What Can We Learn About Advertising From March Madness?


This time of year much of the programming on television is dedicated to March Madness.  For about six weeks in March and April the content of hundreds of college basketball games fill the schedules of multiple networks.

If you are watching many of these games surely you noticed there are a ton of advertisements.  In a college game there are a minimum of eight television timeouts, in addition to the five timeouts each team has available to them in every game.  Because of all these timeouts it’s no doubt that you could easily name more than five brands that are continuously being promoted during all these breaks.  Obviously there is a lot of value to putting those brands in March Madness to make sure you recognize them.

March Madness is an event.  That event is what brings the viewers, which brings the advertisers.  It’s the event that makes it extraordinarily easy for the advertisers to get the most viewers in the smallest amount of time and space.

Unlike a handful of advertisers, the vast majority of businesses can’t afford the prices charged for advertising during an event such as March Madness.  If your business can’t afford those prices, does that mean you are out of luck, or should you create your own “event” instead?

Actually, neither.

Fortunately, your business can benefit from built-in “events” throughout the year that don’t have outrageous advertising rates attached to them.  One such “event” has to do with the change of seasons throughout the year.

Take advantage of the change of the seasons.  Consumers almost instinctively adjust their buying habits on a seasonal basis.  Consumers are active during seasonal changes and you can make money from this by asking for their business at these specific times.  One of the biggest benefits of the change of seasons “event” is that you don’t have to pay a premium to participate.  There’s no extra fee or producer of the event to charge outrageous advertising fees.  Get active promotionally during these times and adjust your offerings according to the seasons.  Even if you don’t have a seasonal product or service, it doesn’t matter.  You can always adjust pricing or add-ons in order to make your offerings more attractive and valuable to consumers when they might not have otherwise been thinking of you.

Keep this in mind though, if you don’t get proactive about marketing your products and services at key times of the year, someone else will.  Who do you think would earn that business?

Contributed by Jeff Vice.

Schmaltzy As A Work of Art

Annie L

Thinking about photography in advertising, I immediately thought of Annie Liebovitz, one of my favorite portrait photographers. Considered one of the most talented commercial photographers of today, she is most known for her Rolling Stone Magazine Portraits of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, actresses Meryl Streep, Whoopi Goldberg, and Demi Moore as well as so many other covers that were photographed while working for the Rolling Stone and Vanity Fair magazines.

In 2007 Liebovitz started the Disney Dream Portrait ad campaign to promote Disney Parks’ “Year of a Million Dreams“. This series took noteworthy celebrities and turned them into Disney Characters giving the audience a sense of familiarity but also creating a whimsical and imaginative ad to attract Disney fans of all ages. Just to name a few that you might remember seeing: actor Russell Brand as Captain Hook, singer Jennifer Hudson as Tiana from the Frog and the Prince, and actors Will Ferrell, Jack Black and Jason Segel as Phineas, Ezra and Gus from the Haunted Mansion attraction at the Disney Park.

Annie L (2)

To critique the photographer, in 2011 The Huffington Post is quoted saying, “Though the photos can be a bit, shall we say, schmaltzy, they are still works of art as advertising.”  Personally I would say when it comes to advertising sometimes the schmaltzier the better! From what I’ve learned “schmaltzy” isn’t necessarily a bad thing in the world of advertising. The Disney Dream Portrait Ad has been in publication for years and is still successfully being publicized today. Keep that in mind as you’re coming up with your own advertising ideas. Give them something they will remember! We’re always thinking of imaginative ways to represent RSVP and to advertise your business.

As Annie Leibovitz has said in the past, “my hope is that we continue to nurture the places that we love, but that we also look outside our immediate worlds.”

You can check out Liebovitz’s latest installment of the campaign, taken of one of the newest Disney movies, Brave, with Actress Jessica Chastain here.

Annie L (3)

Contributed by Crista Kling.

The Trap of Generic Advertising

Advertising is so pervasive today that there’s practically nowhere you can go without seeing or hearing an advertising message from a business grappling for your attention. That’s capitalism.

Many studies have been produced that say we’re bombarded by anywhere from 500 to 2,000 advertisements per day Just think about the number of signs you pass by that indicate a business’s brand or location, all while your radio is cranking out blocks of sixty-second spots between your handful of tunes or news and weather.

Are you really digesting all these images and messages? The advertisers hope you are. But too many advertisers are just wasting their money with generic messaging which could also fall under the category of branding.

