Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Spirt Airline's Bad Judgement

I have always respected the creative use of humor in advertising. It is what makes ad messages memorable while promoting a company's products or services in a positive light. Over the course of my career of selling advertising, I have seen both the best and worst of what has been created by advertisers. But, the other day, I received an e-mail from Spirit Airlines that, I feel, ranks among the worst examples of humor gone astray.

The email was promoting Spirit's "Weiner Sale" and included the headline, "Don't Lie, Size Does Matter." This was a clear reference to the recent news about the online activities conducted by Congressman Anthony Weiner of New York. I think this message went too far, and so, I sent the following email to Ben Baldanza, Spirit's CEO:

I am writing to you today to express my disgust at the promotional email I received from you recently. Headlined "the weiner sale" and with the opening line of the text reading "Don't lie...size does matter!" this is a clear reference to the latest news involving US Representative Anthony Weiner of New York. Not only is the reference inappropriate, it is not even humorous. Whatever the motivation behind Mr. Weiner's behavior, it is not appropriate for a corporation to use one person's character flaw as the basis for an advertising campaign. And, despite the fact that the ad had a picture of a hot dog, everyone who receives the news knows exactly what link your message was trying to make. I think this irresponsible judgment on the part of the person or persons responsible for it, as well as the advertising or marketing agency that created it should be addressed. I, for one, will consider the newly diminished impression I have of your company the next time I am purchasing airline tickets. I am not a prude, and I enjoy humor when it is used creatively and appropriately in advertising messages. This promotion failed to do that. A word from you to those responsible for the use of this juvenile humor will, hopefully, prevent such misguided messages from being sent again.

Of course, I have not, nor do I expect to receive a reply to this, but if I do, I will post it here. Advertisers and their messages can and should be better. Being funny is fine; being funny at the expense of someone's character and behavior is not. Yes, Weiner is a public figure, but does that entitle companies to use his failings as the basis for their advertising campaigns? What do you think?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Why I Am Back and Where I've Been

It has been quite a while since I have posted anything on this blog, primarily because I thought I had run out of things to say, and work and other commitments have channeled my time and energies away from this. But, the time away has also given me an opportunity to step back and look at what has transpired in the broad world of publishing and the more targeted world of association publishing in particular.

What I have observed is that everyone--commercial and association publishers--are continuing to try to figure out how to deliver content to rapidly changing audiences while still generating the revenues needed to support their products. Few, if any, have found a successful formula that can be applied universally. But, there are some things that have not changed and that are just as valid to publishers today as they were before the advent of online content. Here are some observations:

Continue to Deliver Value--This applies not only to the content you deliver to your readers, but to the quality of readers you deliver to your advertisers. In today's economic environment, advertisers want the most value they can receive in exchange for their dollars. When advertisers purchase ad space (print or web) they want to know that their message is being seen by the people most likely to be in the position to make a purchasing decision or recommendation. Value doesn't mean selling it cheaper; value means giving them more benefit for the money they are paying. It means documenting the buying power of your readership; it means providing your advertisers with a way to continue delivering their messages after each issue of your magazine has been read; it means regularly communicating with your advertisers about industry issues and trends that they can use in their sales and marketing efforts. It also means understanding the unique needs of each of your advertising clients and developing flexible strategies which meed those needs.

Bundling--Readers from different demographic and psychographic groups respond to ad media in different ways. Younger readers may not look at your print product, but rely on the content you deliver on your organization's website. Older readers, may do just the opposite. The bottom line is that one type of media can no longer be relied upon by your advertisers to maximize their reach and exposure to your market. If yours is like most associations, you deliver content through three forms of media: online, print, and face-to-face. Instead of viewing each of these as separate and independent profit centers, create combinations of two or more, price them in a way that makes it a better deal to buy the package than to purchase each separately, and market them as a solution that gives advertisers and exhibitors the ability to deliver their messages at the time and place that is most beneficial to them. I can assure you that the commercial publishers against which you are competing are doing this every day.

Increase Your Visibility--Most publishers are very good about their understanding of the marketing tools and goals of their advertisers, but are not good at marketing themselves. Today's highly competitive marketplace requires that you keep your products' names out in front of your customers and prospects. Consistent and ongoing communications with prospects, advertisers and ad agencies is essential. Even if they are not buying ad space from you today, you want them to know you when they are ready to buy. Use the multi-media tools available to you. Perhaps establish a micro-site on your web page devoted to information for the advertising community serving your industry or profession; do regular email promotions in which you highlight upcoming issues, bonus distribution at industry events, or any other incentive that will catch the eye of the media buying community. If your customers don't hear from you, and hear from you often, in these times of immediate communication, you and your products will quickly become invisible.

Beware of the Lure of Social Networking--One basic rule of marketing is that you have to go where your customers are going. Before committing your resources (time and money) to utilizing tools such as Facebook and Twitter, be sure of two things: are your members using those technologies? Are your advertisers using them as part of their media plans? If, for example, your association represents a profession comprised primarily of older people (by older I mean over age 35), how many of them are posting "Tweets" or have a Facebook presence? It's my observation that the social networking media is serving the broader needs and numbers of the consumer marketplace, but has not yet been successfully incorporated into the b-to-b world.

I will continue to post thoughts and observations and I ask that you make this blog part of your active community of blogs which you will share with your colleagues and to which you will respond and participate. A blog is a community and I hope that through this blog, I can be part of your community, as well.