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Something to shoot for: make media make sense


The first time I heard it, I was totally confused. During a college lecture, my instructor pointed out Marshall Mcluhan`s famous quote, “The medium is the message.”

McLuhan`s words have become my mantra since graduating and joining the advertising profession. Unfortunately, many advertisers are STILL totally confused when it comes to making the optimal use of media. Advertisers want the most exposure their ad dollars can buy, so media selection is often based on numbers and efficiency, i.e. tonnage.

Yeah, Betsy, and your point is? Okay, so it`s NOT the unpardonable sin, but tonnage alone misses a great opportunity to leverage every element of the campaign effectively and creatively. Advertising is about connecting with your audience. There are two ingredients in this formula – a well-executed message that is relevant to the target audience and finding the target audience open and ready to connect. Media selection is about the finding part.

Each media vehicle has a core value that has to be understood before it is married to the correct message. Television is the great emotional roller coaster. You can be laughing your you-know-what off at Letterman one minute and feeling like a complete creep the next when a phone company spot reminds you how long it`s been since you called poor, old mom. It`s very powerful.

Remember the Kennedy/Nixon debate? I don`t care if you weren`t born yet, surely you`ve heard by now how the radio listeners deemed Mr. Nixon the winner, while the television viewers gave the win to the good-looking Senator from Massachusetts. Emotions are the bricks and mortar of creating an image and thus building a brand.

AHA! So when the advertiser wants to build image, he buys television, right?

Well, that`s only half of it. Mr. McLuhan never saw The Jerry Springer Show, or he would have undoubtedly qualified his statement a little. It would be tough to build product integrity when chairs and bodies are flying off stage. If image and brand-building are your advertising goals, television IS a great media choice, but select programming that supports your brand position through its tone and/or content. When The Ramey Agency decided Viking Range, a very upscale line of kitchen appliances and a very cool client, was ready to launch onto television to expand the brand, we found the Food Network to be a natural. Its viewers are watching because they are interested in premium dining and cooking, and so are Viking customers.

Radio has been called the “theater of the mind” for good reason. An advertiser can take the listener to the moon and back in 60 seconds with the right creative. Some radio campaigns such as the one for Motel 6 (“We`ll leave the light on for you”), were so successful that when asked, consumers really believed they saw the spots on television. With a great spot, radio is another image builder. The price and nature of radio also allow for repetitiveness and frequency of your message. If your goal is to remind or maintain awareness, radio is a great vehicle.

But the one thing that radio and television are short on is time. Unless you are buying an infomercial, your message is limited to a minute or less. If your communications goal is to inform or educate the audience, you should consider using print. It is not confined to a time limit, so you can do a little explaining. Newspaper is very timely and offers a broad audience making it a great vehicle for event advertising and retail. Magazines are less timely but more audience-selective, and therein lies the true power of this vehicle. Readers are very interested in the subject matter of their favorite publication.

Outdoor is probably the most misused vehicle of all. Some advertisers see a big space and try to cram as much writing as they can on it. When the audience is speeding by at 85 – uh, I mean 65 – miles an hour they MAY have caught the first three words and nothing else.

Betsy Tabor is VP/media director for The Ramey Agency, a full-service agency with offices in Jackson and Memphis. Questions or comments can be sent to btabor@tra.net.

Outdoor has a lot of potential for generating awareness because of its size, but is usually relegated to directional advertising: “Stuckey`s famous pecan logs, next exit.” When used creatively, however, outdoor can be so cool. If you lived in Jackson about 10 years ago, you must remember the Pepsi billboard with the sequined glove holding a can. All it said was “Jackson`s Choice.”

Don`t underestimate the size of the board either. I worked at an agency several years ago that had an auto-body shop as a client. The creatives came up with the idea to put a wrecked car through the middle of a large billboard. As commuters approached the sign they would see the car`s front end with the headlights on. Once done, however, the size of the board so dwarfed the real car that instead of a wrecked vehicle, it looked like some sort of bug with lighted eyes. OOPS.

There are other, non-traditional forms of media, and there is a lot to be said about combining vehicles to create a strong message. But MBJ limits the number of words I have, and I am fast approaching that limit. So in 20 words or less, let me summarize. Make the message fit the media for credibility and to strike a chord with the audience. Actually, McLuhen said it better in five words, “The medium is the message.”


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