Thursday, August 09, 2007

Reaching out to customers in different ways

When it comes to companies trying to sell a product, it can be tough.

There’s a lot of competition as companies try to figure out the best way to reach their target. They might try radio, television, newspapers, magazines, the internet or direct mail campaigns.

While newspapers depend on advertising to help customers reach their target audience, the question always is how many people are seeing the ad — or better yet — reading the ad and responding to it?

Classifieds are often the most popular, and customers let newspapers know they are pleased with the results they get. But what about the larger ads, especially if it’s the same ad displayed over and over?

According to Ted Haller of The Jordan Group who was a speaker at the Ag Media Summit in Kentucky recently, that is the big question. Is an ad reread? If the same ad is seen in more than one magazine, people probably won’t read it again, he said.

So the question becomes how many ads does a company need to run, in how many publications, to reach the target audience? And how often does that ad need to change so it captures the eye of the consumer? Haller said agencies often tell companies they should have continuity in their ads to get customers, but he stressed a new ad will attract more people to read the ads.

When farmers receive so many publications in their mailboxes these days, it’s even more important to catch their eye to read an ad rather than skip the same ad in several publications over a period of time.

Using one of the workshop attendees as a test target, Haller handed a farm magazine ad to the guy to read. It took 10 seconds to finish the ad. Haller said on average, an ad takes about 15 seconds. So how many ads need to be run in how many magazines before they’re seen?

Haller recommended people buy a media mix: use the different advertising methods out there to try to reach a target audience, and don’t rely on the same ads for extended periods and especially not in one type of media. He provided the positive and negative aspects of all type of media, as well as stressed how pricey it can be, especially using broadcast media to run the ads.

Ultimately, companies don’t want just exposure to customers, they want target customers to react positively to the ads.

As for newspapers who wait to talk to agencies that represent companies and pitch their advertising packages available, Haller was blunt: he said 50 to 75 percent of the media mix is predetermined by the agencies before they even talk to the media representative. The decisions are already made by bias, budget concerns, personal preferences, etc.

For this reason, it’s more important for media companies to be more prepared and have their mix of options ready: show how the target audience will be effectively reached.

With all the competition, perhaps it is even more notable that an Oregon business has earned itself a prestigious award from the American Advertising Federation recently for a direct marketing campaign.

Truitt Bros., Inc., a manufacturer in the shelf-stable foods industry since 1973, received recognition for the work it did with an agency. The agency NOBLE received a Gold ADDY Award for national creative excellence for a promotion it did for Truitt that was simple but effective.

NOBLE created “a unique 3-D mailer introducing customers to Truitt Bros. Pembrook Southern-style Green Beans. The attention-grabbing piece promotes the fresher taste, firmer texture, and brighter color of the product, while incorporating the company’s corporate sustainability message,” said an article on Truitt’s website about the award.

Most fascinating was the simplicity of what NOBLE and Truitt joined up to do: the 3-D mailer was simply a box with two cans inside, connected with a piece of string like kids used to do to create a simple communication tool. The accompanying letter in the mailer encouraged potential buyers to give Truitt a call about their green beans.

The win was remarkable for several reasons: there are 60,000 entries annually in this contest, making it the world’s largest advertising competition; secondly it has several levels of judging, including local, regional and national; thirdly, it is administered by the advertising industry; and fourthly, it’s rare that a foodservice agency and manufacturer would win this award “in a contest dominated by consumer companies and campaigns,” as executive vice-president Tim Blade explained in a press release.

Would the mailer have worked with anyone who saw it? No.

But in this case it accomplished catching the attention of its target audience for probably more than 10 seconds.

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