May 06

Traditional print advertising is nothing more than white noise


May 6  
As
I engaged in my daily mental exercise of flipping through the pages of
The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, it occurred to
me that I never, ever stop to read the print ads. In fact, I ignore them
completely. They're physical versions of white noise.

Knowing
the average full-page ad in each paper runs about $100k per and that each
contains 40 or so full-page ads, I realized that marketers are probably burning
upwards of $4 million a day on this shotgun approach.

With
the exception of affinity publications (mine would include climbing, fitness,
running and outdoor trade press), I never read ads. And, I know I'm not alone.

Print
ads are increasingly irrelevant because we live in a society suffering from
what Richard Edelman calls 'trust deficit' (See Richard's interview with new
PR Week Editor-in-chief Steve Barrett at
www.prweek.com). Edelman's 100 percent
correct. Thanks to the shoddy behavior of such brands as BP, Tylenol (the
once-fabled gold standard), Toyota, Tiger, Goldman, the Catholic Church and
countless others, we simply don't trust what organizations tell us.

And,
that's why PR is so beautifully positioned to fill the trust gap. We're all
about engaging in conversations with trusted sources
such as reporters and
influential bloggers who vet our messages first before putting them in motion
.

But,
back to the utter irrelevance of mainstream print advertising. To test my
theory, I scanned the ponderous, premiere issue of
Bloomberg Business Week (now, there's a catchy name) and selected
three print ads at random. I wanted to see if they caught my attention,
communicated a clear and credible message and, critically, contained a call to
action. Here are the results:


May 6 - fish  
1)
Headline: 'Is your business in shape to compete'? Visual: a school of fish
aligned in what appears to be the outline of a shark. The advertiser? Accenture.
My reaction? Ugh. Talk about bad timing. Who wants to see a school of fish when
we know millions are dying in the Gulf of Mexico as we speak? Plus, the message
is mundane, trite and overused. I'd grade it F.

2)
Headline: 'NEC gives the Peninsula Shanghai what it needs – seamless service.'
The visual depicts a smiling Peninsula Hotel IT manager with some
happy-go-lucky bellhop in the background talking into his cell phone. My
reaction: I want a clean room, good service and palatable food from my hotel of
choice. But, since I'm not a hotel IT manager, I'm not interested in NEC's
message.
I'd grade this one a C+.

3)
'In my world, not connected means not in business.' This one's from Panasonic
and depicts a pretty angry-looking
businessman who, it would seem, can't get
his wireless connection. I sure hope he's not using Pa
nasonic's new Toughbook
computer. The problem with this ad is its total lack of credibility. I should
buy this Toughbook because Panasonic says so? Sorry. Not happening. I'd give
this print ad a
D.

I'm
sure the marketing powers-that-be justify shotgun advertising in an age of
one-to-one marketing by arguing that it only takes one or two sales to offset
the wasted spend. I disagree. And, I think you'll see less and less print
advertising as social media, mobile, digital and other means with which to put
one's messages in motion become more mainstream.

As
for me? I'm buying that new pair of Sauconys I just saw advertised in
Men's Fitness

Nov 10

Jimmy, forget about being the next Woodward or Bernstein. Mommy and daddy are buying you a slide rule for the holidays

November 10 - newspaper-in-trash-can I knew the newspaper business was tanking, but I had no idea how horrific the current landscape was until checking the stats in a recent O'Dwyer's news piece (See "Newspaper Circ Drops Some More," Jack O'Dwyer's Newsletter, November 4, 2009, Vol. 42 No. 43).

Did you know there are 44 million newspapers sold each day? That sounds impressive until one learns it's the lowest level since the 1940s!

Subscriptions at papers like the San Francisco Chronicle, Dallas Morning News and Boston Globe are dropping faster than the post-season hopes of Giants' fans after Sunday's last-minute collapse (the papers reported circulation losses of 25.8, 22.2 and 18.5 percent, respectively).

The Wall Street Journal now has the largest daily circulation at 2 million (it actually increased 0.6 percent). USA Today's circulation plummeted more than 17 percent as it fell to the number two slot. (Note: the same issue of O'Dwyer's carried reports about the Journal's closing its Boston bureau and Forbes laying off 40 more staffers).

I wonder how undergraduate and graduate journalism programs are spinning these dismal results to current and prospective students. I'm proud to say I was a journalism major at Northeastern University and learned many skills that have since stood me in good stead. But, I wouldn't advise any young person to pursue a career in a dying profession.

Pundits disagree about the future of journalism, newspapers and magazines. I'm sure some form of neo-journalism will emerge in another decade or so. But, for the immediate future, I'd counsel any serious writer to run away from Columbia, Missouri, and the other great J-schools. The cost-benefit ratio no longer exists. There are few, if any, new jobs being created, and those that are pay less and provide no security whatsoever.

Instead of reading 'All the President's Men,' it might be wiser for Woodward and Berstein wanna-be's to, instead, crack open a biography of Einstein, Galbraith or Keynes.

The pen may be mightier than the sword, but the keyboard is no longer the meal ticket it once was. Look for calculators and slide rulers to replace reporter's notebooks and press badges as parents' stocking stuffers of choice this holiday season.