Advertising in a down economy.

Last night the Atlanta Ad Club hosted Andy Azula, better know as that dude who draws on a whiteboard in the UPS commercials.

Andy is actually a graduate of the portfolio center here in Atlanta. He is currently Creative Director at The Martin Agency (Geico, UPS, Repower America, Walmart—lots of great work originating there). And while most people know him for his appearances as UPS' TV pitchman, he's also an award winning art director who has racked up more clios than he can count.

The topic for last night's event was "Advertising in a down economy." After showing a 10 minute reel highlighting recent "recession-style" advertising, Andy went right into the reality of our current economic state. Yes, it's bad. But, it feels even worse than it really is. So how should marketers adapt?

Recessions aren't new. This is our 22nd recession in the United States, so it's happened before. The biggest lesson we can learn from past experience is that brands need to maintain their share of voice (the percentage of advertising that you possess in your market compared to other brands) to maintain their market position. Brands that cut back on their advertising during a recession, beyond what others in their industry are doing, risk losing significant market share. The example used was Schlitz Beer. Once the number 2 beer in the US market, Schlitz decided to significantly cut back on their advertising during the early 1970's recession. They lost their share of voice and we're relegated to the back burner of the US beer marketplace.

The other point made was the campaign executions should maintain their essence, but the messages emphasized should change. Messages such as savings, reliability, trust and family come to the forefront. People start adapting the back to basics mentality. Got Milk? is no longer using Christie Brinkley as a spokesmodel, but has replaced her with Suze Orman. Swap aspirational messaging for down to earth messaging.

And last, but not least the final lesson of recession era marketing is to put your marketing dollars where they can be measured. This is a good thing for the interactive agencies like us. While ad budgets are being slashed, money is being re-allocated to online channels. This is because it's more measurable and usually much less expensive.—*warning upcoming sales pitch.... 3.... 2.... 1.... and here's the pitch*—So if you're a big brand reading this. Take a little of that big ole TV budget, set it aside and give us a call. We'd love to build an effective and measurable interactive campaign for you.

Overall, the event was top notch. Andy Azula did a great job presenting the topic. The subject matter was timely and the event was well paced. If you haven't had a chance to check out an Atlanta Ad Club event for yourself. I highly recommend you give it a try.

Written by Adam Harrell on April 10, 2009


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Adam Harrell