Friday, November 26, 2010

The Smartness of Ubiquitous Mindshare?

I saw an interesting exchange between Kyle Lacy and Jason Keith earlier.

Lacy wrote a post entitled The Stupidity of Billboard Marketing. Now Lacy does not believe that ALL billboard marketing is stupid:

There are really two types of billboards that make sense to me in the marketing realm:

1. Local Services – This billboard is announcing either a gas station, hotel chain, and restaurant that is available for the local consumer to frequent while driving by the exit on the freeway.

2. Entertainment – You experience this type of billboard while driving past cities that have entertainment value like casino or museum of interest.

But for everything else, Lacy argues that there are more effective ways to market, including extremely targeted marketing that can be performed on Facebook. Specifically, Lacy states:

The billboards that make no sense are the ones that are for brand value only. Why would you be spending that much money on something just for an intangible brand value?

In the comments to Lacy's post, Jason Keath took a different view. This is part of what he said:

[F]or large brands, getting the name and logo and tag line of your current campaign in front of large audiences of any kind is important.

If Coca-Cola took down all their billboards tomorrow, their sales would go down. It is much harder to measure and much less targeted, agreed. [But] it is an incredibly hard thing to a brand into the mind of the consumer consistently so that it is there, in the front of your mind, in the buying moment.

Now there certainly aren't a number of products that fit into this category, but there are some that could be classified as requiring ubiquitous mindshare. Some of them overlap with Lacy's first category - if a town has both a McDonalds and a Burger King, and you see a billboard for a Burger King and don't see one for McDonalds, then that billboard could make a difference. Then again, the non-billboarding golden arches towering over the landscape may be enough to draw you.

But Coke (and Pepsi) don't fit into Lacy's first category. Are they wasted advertising dollars?

Bear in mind that Coca Cola and Pepsi want to be profitable, and that they have an incentive to put their advertising dollars in the best places. In the worst case, they are relying on information that it solely provided by Clear Channel and the other billboard advertisers that touts the wonderful ROI of billboard advertising. Hopefully, firms employing billboard advertising are using their own methods to measure ROI.

And remember that if Lacy is right, and billboards are a waste of time compared to more targeted marketing with more metrics, then the big firms are going to discover this and all of the general billboard ads will disappear very quickly. The fact that they haven't disappeared, even though we've been in recession mode for a while, indicates that either billboard ads are bringing benefits, or businesses are very very stupid.

So which is it?
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