Thursday, April 30, 2009

Online Publishing Insider: Are You Buying What You're Selling?

Are You Buying What You're Selling?

The question "Did the ad campaign work?" sparks fiery debates, because we all have different takes on what "works" means. I contend advertising always works to a meaningful degree. Advertising is an investment that can be shaped into various instruments to accomplish multiple goals. Influencing the consumer is in that mix, but not the only ingredient to a successful communication plan, and not nearly the most important.

The biggest impact an advertising campaign makes is with the company doing the advertising. Pharmaceutical advertising is bought to increase the confidence of that company's sales team so doctors are aware of the product before a sales rep walks into the waiting room. Car advertising isn't created for consumers; it's conditional support owners of car dealerships demand in return for agreeing to purchase the cars from the manufacturer, prior to flipping them to consumers. Coke and Pepsi advertise to help secure shelf space in stores, not homes.

Regardless of the industry, advertising works best for the people who work at the company doing the advertising. Not only does it support their own sales force, it makes most everyone working at that company feel more worthy for the efforts they produce. Who doesn't feel better about their jobs when they see their own company advertising? Advertising is a sign of strength and a bellow of confidence heard by those you sell to and those you compete with.

As publishers, we are so used to our role of selling advertising we forget the need to buy it. Remember when everywhere you turned you were being asked, "Do you Yahoo?" At the height of this advertising campaign, Yahoo was considered the King of "Portal Hill" in the eyes of advertisers. The success of WebMd can be linked to the significant amount of advertising it has run, targeting consumers while building brand awareness among its clients. ESPN is everywhere, making it easier for its sales reps to get in to see everyone.

Regardless of the size of your company, your publishing brand holds meaning to a certain market. Within that market live the consumers you attract as well as the clients you call on. What kind of communication presence do you have inside your market, beyond the property you publish? Does the vice president of marketing at the clients you call on, see your brand advertising at the trade shows they attend, and in the trade publications they read?

If you are a media sales rep and your company owned the display ad roadblock on this newsletter and a dozen more like this one throughout the year, would you walk taller into an ad agency lobby? Would you feel slightly superior to the competitor you sat next to who is not advertising at all?

At the more tactical level in reaching media buyers, publishers can be as creative as the cobranded programs they try to sell. If I am Business Week, I am using my editorial clout to host intimate business insight conferences for advertisers and agencies on the industry of advertising. If I am any one of the cooking brands out there, I am creating a catering service to feed a different agency's media department once a week throughout the year. If I am, I am sending emails and or text alerts every Friday to all of my clients who opt in for a personalized weekend weather report. If I am a finance brand, I am conducting investment seminars tailored specifically for the media buyers I call on. Programs like these take a sizeable investment and eat up significant resources -- but doing nothing is much riskier.

To some degree, advertising works all of the time. It's times like these when those who sell it, should consider buying it.


Ari Rosenberg is a media sales consultant ( Prior to starting his company, he was the vice president of sales at He can be reached at

Online Publishing Insider for Thursday, April 30, 2009:

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