By Trent Rentsch
I’ve discovered that there’s a fine line between pity and disgust. The spot was for a domestic car dealership. The owner was speaking about “these tough economic times,” and he went on to talk about his dealership’s plans for “economic recovery,” and how the consumer could help them “stay in business” with his “stimulus program.” Then he listed some “rock bottom prices” on various vehicles. And during the entire commercial, he sounded “very sincere.”
Wrong, wrong, wrong! First, anyone connected with the domestic automotive industry whining about their money woes will get the same sympathy from the average person as the top dogs of the Big 3 did when they showed up in separate private jets, begging for a bailout from Congress. Second, those rock bottom prices were the same prices they were offering before their “economic crisis.” How do I know? I pay attention. And I doubt I’m the only one. And third, from the typical listener’s perspective, “What’s in all this for me?” The truth is, there really was nothing, other than paying the same old price for the same vehicles as the week before.
Yep, times have changed, no doubt about that. Money is tight, people are learning to be more careful with their spending, and more than ever before, they have their BS detectors on high. If there was ever a time that truth in advertising was important, it’s now. Truth, sincerity, and real, compelling benefits to consumers.
Why is Wal-Mart thriving when other big businesses are barely surviving... or dying? They’re huge, yes... but so are other companies. Like them or not, they’re offering people real value on their day to day needs. Real value is what they do, it’s what they advertise and what they deliver. Why, of all the high ticket ads that ran during the Super Bowl, did Denny’s end up causing such a stir? Great Creative? Hardly. They caused talk because there IS such a thing as a free breakfast, and they were offering it, for one day, to the entire country. So, why did the car ad I mentioned earlier not work?
Obviously, we don’t all have clients who have the incredible buying power of Wal-Mart, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t offer value. Even if the products they want to advertise don’t scream deal, they may well be. It may be up to you to discover that hidden value. And in that search, you may find an effective hook for the commercial.
Here are a few examples of businesses who advertise on radio and hidden values they provide:
Tire stores. According to Consumer Reports, replacing one worn tire can save you 100 dollars a year or more on gas. Correct wheel alignment improves your mileage as well; even keeping your tires properly inflated can make a difference in your MPG.
Grocery stores. Kiplinger.com suggests learning to cook and staying out of restaurants can save you big money. For example, at 20 dollars per meal, trimming dining out to once a week rather than 3 times a week is going to save you $160 a month. Brown bagging it for lunch rather than hitting the burger joint down the street can save you nearly a thousand bucks a year! Many grocery stores offer double the face value on coupons every day... twice the savings on your eat-in treats!
Restaurants. If you are going to eat out, there are still plenty of bargains. Some restaurants offer discount meals on particular nights (date nights, big game nights, etc.). Others send direct marketing coupons for discounts. On-line discounts are huge for restaurants right now; restaurant.com, for example, teams with local restaurants to offer gift certificates at a lower price. You might pay 10 bucks for 25 dollars at a local eatery... often, the deal will be ever better!
Windows/Exterior home products. Experts say that 38% of your home heat loss is through windows and doors... older and cheaper windows and doors allow up to 50% of the heat in your home to escape. By installing new, energy efficient windows and doors, the savings in heating costs can pay for itself. In addition, the Alliance to Save Energy reports that the government is continuing to offer tax credits for replacement of exterior doors, windows and roofs.
Car dealerships. Yes, true savings does exist there. Gas may be cheaper again, but even if the cost stands still, it makes sense to save money with a car that gets more miles to the gallon (not to mention using up less fossil fuels is good for the world). Newer cars also require less maintenance due to better design (and, of course, because they are new), and if something should fail in a new car, it will be covered under warranty (just be careful with disclaimers when it comes to warranties!).
There you go... five minutes on Google and you have a wealth of true value-based information! You could make it “the star” of the commercial; maybe creating a character like “Brown Bag Bob” for a grocery store, who provides tips on making your own lunches and saving money (perhaps with their food offers of the week). Perhaps you could talk about taking a “Magical Money-saving Tour” with new, properly aligned tires (sorry, I’m listening to the Beatles as I’m writing). Even if you just sprinkle some true value information in your copy, it becomes a powerful persuasive tool... for example, if I knew the government was going to pay me to replace old, drafty windows; well, who doesn’t want a slice of government pie?
While it’s true that we’re all in this together, does a listener really care whether a business is having financial problems? Nope. More than ever before, all the average consumer is looking for is a deal. If a business is really worried about keeping its doors open, they’d better provide those deals in their advertising. It is a Creative strategy that makes cents, ahh, sense.