Does newspaper advertising work? I know what I overwhelming hear at conference after conference, NO. The Philadelphia Inquirer recently tried to prove that the people who are saying this may have their heads in the clouds and that yes, it does indeed work.
Last Friday newspaper subscribers saw ads for a new airline in their paper, Derrie-Air. The concept behind this new airline was that it takes more fuel to fly heavier things, so therefore heavier people should pay more than lighter people, so the airline would be charging by pound. They advertised sample rates from $1.40 per pound to go from Philly to Chicago and $2.25 per pound to go from Philly to LA. More over Southwest, there is a new airline in town touting, "The more you weigh, the more you pay". The ads for this new airline ran throughout the paper, as well as banner advertising on Philly.com.
If this sounds like an April Fools joke, it was... sort of. The airline was fake. However, the ad was there to serve a purpose. Philadelphia Media Holdings spokesman Jay Devine said the goal is to "demonstrate the power of our brands in generating awareness and generating traffic for our advertisers, and put a smile on people's faces."
No traffic numbers have been released yet, but Devine is already saying that there has been a lot of buzz for the campaign, especially on blogs.
So are we to believe that because this campaign driving a lot of traffic to a fake airline that the Philadelphia Media Holdings is advertising, that advertising in their media does indeed work as a marketing vehicle?
I say no and that this test is invalid.
The concept was too gimmicky for it to be applied to everyday standards. How many people saw the ad and were legitimately interested in booking a flight and went to the website- maybe a few. How many were totally appalled and went to the website to complain- probably a lot more. And how many saw the ad in a news story or on a blog, exposure that a typical ad would not receive, and went to the website- my guess is an overwhelming majority.
Another bad message this idea sends is the idea of repetition in advertising is not important. This ad ran for one day last Friday, and look at the buzz it generated. I have been in advertising for 10 years, even worked at a print company for 5 of them. I know our reps talked about the value of repetition, and I am sure you all have heard from your newspaper reps as well. Branding ads typically need to be seen over and over in order to create awareness and action. So I guess the next time you reps visits you and wants you to sign a long term contract, you can whip out this experiment and show them how effective a one-day run can be?
I think the idea to run a test campaign and measure the effectiveness is a great idea on the part of this newspaper. We should all be monitoring and testing our products and services like this to some degree. But in order for the experiment to provide real results, I think they should have used a real product. Would the results have been the same if they made up a fake car dealership and ran ads in the auto section? What about if they would have created a fake real estate brokerage ad and ran it in the real estate section. Of course the results would differ, but they would have been applicable to the current set of advertisers and usable data for the newspaper. I don't believe any results they generate from this ad are usable. Funny, perhaps. Valid, no.
There are two things we can take away from this experiment. 1) Creativity works in your favor. This ad was definitely creative and it got people's attention. What aspect of your business can you turn into an interesting marketing tool? 2) Viral works. While they were intially trying to use their media assets to generate a campaign, I believe it was the virual effect that really took it to the next level. They got some random like me to write about them on my little blog. How can you get people talking about you. Web 2.0 is huge tool in trying to accomplish this.
So don't worry. Have another doughnut for breakfast this morning. Your next airline ticket is still going to cost the same as the guy who only has a small cup of coffee!