Welcome to the World of Alternative Advertising

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To discuss alternative advertising, we must begin to understand the core group of consumers who are best reached through unconventional advertising methods. The challenge is that the target group of consumers is highly resistant to traditional advertising and now, more than ever, they are demanding that we step into their world.

Alternative marketing’s target audience is a group not easily reached through traditional means. Broadcast radio is battling iPods both in the car and at home. Digital video recorders, such as TiVo, are creating a world where many people rarely see television commercials in their entirety, if at all. And many of the popular newspapers and magazines now offer online versions of their publications.

Generations X and Y now comprise approximately 42 percent of the U.S. population. Generation Xers (born between 1965 and 1976) and Generation Yers (born between 1977 and 1994) were both raised with similar accessibility to cable TV, the Internet, and other personal, controllable technology. As a result, these groups view advertising from a different perspective than earlier generations.

A 2007 study conducted by Microsoft and Starcom found that 10–15 percent of adults between 17 and 35 years old are identified as ad avoiders. This means that an entire chunk of the target age consumer is going out of their way to evade traditional advertising media. The study also showed that 12 percent of avoiders watch less than one hour of TV a week versus 3 percent among non-avoiders who watch so little.

So how do we reach them? Successful marketers need to explore new, creative avenues to reach their target audiences. Creative advertising is more than just writing three lines of copy, slapping on a logo and calling it done. Creativity focuses on the end result and strategy—meeting the clients’ needs. But as we all know, sometimes what seems like a great idea can plummet before it ever has a chance to fly.

I recently read a book entitled, Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die. In the book, authors Chip and Dan Heath examine why certain ideas have staying power while others are instantly forgettable. They also provide insightful, yet practical methods to help develop solid, creative ideas using their “six principals of winning ideas”: simplicity, unexpectedness, concreteness, credibility, emotions, and stories.

All six of the principals are pertinent to the advertising industry, but the third principal, concreteness, really stuck out in my mind. To make a message stick, it is important to make that message as concrete as possible, according to the book. What better way to do this than with promotional products? As the only form of tangible advertising, promotional products provide the advertising industry with a viable avenue to reach consumers beyond traditional means, thus stretching the boundaries of creativity.

If we ever want to engage the disengaged ad avoider, it is pertinent to the success of our industry and the success of our clients that we look outside the box and consider alternative forms of advertising. Instead of the usual cocktail of print, TV, and radio, why not add a promotional product twist? Statistics show that the 19.4 billion-dollar promotional advertising industry is a marketing force to be reckoned with, and yet it often remains left out of the mix.

I challenge you, however, to consider that in a society where yellow silicone bracelets and small pink ribbons are considered fashion statements it is obvious that today’s consumers are often triggered to action through a brand’s tangibility. If they are not watching commercials and they won’t listen to the radio, why not step into their world and give them what they are asking for? Give them promotional products.
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