As advertisers and marketers in DRTV and E-Commerce, we are in the business of speaking directly to people who may not think like us. We make efforts to understand their wants and needs as we pursue direct to consumer advertising.
Today, there’s a growing demand for brands to speak up on societal issues, whether sustainability, racism, or gender equality. But there’s caution on the political side due to the scale of possible negative repercussions. Leaning towards one way or another can make or break a company’s optics. Advertisers have a tough job of navigating the deeply divided political, social, and ideological landscape of the United States. Now more than ever, it’s a challenge to promote products and services to a diverse group of consumers in the TV and digital landscape.
One possible route to take is creating variations in advertising, thus speaking separately to each group. But this is not always the most pragmatic approach. So what are advertisers supposed to do when faced with the tension between trying to align with various causes and navigating a divided –and often hostile– public?
The answer to this question remains unclear, but the best way brands can advocate for causes they stand behind without causing a divide amongst their audience is by sending a message of unity and positivity. Americans are so divided from of all the negative messaging they’re exposed to. If you use positive messaging in advertisements and seek ways to bring people together, regardless of their beliefs, the chance for unified messaging and positive customer response remains strong.
How Have Spending Habits Changed Since the Pandemic?
COVID-19 has changed how we live socially, professionally, and financially. Because of economic setbacks and widespread job loss, some people have less spending money, and others have saved due to receiving stimulus funds. The types of products that gained and lost popularity during this period can provide insight into how people are spending their time and how their priorities have changed.
Online, digital and DRTV, and home shopping increased prominence during this period due to people spending more time at home and actively avoiding going out in public. Because of this digital surge and its convenience, the popularity of online shopping and direct-to-consumer advertising is likely to continue at full force after the pandemic.
People had more time at home and more time to evaluate brands. And are more open to value and new brands. This shift could lead to economic instability for higher-end name brands. Still, it could help increase popularity for start-up brands promoted in DRTV and social media, giving a more level playing field.
Certain product categories surged in popularity, such as soaps, hand sanitizers, and other types of sanitizing products, as well as health, fitness, and home improvement products and services. Pandemic behavior will likely linger for a long time post-pandemic, and marketers can take advantage of the trends created during the pandemic.
Written by our own Gen Z, Ariel Smith
It’s official, Generation Z has been declared as those born between the years 1995-2015, (3 to 23 years old). This group is born into a planet of technology and a time where social media is the norm. So what does this mean for marketers? Well, it means it’s time for us to step up our game and adapt to these new societal changes, whether we like it or not. They want connections; therefore the old school hard sell is not the best way to advertise first anymore. No fluff messages are allowed, they can see right through that. We live in a time where short attention spans are the norm, due to the instant gratification society we live in today. The Internet has allowed us to dig into what a brand’s true colors are and what they stand for.
As marketers, it’s our job to keep up with the newest trends, technology, social platforms, etc. In order for us to better connect with generation Z, it is important for us to understand the culture of this generation. Marketers must embrace technology and the new ways of storytelling. Here are four ways to market to Generation Z.
Work on Social Media Game: There is having social media and there is using social media. A few platforms that Generation Z frequently use are Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and YouTube. The more you know about using each platform’s features, the better you can connect with your audience. Hashtags are a simple but effective way to help promote your brand organically. Engage with your audience by actually taking the time to respond to comments; they will appreciate it. User generated content is a sure way to have your own crowd; create contests and loyalty programs to spark up your social media. Remember, it’s also important to be relevant and engaging on all your platforms.
Utilize Video- Video marketing has become extremely popular over the past few years in the digital era. According to HubSpot, 90% of customers report that product videos help them make purchasing decisions. That is a whooping 90%! The key is to be authentic as much as possible. There are various options like Instagram Stories, Facebook Live, and Snapchat Stories, just to name a few. The key is to keep the copy light and the graphics colorful to grab and maintain attention. Short videos with subtitles are the way to go! Using video communications to connect with your audience is a great and easy way to get new leads and sales.
Be Mobile Friendly– Phones are the primary platform of Gen Z, because they’re glued to them 24/7. It’s important to be mobile friendly for your product. A few factors to consider are to make sure your content is quick to load, as you don’t want to lose eyeballs, a quick and simple Call to Action, minimal copy, and a clear message.
Create Awesome Content– As stated before (this is key to marketing to Gen Z), fluffing your message to potential customers is not the way to go. Instead, focus on providing information viewers can learn from or that they would find engaging and entertaining. This way, they will be thinking positively and optimistically about your brand and not dread a commercial interruption. In fact, they will be way more likely to engage and become a long-term customer.
The year was 1990. I was working in mainstream advertising. Shooting commercials for Madison Avenue shops that wound up on Super Bowls, Academy Awards, Olympics, and prime time. There was some prestige, but no accountability. And there was a strange new type of advertising brewing. Long commercials. They were tacky and cheesy, yet captivating. They invited people to call and order unique products they could not get anywhere else.
They were called infomercials. I snuck out, under cover I thought, to attend a conference at the Mirage in Las Vegas for a group called NIMA. It stood for National Infomercial Marketing Association. I snuck because I did not want my ad agency clients to know I was there. It would somehow tarnish my cool image.
