Friday, April 18, 2008

Don't start the creativity revolution, I mean recession, without me

In their continuing coverage of the “R” word the New York Times recently ran a story about how marketing campaigns are responding to economic fears. What does selling look like during a recession? New advertisements focus on value for the dollar, saving money, and living cheaply while still living well. Surprising stuff, given the ad industry’s historical love of excess. Despite growing economic divides since the 1980s, the push for new goods and newly defined luxuries-as-necessities, it’s interesting to see marketing that’s, well, trying to be honest.

At the same time, there’s something quite depressing about the thought that advertisers are only creative when there’s nothing to be sold. Perhaps. Or perhaps, like any profession in the 24/7 economy, the daily pressure to produce at such a pace sucks all the fun out of advertising. It’s no surprise that some of the most innovative and interesting ads come from companies or groups who are not trying to secure a seat on the stock market. Look to socially responsible and green-focused campaigns for more innovating approaches to advertising. Companies that create socially conscious short films and movies circulated via YouTube and email are able to bridge the gap between selling something and recognizing that for some consumers in a tight economy, less is more. The best messages combine self-interest and altruism. People generally choose organic foods first for their own health benefits, but are then grateful to think they are contributing to the health of the planet. They also care more about the larger society in times of hardship and crisis. Selling value in a tight economy could also be about selling social good.

When consumer purchasing is corralled by tight budgets, advertisers need to re-think their purpose. Some argue that because of all the new digital media (especially cell phones), advertising as we know it is on its way out. Another argument might be that today’s conditions require new approaches, such as a better focus on information and communication rather than imprinting brands and their implied identity boosts.

Honesty, after all, is actually a great design feature.

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1 comment:

Tamar Belkin said...

The need for retailers to create ads that are focused on value-for-money is already being proven in the field. And this focus is not just on brand-related ads, but also (or perhaps even more) on promotional advertising.

Several recent surveys have shown that more than half of consumers will not make a purchase if there was no deal attached and plan to increase their use of coupons.

In fact, Supervalu just said in their analyst call that shoppers are seeking out more promotions and using more coupons as a result of the economy and rising food prices.

Retailers should do their best to tailor their ads to specific groups (age, interests, purchasing history, etc.) in order to make sure they are optimized in terms of relevance. Cross-media ads are also a great option as long as they keep the ads synchronized and keep in mind that online and mobile ads appeal only to specific consumer groups.

For more info visit the Retail Advertising, Marketing and Promotions blog at