If you are going to spend thousands of dollars to blow away your potential customer with your message, why wimp out with just a pretty picture and a phone number? Does that type of message actually ask your target to take out his or her wallet and give you their money?

Your advertisement must be bold. I don’t mean that you have to be controversial or outrageous to get attention. You just have to be straightforward and clear about what you want the recipient to do with your message. You want them to buy. Give them the map to do it.

Think about it this way – what is the tipping point at which an advertiser gets you to take action now? If you make them a special offer, make it special . Most people won’t get out of bed for just ten percent off. You know what your customers like. Give it to them. They’ll return in kind.

Contributed by: Jeff Vice

A Marketing Budget Is A Terrible Thing to Waste: Part 3

Posted by Renee Pugh and Jeff Vice

A Marketing Budget is a Terrible Thing to Waste: a Three-Part Series That Will Save You Money – Part Three

Welcome to the final post of our three-part series on how to STOP wasting your marketing money on ineffective advertising. We started by introducing the idea of the cluttered “kitchen sink” ad, and explained why this ad is not conducive to driving business; then we moved on to the bare “minimalist” ad and why it may not bring business your way. Today we finish up by helping you advertise like the Godfather. Remember the premise we started with:

An advertisement should do at least two things: educate your prospects about what you sell/do, and move them to do business with you.

Sealing the Deal Like the Godfather: How to Make an Offer They Can’t Refuse

Business owners commonly associate “offer” with “discount,” and are understandably reluctant to discount their products and services. You have invested significant amounts of time, money, and care into developing your business; discounting what you sell can feel like discounting your hard work – and that is painful. This pain can lead to making weak offers that do nothing to encourage consumers to act, and that is one of the purposes of advertising!

Crafting a compelling call to action doesn’t have to hurt. It simply requires that you think like a consumer – what could someone offer you that would make you want to buy from her? Be creative and think outside the dashed lines of the coupon box:

  • Offer a service that complements a purchase, such as free home delivery on furniture, or a color consultation with any haircut. These add-on services make a consumer feel like she is getting a great deal on something that would normally cost extra!
  • Develop a member rewards club and give “charter members” an exclusive gift with their first purchase as a member. A local café owner may give his first 50 members a free coffee and donut, for example. This little gift is low-cost to the café owner, and it makes his 50 “charter members” feel like they are part of a select group of favored customers – which will make them champion his business to their friends and families.
  • Offer a free “upgrade” with the purchase of your products or services. A spa owner might add aromatherapy to a standard massage for a “luxury” experience, or an HVAC specialist might perform a system inspection on any service call. An upgrade is enough for a consumer to call you, and by offering a preview of your other products and services, you will keep her coming back for more.
  • Your own unique idea – go wild!

This isn’t meant to prevent you from discounting. Discounts are quick and easy ways to grab a consumer’s attention and get results. There is, unfortunately, no hard-and-fast rule for what makes a good discount, but keep the following in mind:

  • A small discount will make your business seem greedy and cheap; a large discount will make your business look desperate.
  • If possible, make your discount a dollar amount rather than a percentage off. Dollar amounts are easier for consumers to process and register, so “$10 off $100” sounds like a better deal than “10% off $100” – even though they’re the same!
  • This is the most important tip: you know best the value of your products and services. If a discount makes you feel uncomfortable, or makes you worry about your business’ well-being, then it isn’t the discount for you. And that’s OK! Just keep trying until you find one that works.

And really, that is the bottom line of creating a great ad: you have to make it your own. You will get your best results when you are creative and stay true to your business. We know that is easier said than done, so feel free to drop us a line or ask us a question at the email address in our contact info. We will do our best to answer your question and offer guidance, and who knows? You may inspire a future blog post!

RSVP Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana

888 958-7787

A Marketing Budget Is A Terrible Thing to Waste: Part 2

Posted by Renee Pugh and Jeff Vice

A Marketing Budget is a Terrible Thing to Waste: a Three-Part Series That Will Save You Money – Part Two

Welcome to the second part of our three part series on how to STOP wasting your marketing money on ineffective advertising. Our first part introduced the idea of the cluttered “kitchen sink” ad, and explained why this ad is not conducive to driving business; you can catch up with part one here (link).

Today we move on to part two, but first we want you to remind you of the premise we suggested you keep in mind throughout the series:

An advertisement should do at least two things: educate your prospects about what you sell/do, and move them to do business with you.

