Gray is the new green, part 14: Old school advertising

When was the last time you took a serious look at a traditional advertising campaign, by which I mean print (newspapers and magazines), broadcast (radio and television) and outdoor (billboards, bus shelters, posters, etc.)?

Given that we are well into the digital age, you may be under the belief that advertising has moved exclusively into the online domain where automated programs such as Google Adwords, retargeting and SEO programs dominate. With traditional dissemination continuing to subside in perceived value year-over-year, many have come to rely solely on digital channels which allow for smaller, ad hoc budgets and more direct monitoring. While electronic promotions’ efficacy is not in dispute, the mass departure from traditional media has opened an opportunity for those who are game to re-enter the fold.

In other words, go where others are not in order to stand apart from the herd.

This Sunday, if you don’t get your newspaper home-delivered, go to the local market and pick up a copy. Chances are you are not the only one who is still in the habit of spending a good portion of their Sunday morning glancing at the paper. We all know that newspaper ad revenue is declining due to decreasing readership. But if you’re buying ad space for your hotel, you’re purchasing eyeballs, not just trends. 

Newspapers may be down, but they are hardly out! And if your target audience approximates that of the newspaper’s circulation plan, why not consider it? I argue that many boomers have migrated away from printed materials, but many more have yet to do so.

For example, your property is located in the northeastern part of the country. Your book of group business leaves definite midweek occupancy gaps – a perfect opportunity to fill with FITs. The ideal candidate guests are retired adults. After all, their kids have left the nest and those who are not snowbirds are looking for things to do. These just happen to be the same folks who are regularly perusing the newspaper. Promoting a getaway through traditional advertising should definitely be a consideration.

Going “old school” will take some getting used to. Concepts such as creative design, media buying/negotiation and placement are skills that will need to be dusted off. Chances are that your contemporary digital ad agency doesn’t have the experience in this communications segment. You’ll need to seek help from freelancers or specialists. But do not be deterred, as progress often comes from reinvention. And in this sense, the old school has become the new school.

But don’t just run one ad and pass judgement on potentially thin results. Experience suggests that a typical frequency should be no less than three times in any single print media. Radio and television media buying is different than print but follows a similar strategic focus on reach and frequency.

The math suggests a three times frequency of a US$5,000 ad will require an investment of about US$16,500 once creative design is factored in. Say you have a two-night package at a promotional rate of US$200, with a 75% contribution on accommodations. This means you’ll have to book 55 packages to break even. If the publication’s readership is 250,000, your breakeven conversion rate is well below 0.01%. 

With those odds, a test program is clearly in order. However, there’s also an intangibility factor at play – those people who interact with your ad but do not purchase. In the electronic space this is more easily measured in terms of reach or impressions, whereas in traditional mediums the statistics are not quite as exact. While it’s always good for the ego to have a high conversion rate, never forget the advertising axiom pertaining to share of voice. By reinvigorating your old school channels, you are in essence competing for voice share on a whole other plane than most of your competitors.

Better to investigate your options now so that you can have the leg up by the time everyone else awakens to the renewed potential of traditional advertising.