Two ads for the price of one

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Brand advertising is subtle, consistent and best done on a long-term basis. Direct response advertising, on the other hand, is demanding, expedient and all about instant gratification. And never the twain shall meet. Right?

But when we were asked at a gathering last month of the Phoenix chapter of the Business Marketing Association if b-to-b ads could both successfully brand and generate a direct response, we hemmed and we hawed—and we've been thinking about it ever since.

Why can't b-to-b advertisers have their cake and eat it, too—especially at a time when they are expected to do more with less? So we began looking for the holy grail: ads that, in our estimation, do double duty.

They weren't easy to come by. As we suspected, most of the ads we looked at either promoted the brand or requested a response. Here goes:

Verizon Wireless features one of its brand characters—a perky, helpful customer representative who is serving up a suite of solutions for one of her small-business clients. It's an image Verizon has used consistently across a variety of media platforms. This ad, and the larger integrated campaign, brands Verizon as the kind of company that small-business people can trust to address their communications problems.

Here's the headline: “My in-store business specialist helped me stay connected to clients, track my work force and order a new mower on the go. That's cutting-edge.” But rather than leave it at an inviting image, a benefit-rich headline and a blast of conversational-sounding copy, Verizon resorts to the “f” word—as in “free,” a potent, popular term favored by direct marketers.

Verizon invites the audience to buy a BlackBerry and get a second one free. The word “free” smartly gets an extra measure of red ink. Several calls to action are attractively stripped across the bottom of the page, helping this ad accomplish a great deal.

Harris Bank trots out its familiar-looking brand colors, its logo and its “We're here to help” tagline. But this ad aims to do more than remind the audience that Harris is the kind of bank that goes out of its way for customers. Harris is asking prospects to act now by opening a “business checking analyzed account and add cash management services.”

To get the target audience off the dime, Harris offers to waive $1,500 in fees, plus the bank offers to throw in a fraud protection service. In its call to action, Harris invites readers to call or visit its Web site. All in all, the bank gives readers a couple of good reasons to respond while burnishing the brand at the same time.

MasterCard's “Priceless” campaign has been one of the most successful consumer and b-to-b branding efforts in recent memory. Throw in a direct response element and you've got a powerful combination, as in this vibrant-looking ad targeting small business.

States the headline: “Small business savings:1-10% ... Having it all under control: priceless.” MasterCard asks for the order in copy that reads: “Register your eligible MasterCard credit or debit small-business card and start saving from 1% to 10%. You could save on things like car rentals, hotels, airfare and even business services. There are no rebate forms to fill out. The savings will appear automatically on your monthly statement. It's as simple as that.”

Finally, Trend Micro invites a response in this ad that enhances its reputation for being a provider of enterprise security software that can substantially reduce enterprise risk and management costs. To induce prospects and customers to act on the ad, Trend Micro asks readers to try its free online impact calculator.

The copy—a call to action in its own right—does a solid job of driving readers to the calculator. “Enterprises around the world are saving big, and you can, too. Run the numbers and see how the Trend Micro Smart Protection Network can help you reduce costs without compromising security.”

There are four good examples of ads that are two for the price of one.

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