Part 2: Minimizing Impact & Results with the Minimalist

A quick note before we dive in: minimalist ads can work if done correctly. Such ads require both a strong visual and either a strong brand – think of ad campaigns by companies such as Apple, Absolut Vodka, and Volkswagon – or a strong message. See here and here  for some examples of striking and effective minimalist ads; both galleries contain sexually suggestive material, so please use caution when clicking. You will see that it is possible to produce a successful minimalist ad, but bear in mind that these ads are often intended to build awareness (educate) and not necessarily encourage direct action.

Yet, business owners still produce these ads in hopes of drumming up business NOW. The minimalist is the opposite of the kitchen sink method from our last post. Where the kitchen sink ad overwhelms prospects with a glut of information, the minimalist ad barely gives prospects enough information to even make them take notice. These ads typically include the business’ name, address, and phone number – with the occasional website address or haphazard visual thrown in for flavor. While avoiding the issue of clutter that beleaguers the kitchen sink ad, minimalist ads provide little or no information on the products or services offered and give prospects no reason to call.

This another easy mistake to make; you spend nearly every waking moment building and nurturing your business and know it like the back of your hand. Chances are, your immediate friends and family share this familiarity with what you do, and it becomes easy to live in a bubble where your business’ name is directly connected to what you offer. Remember that advertising requires that we think like consumers, not business owners – and consumers live outside our bubble! It’s OK to test the minimalist waters, but at least start by adding a little something to your ad that will make prospects give you a call. It is as simple as adding a basic offer to your ad – this will be your call to action. It is what makes consumers act upon your ad, and it is also the third and most common way business owners blow their marketing dollars.

Join us next time for our third and final installment in this series, “Sealing the Deal Like the Godfather: How to Make an Offer They Can’t Refuse.” Ring-kissing is optional!

RSVP Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana

888 958-7787

A Marketing Budget Is A Terrible Thing To Waste: Part 1

posted by: Renee Pugh and Jeff Vice

A Marketing Budget is a Terrible Thing to Waste:a Three-Part Series That Will Save You Money – Part One

Here is the worst-kept secret in business: business owners everywhere are currently wasting money on marketing. These bold entrepreneurs aren’t throwing their hard-earned dollars away on purpose. In fact, these men and women are most likely acting very purposefully. They approach marketing with the same vigor and spirit with which they approach other aspects of their business. This is admirable – but it is a mistake! Marketing requires that we approach our business not as an owner, but as a consumer.

This three-part series will explore some common advertising mistakes and help you avoid wasting money on marketing that simply won’t work. The first two parts in the series look at two types of ads – “the kitchen sink” and “the minimalist.” We will explain the problems with each ad type, and discuss how to improve these ads so that they generate revenue for your business. Our third and final part in the series will explain how to create “The Godfather” clause in your ad; that is, the offer that your prospect can’t refuse.

Before we move on to begin our discussion with “the kitchen sink” ad type, we want you to keep the following premise in mind throughout the series:

An advertisement should do at least two things: educate your prospects about what you sell/do, and move them to contact you to do business.

Part 1: “The Kitchen Sink” & Overwhelming the Consumer with Your Ad.

This ad type is called “the kitchen sink” because it has everything – literally! It has each product and service you offer, before-and-after pictures, blurbs from satisfied customers, the addresses and phone numbers for each of your five area locations, multiple discounts enclosed by dashed lines, and even a picture of your children with your pets topped with a giant yellow starburst on the front that screams out DARE TO COMPARE!!!

What does an ad like this accomplish? They’re certainly informative, which helps educate consumers, and the discounts may be enough to bring business your way – assuming consumers can find them amidst the clutter. And that is the problem with these ads! They are so overwhelming that prospects don’t know where to look or what to think. There is no clear message, aside from the desperate plea of PLEASE, PLEASE BUY FROM ME. PLEASE. And a business relationship is similar to a romantic relationship, in that desperation is a complete turn-off.

This mistake is easy to make; you have worked hard to build your business, and every aspect is important to you, which makes it tough to trim the fat from a busy ad. But trim you must! Instead of featuring every product or service, pick 1 or 2 to highlight; include one or two images – and leave Junior and Fluffy out of them; only list your main location(s) and website address; and above all, keep the design clean and easy-to-read. The best ad is the one that gives the consumer just enough information to make her curious without sending her into information overload.

What happens when you trim too much? Find out in our next installment in this series: “The Minimalist” is coming up next!