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April 06, 2009

Is This Advertising?

IsThisAdertising1

"Every advertisement should be thought of as a contribution to the complex symbol which is the brand image."

-  David Ogilvy


In this post, three categories of objects are considered: in public spaces, online, and even those that are purchased. Which of these do you consider to be advertising if we consider the following as guidelines? 

  1. Brand image lives in people's minds as a result of their direct and indirect (through media and other people) experience with the product or company.
  2. Advertising is a form of communication that typically attempts to persuade potential customers to purchase or to consume more of a particular brand of product or service.
  3. Advertising provides some level of "experience" with the product before you buy it.
  4. Advertising is a paid medium; you have to pay to place it in the real world or digitally.


Objects Found In Public Spaces

Nike Logoed Shirt: If an athlete is wearing it as part of a paid endorsement, then it's advertising.  But what about when your favorite trainer or running buddy is wearing it?

iPod/iPhone White Ear Buds: In the billboard, TV and print ads, well, it's advertising.  What about the dozens of times a day you see those white ear buds coming down the street? You know what the product is without even seeing it.

Starbucks InStore Music Screen: In about 600 Starbucks stores in the US, there are flat panel screens that provide information on the music that is currently playing, and to my knowledge, not paid for by the music companies or artists.  But doesn't it serve the other "non-paying" criteria of advertising, and couldn't it become that?  Easy to make happen since WiFi is right there with easy one click access to the iTunes store for downloads.

Obama Poster: Post the election and pre-inauguration, Moveon.org raised money by selling postcards and posters, as well as limited edition version ($500) signed Shepard Fairey posters.  In many a window in San Francisco.  Good promo for brand Obama, yet initiated and paid for by others.

Planet Dog Sticker: Seen in the back window of many a station wagon, this sticker costs $2.  And for that you get to state your canine affiliation as well as promote someone else's brand of which you may or may not have purchased one of their toy products.

 

IsThisAdvertising2

Objects Found Online

"Will It Blend?" YouTube Video: Well-known series of videos produced by the blender company that have pulverized anything from an iPhone to glow sticks, often at the request of fans.  Produced by the company with a "home-made" feel.  More than six million views.  Free distribution on YouTube and in many an article on "viral videos."  Blender sales conversion rate?

Rachel Maddow Show Facebook Page: 50,000 fans to go along with over 200,000 followers on twitter.  Experience brand Maddow through notes, video links for the shows; as well as other stuff she likes that never makes it to broadcast.

Twitter Page of Zappos CEO: More than 350,000 people can't be wrong.  And if sold one pair of shoes to each per year - that's millions.

Hunch Public Beta Invite: Great "welcome" letter/FAQ from Caterina Fake gets you interested in and sharing the "brand" before it even does anything for you.  And your participation is actually critical to building the functionality and value of the product.

HGTV Widget: Weeks on my Facebook profile page and I didn't win.  But did I think about HGTV each day that I logged in even though I wasn't watching cable ... yep.


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Objects That Are Purchased

Whole Foods Shopping Bag: $2 to avoid paper bag shame and carry them into stores other than Whole Foods, even competitors. Sorry Mollie Stones.

Kleenex/Hannah Montana: I am sure that money exchanged hands here to place image and logo of pop idol on tissue box -- but which way?  Brand Miley may well have more power than brand Kleenex, so cash may have gone upstream instead.

"Unstuck" Book by Founder of SYP: A well written book on its own, but also a great promo vehicle for the SYP agency and great client pitch leave behind. Old school print version only; not on Kindle yet.

Starbucks Cup (old version with "The Way I See It" quote): I loved the old "The Way I See It" quotes on the Starbucks cups from people like Keith Olbermann and Jeffrey Sachs.  Currently they're using quotes from "real" customers.  See me with my soy chai walking down the street may not be 'advertising,' but if the cup is on a talk show host's desk?

What's The Point?

Lots of other examples to be sure. That SmartCar or Aptera parked on a busy public street. Those custom Nike ID shoes my trainer wears with a "swoosh" color of his choosing. The Motorola logo on the headsets the coaches are wearing on the sidelines at the SuperBowl.  When I change the name (or some form thereof) of a company to a verb such as “tweeting” or "googling" and use it in an email, blog post or magazine article. Other ideas?

Lesson Learned: Not everything that builds brands is paid advertising. Sometimes the conduit of the message is free or people might even pay for the message itself. Egv_tiny_blogicon


(Note: Thanks to friend Michael Markman for suggesting the iPod ear buds and SmartCar as examples in this post.)
   

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Seems to me that there's a distinction between brand building/evangalism and advertising that's relevant here... Is my ultimate goal with an ad to drive sales?

Rose -
Well said! Advertising (meaning paid placement) is an important contributor to building a brand, but certainly should not be the only path taken. And many a brand has been built without advertising expenditures - like Google and Starbucks (until recently). While sales (if the brand is about a product or service for sale vs free) is important, I don't think advertising should just be measured by the flow of cash. It's about creating some level of new or enhanced engagement and building of image and experience even without directly touching the product. That may translate into sales or views or ...

My hope with this post was to inspire/provoke thinking (including my own) regarding all the ways a brand (which could be a person, network, product, service) can interact with people in creative ways before they have ever "made a purchase" -- and that sometimes these are paid for by the brand, sometimes paid by the "audience/us", and sometimes free.

I love this train of thought. I am trying to teach my four-year old to be marketing savvy. This leads to some pretty bizarre conversations. "Look Mom, look at the cute puppy!" "Yes, he is very cute. Why do you think they have a picture of a puppy on the toilet paper?" Or, "Why do you think this restaurant gives you stickers with their names on it?" And "Why do you think they put all the candy down low here in the video store?" Talking with a child about this stuff really highlights its pervasiveness and the degree to which we need to wipe out their innocence about it, and quickly, if we want to have any hope of making it through kindergarten without being buried in a pile of pink Princess and purple Dora the Explorer plastic crap!

Great observations Audrey. The image as well as the PLACEMENT that you mention is interesting and important. Was just noticing the "love to the ground" kid placement behavior while standing in line - of all places, Starbucks.

I guess that would be "low to the ground" but maybe "love" is not such a bad typo

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  • © Amanda Jones
    Digital and traditional (live & broadcast) media/ marketing strategist and producer living at the intersection of Web meets (live) World. More than two decades of experience in building media and technology businesses, content programming and distribution, brand stories and integrated communications campaigns.

    Believes that strategy is all talk unless it can be executed in a way that delivers on both the creative and business promises. Embraces the role of navigator of the uncharted path vs. passenger along the known road.