Advocating advertising in challenging times

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Advertising has its true believers: publishing companies, marketing industry associations and, of course, ad agencies.

In this advertising downturn, several organizations, including The Wall Street Journal, American Business Media, Carat Freeman and Partners+Simons, have been putting their money where their mouths are by launching campaigns that tout the benefits of advertising. The message of these separate campaigns is hardly surprising: Advertising does work, especially during a downturn.

"We talk the talk," said Gordon Hughes II, president of New York-based American Business Media. "We wanted to show that we walk the walk."

ABM plans to launch a campaign in September that will promote the effectiveness of print advertising in a downturn. The campaign will have a media expenditure valued at $2 million, although some member companies will offer space at discounted rates, Hughes said.

The campaign, which is being created by Mad Dogs & Englishmen, New York, will cite the results from a new study completed by Harris Interactive-Yankelovich Custom Research and commissioned by ABM.

In its campaign promoting advertisingand, not coincidentally, advertising in The Wall Street JournalDow Jones & Co. Inc. references an ABM study that is about 25 years old. "Studies by American Business Media," says the copy in one Journal ad, "examined the relationship between advertising and sales in 143 companies during the severe 1974-1975 downturn. They found that companies that did not cut advertising in either year had the highest growth in sales and net income during the two years of the study and the following two."

One of the ads features a toothsome shark swimming in a rough ocean. The copy is equally daunting: "Your brand is a lifeboat. (Never, ever leave the lifeboat)."

The dark tone reflects the tough times and is a stark contrast to the ebullient Journal campaign that ran during the height of the Internet frenzy, which featured such bold headlines as, "The Wall Im 29 and just took my company public Street Journal."

Im a believer

In another example of true believers advertising in difficult times, Boston-based ad agency Partners+Simons has joined with technology media buying outfits Carat Freeman and Carat Interactive to run a modest schedule. Its ad headline gently mocks the branding bonanza of the Internet era: "The next new thing: Responsibility." The copy positions the companies as offering results-oriented and reasonably priced marketing assistance, an approach very appealing in a downturn.

"In a down economy, advertisers become naturally inclined to analyze the value that theyre getting from communications resources," said Tom Simons, president-creative director of Partners+Simons. "One of the ways of doing that is looking at leads and return on investment and looking more directly at the amount of money theyre paying advertising firms.

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