Doug Garnett’s Blog


A Yard Sign Advertising Lesson From The Onion

My nephew recently pointed out this bit from joke news site The Onion. (Link here.) It’s a pretty funny article – suggesting that the act of putting up one lawn sign has changed a losing candidate into a leading candidate.

Was going to pass it along just for the humor. But as humor does, it got me thinking. Of two things…

How Often Do We Expect Too Much Impact From Too Little Advertising Investment? The idea of a lawn sign having this impact is pretty funny – as is the idea of a candidate convincing themselves that it has that impact. That makes it easy for us sophisticated national marketers to laugh with the article.

Expecting too much from too little?

But…how often do we make this mistake? An agency I used to work for chose to begin advertising their services – so they bought a single full page, back cover ad in an industry magazine. Yup. Once. What a waste of a hard earned $20K.

Once a smaller entrepreneurial company called me with a total budget of $100K (creative, production, media). They wanted to do television, had heard about the impact of direct response television and wanted an impact on their national distribution in WalMart. Yikes. The best use of that money might have been a really motivating party for the staff – not TV.

More recently, a major multinational called me with a total budget of $500K and distribution at all the big box stores. They were planning to spend half the budget on production to get a really cool ad. Even though I appreciate their seeking quality, why waste $250K creating an ad that, essentially, no one is going to see?

(My question to both companies: Are those test budgets? The Answer: No. Those were the sum total expected for the campaign…ever.)

Integrated Campaigns Too Often Lead to “Too Little” Situations. So far, the examples are easy to spot. It get’s tougher when we turn to “integrated marketing” where often budgets are spread across too many types of media.

Yes, there is value from appearing in different media…when you can afford it. But, shouldn’t we be in the business of delivering great things from reasonable budgets? Spreading a budget that’s too small across an integrated campaign causes it’s impact to diminish – not grow.

Yet, Let’s Not Get Cocky…Lowly Bits of Marketing Are Often Important The lawn sign is a lowly item. It’s not big. It’s not impressive. But it does have value and it delivers that value at a low cost. (Lawn sign value is a combination of name recognition and an active neighborly endorsement.)

Point of Purchase (POP) is another “lowly” place where it’s not always smart to bring cleverness. Many of the best POP executions are fundamentally quite simple in their execution.

Another lowly medium (at least among the snooty circles of advertising) are the Sunday circulars. Circulars drive amazing volume of store traffic and sales by attracting people with good products and good deals directly communicated.

JC Penney’s is the latest retailer to have forgotten this (they seem to have forgotten many fundamentals lately). Let’s compare the last ones I saw from Target and JC Penney’s. Both nicely designed. But Target filled theirs with deals & product. The Penney’s circular looked like a Nordstrom’s catalog – vast expanses of white space, skinny models, chic clothing and nothing about the product or the deal. Far too clever and a waste of money.

So Let’s Laugh with the Article. Then let’s develop the humility to look critically at what we’re doing and make the smart choices that deliver the most in everything we do.

Copyright 2012 – Doug Garnett – All Rights Reserved

Categories:   Advertising, Business and Strategy, Communication, Digital/On-line, Innovation, Media, Retail


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