Archive for March, 2009

• CTRs: The “Car Through Rate”


Advertising before the super-highway

Advertising before the super-highway


Advertising before the super-highway
Following WWII, the National Highway Act was put into effect as a means of ensuring that urban populations could be evacuated in the event of a threatened nuclear attack. At that time, roughly 40,000 miles of modern superhighways were created. While useful for the fast-growing car culture, they spelled the end for intimate, road-side ads like those made famous by Burma Shave.

To adapt, advertisers created the “billboard.”

In other words, the (non-information) superhighway occasioned a brand new advertising medium.

Now imagine if ad agencies had pitched billboards to their clients by stressing that since the target audience was already in their cars, it would now be possible to measure the success of the new medium by counting the cars that passed a billboard and then turned off at the next exit to purchase the advertised product.

They would have called this the “Car Through Rate,” or CTR.

It’s fortunate that such a “benefit” was never put forward because the expected behaviour, of course, would never have materialized. Clients would have judged the worth of billboards solely by the pitiful CTRs and costs would plunge. But while the CTR may not have been successful, the signs would still have performed the function of advertising — putting images and copy in front of the consumer. This, coupled with the absurdly small cost, would provide incentive for an increase in the number of billboards erected, mostly by small-time business owners who knew little about advertising.

The result would be a plethora of ads whose innate effectiveness would be diminished both by their irritating and amateurish qualities as well as their sheer numbers. In short, billboards would have cost almost nothing and, in the end, be worthless.

Had Internet advertising been recognised from the beginning as no more, and certainly no less effective than ads found in the pages of any other publication, the cost would have better reflected their worth. This, in turn, would have discouraged the explosion of cheap and poorly-conceived ads while attracting high-quality ads created by professional agencies.

There are differences, of course, between online ads and those appearing in physical publications, the most important, perhaps, being the restriction of real estate. But if small publications like TV Guide and Readers Digest could command high rates for their ads, then surely websites with equivalent readerships could have done the same. And as the size of screens increases, the real estate problem becomes less of a problem.

The problem with Internet ads has never been that they don’t command people’s attention — that’s a problem faced by all ads. A well-designed ad placed in front of 50,000 readers of an online magazine has roughly the same power as the same ad placed in front of 50,000 readers of a paper magazine. The problem is, when they didn’t perform miracles in terms of Click Through Rates we began giving the online ads away — and then complained that they weren’t brining in enough money.

Categories: ctr

Student Presidential Campaign Shows Professional Ineptness

It’s election time on campus. While nobody is quite sure what student presidents actually do, a number of candidates are still eager to reach out to their fellow students and shamelessly beg for the opportunity to do it. On its own, of course, this holds no interest for me. What caught my attention was how many of the candidates, without any training in advertising, have instinctively employed tried-and-true advertising techniques. 
If It Worked for Him…
Most common are those ads whose creativity comes from plagiarising previously successful campaigns. This year, of course, the primary source is Barack Obama, although use of his slogans appears to be limited to students who can claim some degree of ethnicity. The most notable of these are two black students, one of whom promises “Yes, we will,” while another, whose posters feature an image of his face on a coin, asks, “Want change? I’ve got some.” Meanwhile, a Greek student employs the “change” motive in a number of posters such as “Change our student government,” and “change our rights” (one of these rights being a place to relax and even sleep — a pointless promise since they already have the lectures for that).
I Tell You Three Times
The next most-common advertising method is the simple proclamation: “I am the best.” This is the fall-back position for several of the candidates, although like the real-world counterpart ads, they neglect to provide us with any particular reason for believing in their superiority. “You want the best, vote for ____,” reads a typical sample, or to be honest, pretty well all of them. While “I’m the best” may be an honourable tradition, it’s boringly limited.
The Concept Ad
One candidate has embraced the concept ads popular among agencies promoting high-end purchases, such as luxury cars, perfume, and wrist watches. These generally consist of an artsy photo taking up most of the ad space, coupled with vague copy that seems to say something, but actually doesn’t. In this case, a close-up of part of the candidate’s face fills half the poster while the copy asks various life-style questions such as, “Do you want more empowerment?” 
The Snake Oil Cure 
One of the great drawing powers of the snake oil salesmen was their promise to cure every problem facing humanity. One candidate in particular has embraced this style with gusto. Among her many promises are: a student study space (which they already have), a campus radio station (which is financially impossible), and a student-owned book store (which is downright scary).  
Now I’m not faulting the students for their lack of creativity in their campaigns. What disturbs me is that, with only a few minor changes. they are virtually indistinguishable from the kind of advertising that clutters up so much of our media, both in print and online. 
When amateur ads by semi-literate students appear so similar to professional ads by established agencies, it may signal that we’ve got a problem in the industry. 
Categories: campaign analysis, satire

• A&W campaign drops smart Boomers for the terminally stupid

Right. Because their food is so good, you'll completely ignore her.

When the food is so distracting you don't notice that Matita Barber is looking at you, it's time to start going to another restaurant.

I’m disappointed in A&W. For several decades they’ve been searching for an effective advertising strategy with limited results. Sometimes they attempted to appeal to the youth of the moment, such as their embarrassing Root Bear of the ‘70s, and sometimes they’ve drawn upon the nostalgia from their history as one of the earliest drive-in restaurants

A couple of years ago, however, they hit upon a new approach. An attractive, mature couple, possibly in their early 40s, is walking down the street after what has obviously been a first date at a high-end restaurant. As they walk, they discuss, in a casual, witty fashion, the overly-pretentious and tiny portions of food they’ve just been served. When it comes time to go their separate ways, the woman suggests they get something to eat. “But we’ve just eaten,” says the man. “No we haven’t,” she responds. Of course, they end up at an A&W with the “real food” of a hamburger and fries. “Will you be having desert with that?” asks the franchise owner. “This is desert,” he’s told. Read more…

Categories: campaign analysis