Sunday, March 15, 2009

Thinking beyond just advertising

Let me direct your attention to the Travel section of Sunday's New York Times.

Right there, side-by-jowl at the bottom of Page 2 are two ads. One for Barbados and one for Key West.

The Key West ad is part of a larger Florida Keys campaign and is, essentially, a co-op deal. It features a black-and-white picture of the Southernmost Point Marker and a headline that tells you "There's nothing like the end of the road to turn you around." Copy explains how an exit from reality could be just the ticket these days. It goes on to mention gingerbread mansions, sunset celebrations, art galleries and six-toed cats. Nothing about restaurants or accommodations or the festivals there.

And there are four hotel co-op entries splitting the overall creative design in half.

The Barbados ad is in color with a headline that tells the reader "Barbados is putting the free back in freedom" with subheads calling out seven-night packages that include a free first-night stay and free breakfast every day from $519 per-person, double occupancy (although on the web site, the price seemed to be from $469). The visual is a colorful, energetic dancing woman. Looks like fun. A few clicks from the page where the ads directs you, and it's clear they have partnered with both Liberty Travel and Expedia to put together the deal.

Two things here. One is that I sat down today simply to write about how smart I thought the Barbados approach was. It's simple, clean, has a good offer and a smart partnership. It goes beyond advertising. It's thinking. That's the sort of approach these time we live in demand.

The other thing is that it was actually only on the second or third glance that I even noticed the Key West ad. Even though it's just as big as the other, and I tend to have Key West on my mind more than the average bear, since one of my favorite clients and a couple of very good friends are down there.

Sure, the color helped, but it was the offer (and the simplicity of the ad) that drew me. Where the Key West ad wants to get you to Key West but has five specific properties competing for your business in a single ad, Barbados seems to simply want you to come to Barbados - and is making it easy to do so, overcoming a potential cost objection. I guess it's the rising-tide-floats-all-boats approach.

I have to say, I think what Barbados has done is the smarter of the two. Not just the ad itself, but the whole idea of partnering and putting together a good package - the part that gave them something to advertise. It's that whole thing about going beyond advertising that I admire.

Listen, Key West is a fabulous place. I know this for certain. It's not hard to get to, the weather is nice, you don't need a passport, the people are great, the hotels and guest houses are terrific and there are more great restaurants than you could get to in a single trip. It has a hell of a lot going for it. For my money, easily as much as Barbados if you look at the whole picture. I'm just not sure that comes through in the advertising.

I don't know exactly what a quarter-page ad in the Sunday Travel section of the New York Times costs. Karen says a lot. But I'll bet Barbados got more for their money -- even if you factor in the additional cost of color. Because they went beyond just advertising.

At least that's what I think.

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