Through editing and other image overlays, the spots dispensed with traditional retailer tags and instead featured image-oriented, value-added incentives to visit a particular store to buy a particular brand. Each commercial was developed based on the strategic marketing objectives of the retailer, projecting its positioning in tandem with the brand's. For example, a commercial for one retailer featured its "frequent shopper" card, while another appealed directly to families with children.
The angry response obviously was because we had tampered with someone's "masterpiece." The boredom probably could be chalked up to a predisposition against any advertising where the retailer is involved. The confusion, however, best represented how most advertising executives feel about the ever-accelerating changes that have been assaulting advertising's status quo for so many years now.
Confusion is understandable, given a marketplace splintered not only in terms of media and consumer lifestyle but also channels of distribution. The most unfortunate result of this confusion has been a rip-snorting rumble over the relative merits of advertising and promotion. In reality, this is an argument over who gets the budget-an ad agency or a promotion agency.
The confused individuals who continue to pursue this ill-begotten debate should know that the dynamics of going to market become more complicated with each passing day. It is intellectually dishonest to present the challenges of building brands as a simple matter of "us vs. them."
When we create co-equity advertising in which brand and retailer objectives are intertwined in a single brand-and-store effort, it is not our intent to "steal" media budgets from advertising agencies. In fact, account-specific advertising is funded out of the trade budget, on a pay-as-you-go basis, at no incremental cost to the advertiser. The net effect is advertising that fully supports the brand's nationally advertised image while driving traffic (and sales) at local retail stores.
Our objective is the same-to build the brand's image, identity, sales, profitability and equity. The latest study from Donnelley Marketing shows that both advertising and promotion ranked high as "brand building" disciplines among the marketers surveyed. Not surprisingly, media advertising was identified as "the most effective marketing activity used for brand building in 1993"; 83% ranked media advertising first or second for brand building. But consumer promotion was right behind, with 79% identifying it as first or second. That deserves the careful attention of advertising executives everywhere.
Why has promotion so "suddenly" emerged as a near equal to advertising as a brand building discipline? Opinions are sure to differ, but ad agencies should consider the possibility that it's at least partly because promotion marketing leverages the brand (both in image and sales) at retail in a way that advertising rarely does.
Some advertising executives I've met almost seem to deny that they've ever been in a store, much less have an understanding of what happens to a brand's equity when it's sitting on the shelf in the harsh light of day, bereft of the otherworldly glow of a television commercial.
Our own experience is that when advertising is combined with in-store support, sales increase anywhere from 25% to 250% vs. in-store support alone. Often the advertising attracts new customers who would have otherwise purchased later, gone to another retailer or bought another product. That a brand's national advertising campaign can be leveraged in this way at the local, retail level should be cause for celebration among advertising creatives, not suspicion.
My challenge to the advertising community, quite simply, is to accept the positive influence of account-specific, co-equity advertising. We are all brand marketers now.
Mr. Brown is chairman of J. Brown/LMC Group, a retail-focused marketing integration company headquartered in Stamford, Conn.