Advertising seems to be getting a little too complicated these days.
by Woody Hinkle
My favorite quote in the movie “Art & Copy” is from George Lois. He’s talking about getting excited about what we do.
“Wow, look at that pen. Yeah, it’s a little this. It does this. Wow, that sounds interesting. Let me sell that motherfucker.”
Hold that thought.
After a recent LinkedIn exchange about Jerry Della Femina’s classic “From Those Wonderful Folks Who Gave You Pearl Harbor,” I went back and re-read my copy. (I read half of it during those long waits while having a stress test, which gives you an idea of both how long and boring a stress test is and how old I am.)
Advertising looked like so much more fun then. Not just because of the mythical fooling around and drinking and craziness that may or may not all be true, but also because what they did then was, for the most part, use creativity to sell their clients’ products or services.
You know, “Let me sell that motherfucker.”
Fast-forward to today and the mixed-blessing that All Things Digital have brought us and we’re busy with analytics and clicks and complex tracking links and such. Creativity in advertising hasn’t exactly taken a back seat, but it’s not always riding shotgun, that’s for sure.
Too often, I think, creativity in this digital age comes mostly in the form of what whistles and whirly-birds you can deploy in your leaderboard, cube, takeover or expandable. This is technical wizardry that doesn’t have a lot to do with concept, writing or art direction. (Unless you are big enough with a client well-heeled enough to be doing television, of course.)
The propeller-heads (if you will forgive a pejorative use of the term here – and even if you won’t) who created and manage the various media channels and platforms we use, don’t all have backgrounds in the creative arts and many don’t really understand the role of creativity in advertising, I don’t think. And they have limited us to very small spaces in which we’re as worried about k-weights as we are about concept.
Maybe I’m just not too bright, but it seems like we’ve over-complicated the thing. Something has been lost. Not just much of The Joy Of Advertising As Many Of Us Knew It, but also the use of creativity to excite people about our clients’ businesses. It’s getting nudged aside in favor of the pursuit of analytics. The goal is often to talk to an algorithm rather than people.
Analytics are important. So are tracking links and k-weights. But I hope we don’t lose sight of what an awesome tool creative advertising can be. That is, if you think that the job is creating desire.
Which I do. I’m in favor of generating lust, not likes.
Over the years, we’ve used humor in hotel advertising. Like these ads for the Pier House Resort in Key West – for the hotel and one of the bars there.
If you Google “funny hotel advertising” you are guaranteed
to come across a wide selection of very funny ads for a happily (even proudly) shabby
hotel/youth hostel/something-or-other, the Hans Brinker Hotel – “quite honestly
not the best, but definitely the most memorable hostel in Lisbon and Amsterdam.”
not for everybody, but very much for their target. Their ads have been winning
awards for years – and this budget hotel is known around the world. This is fairly
typical of what they do.
They have a great
not-for-everybody-but-just-right-for-the-right-people website too.
A salesman once said “nobody ever bought anything when they
weren’t smiling.” We’d suggest that perhaps a casket for a loved one might be
an exception, but the point is well-taken. And a bit of humor could be just
what we all need these days, don’t you think?
Humor isn’t all that easy and not everybody is good at it,
but here’s a little secret: Your ad agency loves. So maybe let ‘em
take a run at it.
The path to direct booking is really pretty clear.
In almost any Google Analytics report you see, branded searches produce the most website visits. That is, a search for "Your Hotel," not "Hotels in Town."
So it seems to us to be fairly simple:
Increase awareness for "Your Hotel" . . .
which will generate more branded searches . . .
which will generate more website visits . . .
which, if your website is doing what it ought to do, will generate
more direct bookings.
Of course, if your goal is increased occupancy at any rate, garden-variety PPC alone can do a fine job of pushing discounted rates. But in a way, that sort of fights with the goal of increasing revenue with more direct bookings. You can give away revenue on an OTA. So maybe PPC alone isn't the answer.
So it begs the question - how do you generate more awareness for something other than discounted rate?
Advertising (online, print, social media, etc.) and public relations.
It's probaby a good idea, now and then, to remind everybody the difference between a Brand and a tag line.
A Brand can be a tag line, but not all tag lines are actual Brands. (Sort of like all hens are chickens, but not all chickens are hens. Or something like that.)
A Brand is a supportable differentiation around which you deliver a unique value. It’s a guide and a way of thinking that can drive everything you do to market yourself.
A tag line is something else altogether. It's an expression of your Brand or a hook to illustrate your Brand. A couple of Brand positions we developed and like are "Undeniably Key West" for the Pier House Resort, "Sensory Magic" for Sunset at the Palms in Jamaica. "Sensory Magic" is also used as a tag line.
In the case of Pier House, over the course of eight years, we used both "Flagship hotel of the Key West state of mind" and "This is Key West" as tag lines. The Brand is reflected in both of them.
Both of those Brand positions are supportable and deliver unique value. Something like "Timeless Luxury" or "New England's oldest all-inclusive" don’t either one deliver anything unique.
The idea of a Brand is to distinguish yourself from your competition. Sometimes people come up with tag lines they think sound pretty snappy, and think they've got themselves a Brand.
It’s one of the first things anybody studying or breaking into advertising learns. At least it should be.
Good advertising is built around benefits, not features.
Truth is, people don’t come to your hotel for the beach or the restaurant or the 300-thread-count sheets. They come for the joy of the beach, the culinary thrill of a good restaurant or the comfort of those sheets.
Maybe even the escape from reality you offer or all that extra legroom in your oversized suites.
In fact, ad agency creatives often use the “so what?” test when evaluating headlines or ad ideas. Answer the question and lead with that.
So take a look at what you’re saying on your website or in your ads.
An inadequate ad budget is like bringing a squirt gun to a street fight.
Maybe it's because people don't think advertising is worth spending anything on or it's because they think advertising is such a powerful tool that they don't need to spend much on it to get a benefit.
Maybe they think that simply throwing up a Facebook page or hopping on the Twitter Autobahn is enough. Or they are thrilled that social media seems to be free. Who knows?
But we do know that when someone is investing several million dollars in a new property or improvements to an existing one, it is the height of folly not to make an adequate investment in telling people about it. It seems a bit shortsighted not to include a healthy marketing communications budget as a key part of the up-front planning.
Because, make no mistake about it, the whole arena of getting attention for your business is a big, nasty, wild-west street fight. With some smart, aggressive characters in it.
Whether you do it on the web (in paid or social media), in a newspaper or a magazine or on a billboard, radio or television, if you want people to know about whateverthehellitisyou'redoing, you're going to have to tell them.
It doesn't matter how nice your hotel is, how great your restaurant will be or how much meeting space you have. It won't count for much if nobody knows about it.
"If you build it they will come" only works in the movies.