Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Overcoming Commercial Backlash

Advertising is an accepted form of marketing in our country.

But for the past 30 years or so, we have been conditioning the public to think of advertising as a bad thing.

I worked on the air at a radio station in the early 1980's and we would promote "commercial free music sweeps". These were usually 20 or 30 minutes long and at the time it was to promote longer listening, less tune out, and ultimately higher ratings.

What did higher ratings do?

It was one way to promote the value of the station to advertisers, to sell more commercials at higher prices! Sounds contradictory doesn't it?!

Like the overweight doctor who smokes telling you that you should lose weight and stop smoking!

Before this commercial free craze hit the airwaves, radio stations would stop the music 4 to 6 times an hour and play 1 to 3 commercials, and get back to the music. The idea was to keep it moving.

So what happened to when radio stations cut down the number of commercial breaks?

They increased the length of those commercial breaks.

Radio ads are usually 60 seconds long, sometimes 30 seconds. Television ads range from 10 to 30 seconds long. Most people don't have an accurate perception of how long each commercial is. If asked, they usually say "a minute".

A couple of years ago, a music based radio station in my city cut down the commercial breaks to 1 per hour. That meant they would play 8 to 12 minutes of commercials back to back, followed by 50 minutes of "commercial free music".

What happened?

They trained their listeners to tune out, either mentally or literally, (as in tune to another station) for the next 10 minutes while they paid the bills.

The advertisers were paying for listeners that weren't listening to the advertisements, because the radio station told them commercials were bad. If your commercial was the first or second to play or the last one, you had a chance, but all those in the middle... forget it.

Broadcast Television is just as bad and cable is even worse.

AdAge.com recently featured a story on this. (Click here)

And it's not just broadcasting that is overloading us with advertisements, this occurs in print, outdoor signage, online, even in the selling of naming rights of sports venues.

How do you overcome this if you are a business owner?

1. Demand non-commercial commercials.

Several years ago Target reinvented themselves by running a series of ads that didn't prominently mention their name. Instead they were fast paced ads that featured items they sold in a lifestyle setting and at the end displayed the Target logo and a web address.

They ran a branding campaign which set them apart from their competitors and it worked.

2. Don't buy spots, flights, packages, or other short term advertising programs.

Think long term. 13 weeks isn't long term. My most successful advertisers buy annual advertising contracts.

As a business owner, I would toss out anyone who didn't offer me an annual option. Then I'd go one step further. Ask for a two year option. These 1 and 2 year options are for advertising campaigns and require strategic thinking and planning. They also require flexibility because you will need to adjust as circumstances change in your business and the marketplace.

3. Realize that advertising has it's role, and is not a cure all for other things that need fixing and improving.

Wash the windows, dust, sweep, hire the right people, retrain or fire those that are a negative influence on your business.

Make a list of 25 things you can do to improve your business. Jot down any idea. Now write down 25 more ideas. Make that your bucket list for 2011.

Then take action on these items I mentioned today.

image from http://www.tobaccocampaign.com/american-medical-association-promoted-tobacco

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