Monday, March 5, 2012

A Basset Hound, Larry Flynt and a water tap

(First things first.

I couldn't find a picture that I thought illustrated this topic very well, but I really like Basset Hounds, so here's a picture of a four-week old Basset Hound that I found. Now on to the actual blog topic.)

Leafing through the Sunday Washington Post and New York Times this past weekend, I was struck by how many full-page ads I saw that were a waste of at least half of the space - and the money that it cost. With better creative the advertiser could have attracted the same or more attention in half the space.

Sure, a full-page will by definition, attract attention. Hell, the ugly ad Larry Flynt and Hustler Magazine ran in the Post Sunday was hard to miss. But since he's offering $1 million if you can rat out a public figure for some sexual impropriety, he didn't really have to buy the whole full page, did he?

That's a cheesy example, but it does illustrate that content can trump size.

(I guess I could have illustrated this with a Larry Flynt/Hustler image, but I'm kind of partial to Basset Hounds.)

Do the math. A full-page, four-color ad in local run of the Washington Post goes for about $83,000 at the open rate. And based on many of the ads I saw this weekend, I could just about guarantee you that I (or any one of a half-dozen ad folk I could name around here) could have done a better ad that would have attracted more attention and worked harder at a half-page. That's a savings of nigh on $41,000.

The New York Times national run is a whopping $145,000. You can figure out the rest. I'm a journalism major.

Take it just a little further. If you were to run four ads with two sets of creative, paying someone half of what you'd save by running smaller ads, you'd come out ahead. Works out to about about $124,500 with the Post and even more for the Times. And reality is, those folks who ran those full page ads paid over and above their media cost to have them produced, so the bottom line savings would be even more.

In fact, I'd go so far as to make an offer. If you're a client type running a full-page ad, give us a shot at doing something better in a half-page. Let's agree on the results you want, then you get out of the way and let's test them. If what we do doesn't pull better than the full-page ad you ran, don't pay us. If the result is better than you got with that full page ad, pay us half the savings. Either way, you win.

Worst case, you get the same results for half the cost. Hell, don't call us. Ask your current agency to take the same challenge. I can just about guarantee they'd do it. Because they know creativity can work harder than volume.

Think of advertising effectiveness as if you're filling a gallon bucket with water. The degree to which the tap is open is the degree to which you employ creativity. The amount of time it is open is the cost of the media space or time you have to employ to fill the bucket.

If the tap is wide open with creativity, you can run it for half as long as you'd have to if it was only halfway open.

(You know, come to think of it, I could have used an illustration of a water tap for this post. But I'm sticking with the basset hound.)

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