Bare-Knuckle Advertising?
By Vijay Dandapani.
Sunday, 11th January 2009
Does a smaller economic pie signal mean-spirited times in business, specifically advertising? Apparently so, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) headlined "Ads to Go Leaner, Meaner in '09". With ad spending set to decline "6.2% to 161.8 billlion", advertisers are tasking ad agencies with a mandate to produce ads that "work harder".

The Journal article notes that major brands such as "Microsoft, Burger King, Campbell Soup and Dunkin' Donuts took direct aim at their competitors, a marketing technique deployed more frequently in a downturn. Domino's Pizza is starting 2009 with an aggressive campaign for its Oven Baked Sandwiches that touts results from a taste test claiming consumers prefer its sandwiches to Subway's hoagies. ""Ads have to get combative in bad times,"" says Nick Brien, chief executive of Interpublic Grooup's Mediabrands. ""It's a dog fight, and it's about getting leaner and meaner""

Another feature will be "face reading technology" via "Ad executives are predicting that ads will be "short and sweet" and that "TV ads will emphasize how a purchase will cost you less, and the message will be communicated in less time. Instead of the usual 30-second spots that consumers are used to seeing, expect advertisers to cut back to 15 and even 10 seconds to save money on their ad buys".

Also on tap will be less glitz as "pricey, glitzy ad production will be rare -- no problem for the YouTube generation that hasn't been impressed by gorgeous camera work. Hello to video, studio backgrounds and direct-response TV, ads that promote 1-800 numbers". Also expected is "face-reading technology". "The ability to recognize whether a person looking at a digital sign is male, female, young, old and their ethnicity is here. It will enhance and better align creative to reach its target, thus enabling advertisers to communicate and connect to their consumer".

The article goes on to claim that 2009 ads will be actually liked by consumers! "People will, amazingly, see more and more advertising they actually like and seek out. It will mean immersive, long-form Internet experiences like Frito-Lay's hotel626.com or Burger King's whoppervirgins.com because, more and more, TV commercials are simply too easy to avoid (and all too deserving of such treatment)". (Hotel626.com has nothing to do with the hotel industry and is a web-game with even less of a direct connection to doritos.)

Perhaps the austere economic climate will also herald the end of junk ads via banners at least as per the Chief Digital Officer for ad giant Omnicom as "more and more, reputable companies won't be buying up the space around the Web sites you visit. Clicking these ads will become less and less legitimate as brands will endeavor to do things that add more value to you in the social-media and customer-service space".

The economic boom of this decade saw the creation of many new hotel brands with names like Aloft, Andaz, Element and Indigo. Whether they take on each other more viscerally as predicted by some of these ad experts will be known before the year is out.
Vijay is Chief Operating Officer and part-founder of Apple Core Hotels- a chain of 5 midtown Manhattan hotels offering value and comfort in the heart of the city.Member of the board of Directors - Hotel Association of New York. www.vijaydandapani.com
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