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Straight up advertising: It's really not so old school

Traditional approach still works

Although the world of advertising and marketing communications continues to evolve more quickly than most of us are comfortable with or have seen in our professional lives, one thing remains constant. Fundamentally sound advertising executions that are delivered consistently though traditional channels continue to work.
That's right, old-school, straight-up advertising still works. Fundamentally sound, consistently delivered advertising, that is. So, put the shovels away. It's way too early to bury the concept of traditional advertising.
A little history on why this topic is currently top of mind: As many retailers enter an important selling season, I've had occasion to consult on strategies and plans for a variety of businesses. One in particular illustrates this point. This organization had a compelling, legitimate offer, little competitive media pressure, distinctive geographic, demographic and psychographic targets, and a memorable way to deliver its message.
When I suggested they need traditional mass media, the retailer responded with surprise. "What about our database, our Web site outreach, social media, etc.? All the ‘new' stuff we've planned?"
"Don't worry - we're going to use all the ‘new stuff', but it won't - and shouldn't - be the focus of our overall marketing campaign. Instead, it will be a very important support channel for what our primary advertising recommendation is going to be." And with that, this client went with a traditional advertising campaign for the first time in almost two years. We did our research, set our objectives, created our plan using a larger-than-usual budget, and set sail with our campaign.
It was an easy decision. As I mentioned previously, all the elements were there for a successful campaign.

Compelling, legitimate offer
If you have something compelling and legitimate to advertise, transactional advertising certainly has a place. With a well-crafted message about price, payment, new products or new service, the consuming public will respond. Those who are ready to make a purchase decision will respond to the transactional message. Those who may not be in your current "purchase cycle" but could possibly use your services or products at a later date, still get the benefit of that branding or relational message.

Media weight / Competitive pressure
Given these difficult times for advertising media, now more than ever, they want to become true partners in your success. With a plethora of advertisers on the sidelines, mass advertising vehicles are more viable than ever. Traditional media allows you to achieve enough reach and frequency to make an impact, but also allows you to combine this with innovations such as Web linking, texting campaigns and social marketing.

Defined targets
The more narrowly we can define the geography and demography of our potential customers, the better opportunity we have to pick the correct mass medium to reach them. In addition, if we have the capabilities to narrow the psychographics and purchase habits of the audience, we can confidently choose the correct media to deliver a compelling ad message.

Memorable delivery
Once we find the right way to reach the customer with a compelling offer, it becomes the job of the creative product to make the campaign memorable. Without it, it's difficult to achieve good results. Will your target audience see or hear your message? Probably. Will they respond to it? Not as well as they would with strong, relevant creative that speaks to your already narrowly defined target audience.
As marketers, we've got to continue to consider each of the above variables as it relates to our target audience and objectives, and combine these with targeted relevant creative to convey our message in a memorable way and drive the consumer to take action (whether it be a purchase, a Web visit, a verbal recommendation, a post on their Facebook page, etc.)
You can arm yourself with the latest in streamlined equipment, the most up-to-date training technology, the most detailed playbook known to man, but sometimes it takes a little good old fashioned blocking and tackling to put the ball in the end zone.

--Kevin O'Brien, a brand strategist for clients throughout the United States and Canada, is the president of O'Brien et al Advertising in Virginia Beach, Va.

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