out the door just try and keep track of the marketing messages you see or hear in your first hour of the day alone. I am sure that you too will be convinced that the King is alive and well.

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