Corporate Advertising – A Waste of Time, Money and Resources?

I have just been catching up on reading my trade magazines.  Often these days the cover of a magazine is given over to an advertiser who has paid a premium to be there.  Of all the advertisements this is the only one that is guaranteed to be seen.

The advertisement on the front cover of this magazine was very simple.  It said, ‘Time to think (company name)’ this was followed by the logo, the name again and the tag line ‘Innovative Solutions, Elegantly Engineered’.  Finally there was a flash across the corner ‘the no.1 commercial connection’.

The graphics didn’t give much of a clue either.  There was a blurred view of a speeding train and in the foreground the image of The Thinker.  If you don’t remember him he was the guy who went skinny dipping but forgot where he had left his clothes.

Now the company in question may be a big brand in the industry.  Some readers may know what they do.  Some readers may be reassured by the assertions.  But some people will not have a clue who they are, what they do or what action to take.  If I wanted to contact this company or find out more information they don’t make it easy.

Now this form of corporate advertising does have its place.  If you are really, really big, have a strong brand, possibly a stock market listing and you just want to remind the world how big and wonderful you are, then it is fine.  For anyone else it is just an indulgence, conspicuous consumption with no real purpose.

Now I look at the back page of the same magazine.  The top half of the page has a picture of a railway viaduct, an interesting structure where the rail lines curve into a vanishing point and the parapets are an unusual semi circular shape.  I am intrigued.  What is this? Where is this? Why the unusual parapet design?  The advertisement doesn’t tell me, but this doesn’t matter.  The picture has attracted my attention and set the scene.

The text that follows comprises: the company name, the tag line – ‘For the Railway Environment’, a list of services, a call to action – ‘Contact us today’ and the phone number, e-mail address and web site.

The second add wasn’t perfect, but was so much better than the first.  It had a clear focus – buyers of environmental services in the rail industry.  It had a clear purpose – to explain what the company does.  It had an objective – to encourage response.  Most of all it made it easy to make a response.  Finally, if the company set-up the response channels right – the response could be monitored and evaluated.

OK, so why is a PR company talking about advertising?  Well, because it is still a very significant part of the marketing mix and one that for many companies still accounts for a large slice of the overall budget.  It is in our interests that you get it right.  The following checklists are not a complete guide, but may provide some initial ideas or reminders about best practice.

Just to show that we practice what we preach here is a very simple quarter page, advertisement that we produced for a client.  It is simple, bold, features the product has a call to action and a response mechanism.  The advert was part of a three part series with similar bold graphic treatment.

Simple quarter page advertisement

Make sure your adverts carry the right elements to get a response.

To make the most of the investment in the artwork, blow-ups of the series were used as posters at an exhibition, giving visual continuity and making a client’s budget work harder.  That is what we strive to do.

Ainsworth Maguire always aims for a common sense approach to PR, advertising and other marketing activities.

Kevin Ainsworth, Partner, Ainsworth Maguire Public Relations

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