Jen is late for our meeting but I’m used to that. Not that Jen is always late – we’ve only met a couple of times – it’s just that clients and prospects rank a meeting with the local advertising seller below things like: staff meetings, one-on-one evaluations, a quick trip to the bank and a pleasant walk around the block in the beautiful San Diego sunshine.
Not that I’m bitter or anything.
Jen finally shows up feigning out-of-breathness (she drove an automobile for pete’s sake, not a pedal car) and greets me in the waiting area of the local YMCA where she works. For the previous four months, the YMCA had been conducting an advertising campaign with my Money Mailer direct mail company. When I called for the appointment to discuss the results of the campaign, Jen had agreed to meet but had hinted that during the meeting she would let me know that she wasn’t happy with the results. She did this by saying,
“We can meet but based on the results, we won’t be continuing the campaign.”
Jen ushered me to an outdoor seating area featuring bright yellow tables with metal umbrellas. During previous meetings, we had met in her office. But, now it was best to meet in a large, open space so Jen could both deliver the bad news and plan an escape route if need be. This is akin to the break-up strategy that Jerry suggested on Seinfeld.
“Meet at a very nice, very public restaurant. There’s no way she’ll make a scene.”
But, in this case, I was the “she” with whom things were about to be broken off. Jen got right to the point,
“We didn’t receive any coupons from the campaign so it didn’t work and we won’t be continuing,” she said.
“Well”, I started. “The ad was clearly not designed to encourage redemptions so it’s not a big surprise that people didn’t bring the ad in when joining the Y.”
“What do you mean,” Jen asked. “There is a $50 offer right on the ad.”
“That’s true,” I agreed. “Let’s look at the ad, though.” I brought out a copy of the ad and showed Jen the $50 offer was written as regularly sized copy along with other copy about how the Y promotes a healthy community, strong bodies and spirit.
“Look. This ad is whispering the $50 offer – not shouting it out like most advertisers.”
“That’s not our style,” Jen lectured. “We have a specific design standard to which we must adhere and we can’t put a coupon on the ad with a white background and a dotted line to indicate it’s a coupon.”
“I totally get it. The Y wanted to design the ad to look like its billboards and its in-house collateral material. Perfectly understandable. Which also means the Y must have understood that this particular style of ad would be less likely to result in verifiable redemptions.”
“But, I told you we were going to measure the campaign based on the number of redemptions.”
“Yes, you did. But, I didn’t know the ad was going to be designed to limit the number of redemptions. This ad was delivered to 10,000 homes in your immediate area for four months in a row and it definitely resonated with our consumers and your target audience. Did people join the Y during the promotional period?”
“Yes, but not because of the ad.”
“That can’t be known because there is no way to know which specific ad or experience or discussion influenced someone to join the Y. After all, how many people mentioned the billboards when they came in to join.”
“I can see you are getting upset. We expected people to bring in the ad. They did not bring in the ad and therefore the campaign – in our estimation – did not work.”
Of course, the meeting was over and I didn’t even have to get ushered out of Jen’s office because I was at a picnic table in an outdoor square. She packed up her stuff to disappear into one of the surrounding buildings and then I would be left alone to slink out of the Y and try again with someone else. My parting shot was:
“You keep saying the campaign didn’t work because you didn’t get redemptions of an ad that wasn’t designed to be redeemed. What you should be saying is that you didn’t get redemptions – not that it didn’t work.”
Jen just said, “Okay” and the meeting was over. You see, my point was a distinction without a difference. To almost all local advertisers, direct, trackable, quantifiable leads are the measure of whether or not a campaign “works” even though it’s not accurate, fair or sensible. It really doesn’t matter because that’s what they want and that’s what they think they are buying when we sell them advertising.
For our part, we must continue to educate our prospects and clients about all the benefits of the advertising they are buying and then cross our fingers that something positive happens relatively early on in the campaign.
I’ve got my fingers crossed for you.