LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

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The banner ad culprit

Randall Rothenberg contends in his March 5 column ("Famed disasters: Hindenburg, Chicago Fire and banner ads") that the villain in absurdly low banner click-through rates is the standardized size of banners. I say it's the standardized ideas that fill most banners that are the real culprits.

By Mr. Rothenberg's reasoning, TV commercials should have fail-ed by the early `50s. They come in standardized sizes too, don't they? But while TV commercials broke away from the primitive levels of creativity (dancing cigarette packs, live celebrity endorsements) that served them well while they were a novelty, banner ads continue to dwell in the creative cellar long after their debutante days. The "big idea" is making the banner look like a pop-up warning box from the PC's innards.

Yeah, I know: "Wait until rich media, then you'll see."

Yet outdoor has been a richly creative medium for years without the benefit of motion and sound. Ah, but outdoor doesn't have to generate a response. How about direct mail, which frequently arrives in your standard No. 10 envelope and has to fight through as much clutter and indifference as banners? How can direct mail generate an ROI that's eight to 12 times higher? Simple. It's the size of the idea, not the size of the advertising unit, that's the key to response.

When advertisers start demanding the same degree of creativity online as they do offline, and when online agencies have advertising creatives, rather than techies, create the work, we'll all learn that size doesn't matter. Not in advertising, anyway.

Steven DiManni

VP-Creative Director

Hakuhodo Advertising

New York

The 2%-to-3% myth

Re: Randall Rothenberg's "Famed disasters: Hindenburg, Chicago Fire and banner ads" (Viewpoint, AA, March 5).

Great Scott! With all due respect, no knowledgeable direct mailer expects to pull "at least a 2% to 3% return on a mailing." Yes, sometimes we do that, sometimes even vastly better; but far more often, particularly in b-to-b, we have to teach our clients to build their order margins based on a 0.5% return.

I'm president of the U. S.'s oldest direct response agency still owned and run by the original founder. But way back in 1960, when also teaching at New York University, I was disabusing students and clients of the "2% myth." Unfortunately, it belongs in the Urban Myth category! Check it out!

Andi Emerson

President

Emerson Marketing Agency

New York

Ignoring fundamentals

Tom Evans should be applauded for his fine, insightful piece on the Army's new advertising campaign ("The wrong campaign," Forum, AA, Jan. 29). He has it right.

Military recruiting over the last year or so is a good example of what happens, too often, when markets turn rough-blame it on the advertising, fire the agency and get a new campaign up and running fast. This ignores the obvious category fundamentals. Military recruiting advertising plays a relatively small role in accounting for variance in the

quantity and quality of military enlistment. The relative competitiveness of the "product offering" and the strength and effectiveness of the personal selling effort (the recruiter force) are much more important elements of the recruiting marketing mix.

The recent advertising agency changes in this important national public policy category, driven by the former secretary of defense and his political "media advisers," illustrate the lack of professional marketing savvy possessed by too many such politicians. Let's hope the new Bush administration is smart enough to look more closely at the underlying market and competitive factors that affect the always difficult task that military recruiters face. Forcefully demon- strated presidential respect for and leadership of the military matter here as well.

Maybe the new national leadership team members will "be all that they can be" and deliver the kind of consistently professional marketing support that our military recruiters so richly deserve.

A.J. Martin

Marketing Management Consultant

Great Falls, Va.

Mr. Martin was formerly director of accession policy, office of the secretary of defense, with service during the Ford, Carter and Reagan administrations.

Corrections

* "In Reckitt Benckiser preps U.S. ad blitz" (March 5, P. 3) and "Best of Times" (March 12, P. 26), the Calgon and Healing Garden brands in the U.S. are owned by Coty Inc. Coty and Reckitt Benck-iser are sister companies that have a common major shareholder and board member but operate separately.

* In "Comings and Goings" (March 12. P. 33), Marc Ducnui-geen's name was spelled incorrectly as Ducnuigeento.

* In "Accounts won/lost" (Feb. 26, P. 50) Digital Pulp, New York, was incorrectly listed as the previous agency for Pfizer's consolidated Pfizer/Warner-Lambert media planning and buying account. The previous agencies were Aegis Group's Carat North America, New York, for Pfizer, and WPP Group's MindShare, New York, for Warner-Lambert.

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