Promises, promises

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Promising to help customers pinch a penny isn't as glamorous as offering to help them be more profitable or more productive, but it's a message that's taken on greater urgency as the economy struggles. While the task of conquering markets and introducing new products is certainly more invigorating than tending to the bottom line, advertisers that can help customers through lean times will find a receptive audience. There's no use belaboring the point in the ad that times are tough. That's hardly a secret. Advertisers should make the reward of savings attainable by detailing or quantifying what it is they can do for the customer. American Express Corp. makes it clear that it's all about the Benjamins in an ad that features a $100 bill that's been shaped into a paper airplane. The visual is clever considering American Express is touting its co-branded credit card with American Airlines that provides rebates for business travelers. States the quasi-testimonial copy: “I get a cash rebate of up to 4% on American Airlines travel. I earn company-level award points on virtually all purchases. I save automatically with cash rebates from leading suppliers. My company is midsize, but I save big.” The money-saving message resonates against the white backdrop. So, too, does another patch of copy near the bottom of the page in which American Express reinforces its central message and issues a call to action. The image of the American Express Corporate Card is perfectly placed in the bottom right-hand corner. “The days of excess are over,” says the opening line of copy in an ad for the U.S. Postal Service, which certainly captures the spirit of the times. Spending money like drunken sailors and Wall Street investment bankers is out, and saving a buck is in. It begins with such simple measures as making more sensible use of office supplies and reducing the cost of sending packages. The image of the man who has overdone it with the Post-it notes lightheartedly underscores the message of thrift. The copy does, too, quantifying the possible savings by using USPS: “Sending packages by other carriers can cost up to 3 times more than shipping by the U.S. Postal Service using Endicia Internet postage. So think before you call that carrier. And while you're at it, go easy on the office supplies.” IBM smartly quantifies the promise of its reward in the copy of an ad aimed at the beleaguered banking community: “Legacy apps. Faulty data. Redundant silos. In banks all around the world, millions of dollars are tied up in outdated, patchworked systems. IBM has helped financial institutions reduce these operating costs by an estimated 20 percent, freeing up capital to create leaner, more efficient business processes focused on growth.” The headline sets up the text by suggesting a reward: “Sometimes growing starts with shrinking.” The image of the high-rises soaring into the clouds seems incongruous with the ad's central theme of shrinking operating costs, however. The final ad is a twofer. The ad for Hewlett-Packard Co.'s servers could work in our occasional green-themed columns just as easily as it falls into this column on making a dime look like a dollar. Perhaps that speaks to the beauty of green technology—it's efficient. “The world's most energy-efficient server. A green light for business savings,” reads the headline. Here's an example of copy that's both green and thrifty: “Alternative thinking is finding holistic server solutions that are pro-environment and pro-bottom line—like HP's no-compromise ProLiant product line. “(But enough with the waffle. Let's talk numbers.) It's designing servers 64% more energy-efficient than our competitors.' ” We like the way that HP as well as the other b-to-b advertisers cited in this column not only talked about savings but put their money where their mouths are by quantifying the promise of the reward. M
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