Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Alternative Advertising

Advertising is one of my pet-hates, primarily because so many ads seem to treat the viewer/reader as an idiot. Automobiles with names like 'The Magnum' or the 'XKE325' apparently try to appeal to the base emotions that might be more abundant in a nine year old than a grown man.

Of course there are some television commercials which are innovative and humorous, but unfortunately after the first 200-300 views, anything gets rather old.

And some ads are aimed not at buyers of a certain product or service, but at a different audience.

Potential employees is one example. Several years ago Wal Mart ran a television ad that featured several senior-citizen employees who spoke about the variety of activity in their particular Wal Mart and that you never knew what you were going to see at a Wal Mart. The ad didn't mention any of the products or prices or discounts but really featured the working life of a retired and presumably part-time Wal Mart greeter or cashier. It seemed to me at the time that the object of the commercial was not to get people to come in to buy stuff but to get people to come in and apply for a job.

And they were particularly targeting the elderly, part-time, bored, newly retired types who might find it a way to spice things up if they spent 12-20 hours a week earning an hourly wage down at the local outlet. I can only guess that Wal Mart likes these senior citizen, part time workers since they do not require health insurance since the law does not require health coverage for part-timers and that presumably those older than 62 qualify for medicare at some level.

Other advertisements are directed at cultivating investment in a particular company. These tend to be for products or services that don't have a retail market or that appear in media aimed at an adult audience for whom the product might not be appropriate.

Still others feature a corporation's good works and citizenship by highlighting charitable activities and such. Nothing mentioned about the product or the sale or benefits of buying their wares. Only that we're good guys for helping out the disadvantaged in your community or for our activities to restore environmental quality, etc.

In the area of public policy, particularly in the Washington D.C. area there are ads which run during the political commentary Sunday fare by large corporations trolling for government contracts or legislation to protect a certain company's business model. Northrop Grumman and Archer Daniels Midland come most immediately to mind. Almost nobody watching any television show is going to buy a fighter jet except someone who holds a high position at the Pentagon or who reviews military procurement in Congress.

It is said that taxes are an economic inefficiency because that money would be better allocated in the hands of consumers or the private sector generally; governments do just about everything less efficiently than consumers or private enterprise. If that's true I would say the same thing about expenditures on advertisements. Embedded in the price of every product or service, along with the raw materials, labor, insurance, licensing, delivery, warehousing and such is the cost of marketing the thing. And it seems that more and more resources are devoted to this attempt at persuasion which is widely recognized as deception. I'd say that's an inefficient allocation of capital.

No comments: