We've been back here a long time. It's been 10 years to be exact since the Chasers began anchoring the last editorial page of BtoB. But longtime readers of this publication know that the Chasers go back much further than that. ¶ Back in the day, this publication was known as Industrial Marketing, and later Business Marketing. In its August 1936 issue, Industrial Marketing introduced without fanfare a column called “O.K. as Inserted.” A subhead described the feature as a “nod in the direction of the unsung industrial copywriter” at a time when consumer advertising was beginning to command the attention of the masses.
Expanding on that theme, the introductory column noted that in the advertising world: “It is a handful of Manhattan boys who get most of the plaudits—the Conrads of Consumer Copy who strum their fingers over the heartstrings of the masses, swaying millions from Chesterfields to Camels and back again. Those are the fellows who get their names in the lights of advertising—and rightly so.”
The column later became known as Copy Chasers and, with the launch of BtoB, simply Chasers because we were chasing more than print by that point. Like its name, the mission of the column has evolved. We're not here, of course, to blow kisses at b-to-b copywriters and other creatives. They have long since outgrown their inferiority complex, thanks largely to the important, almost glamorous role that technology plays in the economy. The best ones manage to tell great stories in very human terms and in visually attractive ways despite the complex nature of the products and services being marketed.
While they may lack the budgets of their consumer brethren, there is nothing to constrain the creativity of b-to-b marketers. We constructively criticize the handiwork of b-to-b advertisers based on 10 criteria for effective advertising first enunciated in the column.
Our rules aren't necessarily the advertiser's rules, which is to say what works for the advertiser may not work for us. A common complaint we've heard over the years is that the ad we excoriated proved to be the most successful piece of marketing communications in the company's history. It's no secret that an ad can be ugly and successful at the same time. Make liberal use of the word “free” and watch the responses roll in.
By tradition, the individuals who have critiqued ads for this column have remained anonymous, although it later became known that the late Howard “Scotty” Sawyer of the old Marstellar advertising agency was captain of a team of reviewers for 45 years.
Over the course of 74 years, this column has seen the Industrial Age morph into the Information Age, the rise and fall of great brands, the growing use of television advertising, the ascendancy of color in print, and, of course, the Internet. The Web 2.0 channel has introduced a whole new set of social media tools being embraced by b-to-b marketers that allow them to interact with their audiences.
Despite the changes, the basics of effective b-to-b advertising are immutable. Regardless of the medium, advertisers must still build a brand and persuasively communicate their ability to solve a problem for the customer.
They need only envision the stern-faced businessman from the famous 1958 ad for McGraw-Hill Cos. that promoted the benefit of business publication advertising to warm the doorknob in advance of a sales representative's visit. States the man in the chair:
“I don't know who you are.
I don't know your company.
I don't know your company's product.
I don't know what your company stands for.
I don't know your company's customers.
I don't know your company's record.
I don't know your company's reputation.
Now—what was it you wanted to sell me?” M