For many companies operating in industrial, technical and scientific sectors display advertising in trade journals has been a popular marketing technique for decades. But is it still valid?
It is not uncommon for display advertising to be the biggest single item in the marketing mix because to run a campaign costs a lot of money. First there is the expense of design. To create a successful advertisement calls for more than putting a few words and nice pictures together – a good ad. needs a concept. The concept is what a creative director comes up with to ‘sell’ the product. It may also need original and creative photography, a snappy headline and succinct, to-the-point body copy. It is the originality and creativity that a good advertising agency brings that produces a successful advertisement and of course this doesn’t come cheap. Many companies have long since moved to graphic design agencies who lack the insight and perception of an advertising agency and simply churn out some artwork, albeit for a more modest fee. Then there is developing a media plan, negotiating and booking space rates, supplying artwork copy and of course handling payment of invoices. Not to mention fielding telephone calls from space salesmen. Unfortunately many companies who save money on creating the ad in the first place fail to produce a compelling proposition that will get noticed or a ‘call to action’ to generate response.
Even a modest campaign in the trade press will cost thousands that could buy a lot of other marketing. Many b-2-b companies spend tens of thousands on display advertising that is why it is such a high ticket item absorbing a big share of the marketing budget. At one time journals supplied sales leads from advertising generated enquiries, now I suspect few companies attempt any serious measure of response. Most seem content to carry on doing the same thing they have always done as a great and probably misplaced act of faith. At the very least display ads should provide a great call to action that is measurable, such as promoting a landing page specific to the advertisement or requesting specific information such as a white paper or guide.
Why not drop a couple of ads from the schedule and use that budget for trials of other forms of advertising such as Adwords and compare response. Oddly enough the same people who stick with display advertising expect better analysis from other, newer communications but quite like seeing their own ads published anyway. On the other hand one client mentioned they had discontinued subscriptions to all trade publications except one, as a cost cutting measure. What if a significant percentage of their target audience has done the same thing? And finally how often do people reach for a directory to search for a supplier? Exactly – so why advertise in directories that at best sit on a book-shelf when the first place to search is the Internet?
In summary it is time to totally overhaul the display advertising campaign. What is the display ad for and is it working? Is response being measured? Can online media deliver better results?