Super Bowl Ads Near Sell-out … WHY?????

Advertising Age reports that close to 90% of advertising time for the next Super Bowl is already sold. To the marketing folks at companies on whose behalf this time has been purchased, I have a question:

Did you buy anything as a result of the Super Bowl ads last year?

In fact, here’s another question for you:

Do you remember most of the Super Bowl ads from a year ago?

If you’re spending money, huge money, on advertising during the next Super Bowl, you better be able to answer a resounding “Yes” to both questions.

It will come as no surprise to readers of this blog that I am not a fan of “killer” creative, which seems to dominate Super Bowl advertising. Nor do I agree with those who try to convince us that “buzz” is a desirable result of advertising. “Biz” is a measurable result, and buzz without biz is just noise.

Successful advertising is about relevancy. It’s about selling your product. It’s not about some schmo standing at the water cooler on Monday morning saying “Hey, Dude … did you watch the ads on the Super Bowl yesterday?”

I have no problem with those who want to buy Super Bowl ad time. It’s their money. I have a distinct problem with those “creative” types who guide their clients down the wrong path. Creative awards simply don’t equal money in the client’s pocket. Just look at Crispin Porter & Bokusky, known to some as “the hottest” advertising agency in the country. After all, look at what their “killer” creative accomplished for Miller Lite (“Man Laws”) or ConAgra (“Deadenbacher”). Buzz? Maybe. But money losers. And accounts lost for CP&B.

We, as marketers, can’t get caught up in all the hype about the Super Bowl ads. We have an obligation to our clients to do everything we can to show them how to create advertising that works. It may be your client’s money, but if you drop $2 million to $3 million of their cash and don’t generate big business, the consequences could – and should – be grave.

Grant Johnson

Johnson Direct LLC


Research isn’t THAT Scary!

With a tip of the hat to Halloween, I thought I would write about something so scary that it makes many marketers hyperventilate and shake uncontrollably.

Can you name the four words that strike fear (or at least shuddering yawn attacks)  among marketers worldwide?  The four words can cause sweaty palms and shaking limbs, and can make even the best and most enthusiastic professional marketers look for the nearest wooden stake to bury into the heart of the beast.

Copious and Detailed Research

Say those four words, and you can almost feel teeth chattering and hands shaking.  Those words chill us to the bone because, frankly, not that many of us care for doing research, especially “creative marketers” who want to stretch their brain cells on ideas, not numbers.  Yet it is research, fact-based research, that is most effective in determining where and how to spend your marketing dollars.  And that’s all about marketing smarter!

Years ago, before Northwestern University seemed capable of recruiting a “real” college football team, the Wildcats’ fans would stand in frustration near the end of yet another blow-out loss and shout:

“Laugh now.  Someday you’re gonna work for us!”  The implication was obvious — they didn’t have much of a football team because they were actually students and smarter than the jocks.  They would have the lower score after four quarters, but they’d win in the game of life and careers.  Being “smarter” can still work to your advantage.

You can defeat the big guys by competing and marketing smarter.  Here’s how we at Johnson Direct employ the “smarts” to help clients achieve remarkable results while spending less.

Too many companies attempt to market their products without using real data as the basis for decisions.  I submit that as marketers, our responsibility lies in guiding our clients through a sophisticated approach that yields real knowledge of their core markets.  What do they absolutely need to know to achieve the greatest degree of success?

We take fact-based research and combine it with our own proprietary approach, Direct Branding ™, to achieve unparalleled market penetration and success.  It takes a little longer to do the research, but pays big dividends in the long haul.

Companies need to understand their own customer base, what their customers look upon as the company’s brand “promise,” and, importantly, which markets to spend money in.  These are key factors that will influence messaging down the road when it is time to communicate with customers and potential customers.

Outsmarting the competition requires perseverance, courage, patience and wit.  If you’re ready to face this battle, be prepared to sink more time, resources and intellectual blood, sweat and tears into a new, smarter and more competitive game plan.

Our philosophy is to provide fact-based analysis that helps managers to answer the questions that make or save money by more effectively and efficiently allocating resources based on relative market potential.

For one client, we used highly detailed techniques in the data collection process, including where, geographically, the best potential existed to sell their products.  They had been attempting to sell in 49 states; yet our research revealed that they were drawing 80 percent of their sales in only 23.  Nine states, alone, were yielding more than 50 percent.

We examined all 3,141 counties in the US and determined that our client had 12 heavy concentrations  of sales in the country.  Based on that “copious and detailed research,” we recommended that they utilize layered decision-making to allocate their resources to those areas where there was greater profit probability and potential.  As a result, they suspended marketing activities in six states all together.  Fifteen states were chosen as having a very high chance of generating strong response to marketing efforts and another 14 were identified as having a high chance.

Consequently, this client has experienced a response-to-conversion rate that has increased from 5% to 8%.  That may not seem like much on the surface, but given both dollars from current sales and continued lifetime purchases, this client is looking at millions in new revenue.  They are able to compete aggressively with larger companies that outspend them by as much as 50 percent by marketing to areas where they now know people are most likely to want and buy their products.