Yet, somehow, I wound up in People magazine. My cover was blown. I was now, whether I liked it or not, part of the infomercial business.
There was a vitality and spark about the NIMA people that didn’t exist with the Madison Avenue crowd. I met all sorts of people and didn’t fully understand what they all did. But I collected hundreds of cards and networked. And gradually some of those people started to hire me to produce their infomercials. It was exciting and scary because they knew right away how many people were calling and ordering. The immediacy was incredibly exhilarating.
I lived a double life for several years, shooting Madison Avenue spots while sneaking around with the infomercial crowed. I just could not pull myself away from them. It was like driving on the highway and seeing an accident, the blood, not wanting to look, but somehow not able to turn away.
And I always looked forward to those NIMA conferences. I became a member. I went to all the conferences and met more and more amazing people.
We networked on the show floor, in the hallways, in restaurants, in the airports, on the planes. In fact, I met one of my largest clients on a plane coming back from a conference. It was fantastic. I worked with famous actors and models, musicians, circus animals, athletes, Doctors, and tons of real people who testified through affidavit that the product they used changed their lives forever and ever. NIMA changed their name to ERA (Electronic Retailing Association) and added more conferences. Miami. Vegas. Washington. Europe.
At one point, just after 9/11 in NYC, in a moment of reckoning, I abandoned Madison Avenue and went full throttle into the client direct business. ERA became my best friend. Most of my business came directly through ERA functions. I volunteered for committees, became part of a community, people started to know and trust me, and I started to forge life long friendships.
Each year, the ERA dues went up and up. Membership started declining. The shows seemed more and more empty. People did business in suites, in other hotels, bars, many never even came to the host hotel. It all crumbled.
I began to feel my dues were more like a charity contribution. And if I really wanted to contribute to a charity, I would send to St. Jude, not ERA.
So, with much guilt, I stopped paying dues in 2017. I saw no value proposition and was receiving nothing in return. And apparently I was not the only one.
I watched my dear friend ERA die a slow and excruciating death, until its final breath on June 1st, 2018, the day I received an email that ERA was no more. That ERA could not continue operating “in the face of declining dues receipts, fewer sponsorships and an overall shortage of revenue coupled with burdensome expenses”.
With terminal illness, you know that death will come; yet when it does, it is still a shock. 28 years of friendship. Now death. So final. So sad.
ERA failed to keep up with the times. Failed to serve all their members, just focusing on the top few big spenders. Failed to incorporate new technologies and new ways of selling into the equation. They lost their relevance, ran out of oxygen and died.
So, as I mourn my good friend of 28 years, I reflect on the good memories, the friends and colleagues, the career that I would not have, had I not befriended ERA. But let’s keep alive the community and camaraderie that was forged through ERA. And let’s do this as an industry together.
Perhaps this death, as many deaths do, will even bring us closer together as an industry.
Good by, old friend. Eternal thanks. I will miss you.
BE CREATIVELY FEARLESS IN ADVERTISING AND CONTENT MARKETING
By Ava Seavey, Queen Bee, Avalanche Creative Service, Inc.
The world is now a place filled with unlimited messaging and barraging of ads and content outdoors, online, in print, on the radio and on TV. The average person is hit with literally thousands of messages daily. How is it possible to grab attention, create emotion, and create interest?
Being bold and fearless in your creativity is a start. It is something that has been debated by the brand world and the world of DRTV and brand response for decades. But the interesting fact is that the brand and DRTV have blended, so that there is very little that differentiates them, other than the immediacy and urgency of DRTV and the way that media is purchased. Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat and YouTube are the ultimate direct response marketing vehicles. The opportunity to speak directly to prospects and customers on a personalized level has never been greater. Yet, mediocrity abounds in all medium, a desire for sameness, and a hesitancy to stand out.
Creativity does not need to be a dramatic shot of someone dangling from a mountaintop, an arty and stunning, exotic visual, a cheap shot at humor, or an effects filled voyage into fantasy. Creativity can be subtle and powerful, with meaning and purpose. The turn of a phrase, a compelling offer, donations to special causes, something just a bit different, but most of all, humanity. Compelling someone to pay attention because you’ve struck a chord in their head, their heart, or their soul, and they can relate. And they identify. Creativity can be found whether it is a Facebook ad, a blog post, a subject line in an email campaign, or a super bowl ad. It can be found everywhere, in every nook and cranny. In every form of media, either digital or traditional. Give them content; don’t just ask them to buy something. Give them value. Give them something to believe in.
Push the envelope and create something unexpected. Something that makes someone smile, think, or feel alive, is what drives our modern communication. Too often we get caught up in data, analytics and formulas, and we forget that we are communicating with human beings that can think, feel, laugh, weep and be inspired.
To think out of the box is risky. It makes people afraid. It tests the boundaries of their belief systems and of everything they thought was comfortable and proper.
To not think out of the box is far riskier. To risk being invisible is a far greater risk.
Stand up. Speak up. Take risks. You might strike out, but you tried. Babe Ruth struck out a lot as he broke records hitting home runs. If you can get up to the plate, take that big swing.
Ava Seavey is president of Avalanche Creative Services, Inc., a creative shop that produces TV, radio, print and digital advertising.