Creative played an important part in communicating to those people, of course.  But no creative would have been successful at selling the client’s products if it wasn’t relevant to the customer.  And only fact-based research makes that degree of relevancy possible.

Remember, while this approach is greatly effective and certainly the hallmark of Johnson Direct, there are new ways being developed every day to compete smarter.  Be open to them.  Don’t be afraid to try something new.

Copious and Detailed Research

Now, that isn’t that scary, is it?

Grant Johnson

Johnson Direct LLC


Something New, Something Old … Something Successful!

Get ready. This hasn’t happened since 1993, but according to Advertising Age, it’s about to be resurrected.

“It” is the Sears holiday “Wish Book” catalog, appearing soon in a mail box outside your home. And it won’t just be Sears sending catalogs this year, of course.

How can this be, you ask? Aren’t catalogs too expensive and old-fashioned? Only if you fall victim to the misguided thinking that the new media is a death blow for tried and true marketing techniques. Unlike the day “Video Killed the Radio Star” introduced MTV and music videos, catalogs today have too much going for them to succumb to a stake through the heart from overly enthusiastic “new media” denizens.

Why? Because catalogs offer great targetability and a less intrusive approach which, along with their testability and ease of using unique URLs, make them the perfect partner to the new media.

Catalogs can make the experience of online shopping easier and more comfortable for users. Almost any on-line shopping site is easy to use IF you know exactly what you’re looking for. Catalogs are effective in driving buyers to websites already armed with the knowledge they need to quickly find – and buy – what they want.

I’ve always stressed the importance of measurability in any kind of marketing. A catalog combined with a unique URL is an incredibly easy tool to measure.

Old-fashioned? Success never goes out of style.

Grant Johnson

Johnson Direct LLC


Like Sand Through the Hour Glass …

… so are the days of our marketing lives!

I recently blogged about the upstart virtual worlds like Second Life and their potential use in advertising campaigns. Well, just like that, along comes a Wall Street Journal article about how Second Life has fallen on hard times as experimenting marketers have delayed, cut back, or just plain abandoned their involvement with the virtual world.

Not all feel that the virtual world craze is going south, however, pointing to the continuing growth of other, newer virtual reality sites. There are at least a dozen other virtual worlds out there in cyber space, and marketers are watching closely to see who is going where. The sudden explosion of these homes for one’s alter-ego has marketers struggling to keep pace with lightning fast changes in consumer preferences.

What’s happening to Second Life? Some theorize that it’s due to the need to use special software to create that alter-ego. Others feel it’s because Second Life fails to provide enough to do to keep a “resident’s” interest.

On the other hand, word comes that Microsoft has invested $240 million for a 1.6% stake in Facebook for the exclusive right to sell advertising that is targeted to the social network’s denizens. Microsoft beat out Google for this apparently highly desirable right. Astoundingly, the deal values Facebook at $15 billion (with a “b”)!

Where is it all going to end? No idea. The only thing we can know for sure is that no matter what you call it … new media, web 2.0, or even web 3.0, the internet is a tremendously exciting place to experiment. But whatever you happen to call it, it is our responsibility not to thrust it upon our clients just because it’s new, but to test constantly to see if the opportunities of the web are relevant to the targeted goals we hope to achieve.

Grant Johnson

Johnson Direct LLC


Something New Hits the Social Mix

Don’t look now, but something interesting is happening in the sprint to garner user attention through social networks. And it’s not MySpace or Facebook or any of the other well-known players in that market that appeals to web users who want to find mirror images of themselves online.

No, it’s coming from people whose names aren’t quite as new and “techie” sounding … folks like eBay and Yahoo, for instance. People with nice, familiar, “safe” sounding names. The people we’ve all been interacting with for some time now.

Now they’re adding networking, allowing their users to share their interests with others … in other words, to socialize. This is quite different from the early days of message boards. It’s the MySpace model, if you will, and it’s a brilliant idea to capture audiences of people who will be able to view their online destinations as their social networks.

I say “brilliant” because this seems an almost obvious step that could have been lost in a “can’t see the forest through the trees” oversight, albeit one that took much longer to develop than one might have thought. It’s the brave new world that looks beyond just attracting the millions of web users out there, but keeping them around to read ads and spend money. All together, that’s what marketing is all about.

But before just handing the “marketing genius of the year” award to any of our favorite oldie but goody web destinations, they’re going to need to demonstrate that they not only understand the importance of social networking, but how to make their messages relevant to the audience they hope to draw … and keep. We all know the web is a quicksilver world where users appear and disappear in a flash if nothing interests them — often never to return.

The challenge now lies in the testing and re-testing of messages and techniques that will allow eBay and others to succeed in becoming true social experiences. This one is worth watching. Stay tuned!

Grant Johnson

Johnson Direct LLC