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Marketing takes many forms

You skip television commercials with your digital video recorder, search for all your information online and get your music and video through your iPod.

How's a business to reach you?

Now more than ever, it has to come find you wherever you are.

Out and about and getting hot and thirsty? You might see the Blue Ash-based Sunny Delight "Sunmobile" in the supermarket parking lot.

Picking up a gallon of milk on the way home? Cincinnati-based Kroger Co. has experimented with ads on the conveyor belts at checkout lanes.

Surfing the Internet for cool videos? Did you see the one on www.eepybird.com where Mentos candy explodes in bottles of Diet Coke? Mentos marketer Perfetti Van Melle in Erlanger didn't create the video but has changed its marketing strategy because of it.

It's all part of the gradual transformation of the advertising industry from one dependent on television commercials and print ads to electronic, promotional and word-of-mouth marketing campaigns that try to catch you at the moment you're making your purchase decision. Companies and consumers alike are increasingly relying less on mass media and more on targeted messages that meet the industry mantra of "relevance."

"I just don't read the bags that come on the door anymore. I just don't have time," says Loveland resident Emma Caro, 30. "And I don't pay all that much attention to TV commercials anymore. I record a lot of stuff on the DVR, then fast-forward through all the commercials."

Caro relies instead on e-mails that she's signed up to get from her favorite retailers, such as Bath & Body Works.

She is not alone. While television commercials still make up about 66 percent of all advertising spending, and Internet advertising accounts for only about 2 percent, online advertisements are gaining popularity. Internet ad spending totaled $4 billion during the third quarter this year, up 33 percent from the previous year, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau.

The world's biggest advertiser, Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble Co., is among those making the transition with its $6.8 billion annual advertising budget. P&G is putting Crest toothpaste ads on napkins and bathroom doors in bars and is putting video ads on mobile telephones for Herbal Essences shampoo.

And P&G's Folgers coffee has started www.toleratemornings.com, producing a video that quickly was posted on YouTube and allowed consumers to send wake-up messages to each other. It's a far cry from the demonstration-heavy commercials P&G has been running for decades.

All of those approaches ask consumers to "opt in" before getting the marketing message, and Global Marketing Officer Jim Stengel says P&G is moving toward marketing where consumers actively seek the ads - and in some cases even control the message.

"If you can do marketing that people seek out, you're hitting a whole separate benchmark," he says. "You're really in the sweet spot."

THE SEARCH FOR RELEVANCE

The transformation has spread well beyond P&G. In a region known for its branding companies - in part because of P&G's presence and spinoff business here - every marketer, every media buyer and every advertising agency is trying to plot its impact. Companies increasingly are putting more messages in more places in your daily life, whether it's your mobile phone or the soccer field where your child plays on Saturday morning.

"It's all about targeting," says Brian McHale, president of Empower MediaMarketing in Mount Adams. "People don't want to be shouted at. They don't want to be told what to do. You have to find a way to be relevant."

That certainly applies for Sandra Daniels of East Walnut Hills, who says she doesn't look at print ads because she thinks she's being bombarded. She's more receptive to e-mails, where she can check them on her own schedule.

Kim Patton of Hebron is part owner of a liquor store that has stopped sending out fliers. Instead of spending several thousand dollars on the fliers, they used the money to create an e-mail list and promote regular wine-tastings for regular customers.

"We're trying to buy the time it takes for someone to open the flier and read it," Patton says.

Consumers have rebelled against several methods. For example, so-called "push" cell phone ads, sent without the consumer's permission, generally are not effective in this country, although they are used in Asia and other markets where mobile penetration is much higher. And the negative response to pop-up-window Internet ads has discouraged many established marketers from using them.

The newer methods aren't for every advertiser. LaRosa's Inc. has experimented with e-mail and mobile-phone programs but hasn't seen enough response to continue it, executive vice president of marketing Pete Buscani says.

"We're the stewards of the marketing budget," he says. "I've got to try things here and there, but at the end of the day, the traditional media are the ones that work."

ADS IN UNEXPECTED PLACES

But enabled by new technology and by strained media budgets, the trends are inexorably leading advertisers away from mass advertising and toward more targeted means. For example, the Utah Opera bought the wrappers on hangers at dry cleaners and adorned them with the message, "You would look great in this at the Utah Opera."

And in New York, Starbucks is gluing empty coffee cups to the tops of taxicabs to draw attention in the most media-saturated city in the country.

In many of these cases, the media costs are minimal compared to television, print or direct mail, says Tim Williams, who runs a Salt Lake City media consulting firm called Ignition and was in Cincinnati last month to speak to clients of the Powers Agency advertising firm.

"It only matters if they're paying attention," Williams says. "And when a campaign starts getting parodied on the Internet, you know you've got a successful campaign."

Perhaps the best example is Erlanger's Perfetti Van Melle, which estimates it got more than $10 million in free media this summer when two men in Maine posted a video online where they dropped the company's Mentos candy into bottles of Diet Coke to create a replica of the Bellagio Hotel fountain in Las Vegas.

"It was a surprise to us, and we were really delighted by it," vice president of marketing Pete Healy says. "We know it bought a lot in equivalent advertising value. It certainly brought the brand in front of a lot of younger consumers."

After the video took off, the company helped the pair create another online video, called "Experiment 214," that went online in October. It's also started an online contest at mentosgeysers.com and offered iTunes downloads as prizes.

Not all of the alternative marketing has to be high-tech. In a time-honored tactic that might once have been dismissed as "promotional" by advertising types, the company sent street teams and cars adorned with the Mentos label through the Tall Stacks festival in October, carrying 6-foot rolls of Mentos and handing out samples.

The success of those ventures has convinced Perfetti Van Melle to shift much of its marketing budget away from traditional television commercials, although Healy won't detail the numbers.

"We don't have plans for extensive TV in 2007," he says.

Sunny Delight Beverages Co. in Blue Ash last summer sponsored a "Summer in a Bottle" campaign that included a couple of vans touring festivals all over the country.

Rick Zimmerman, senior vice president of marketing and innovation at Sunny Delight, says he could envision beach volleyball games played during the winter in a bubble on Fountain Square.

"It doesn't replace the old media. It's additive," he says. "If we can turn every day into summer, that's great for us."

MARKETING IN AN ONLINE WORLD

So what is the future? Many of the areas to be mined are electronic, including:

Search marketing, which allows consumers to quickly find exactly the content they want. That would be good for Cincinnati's E.W. Scripps Co, which has spent nearly $900 million the last two years to buy comparison-shopping sites Shopzilla and uSwitch. Shopzilla allows users to find the best deal, and then links them directly to the retailers' site, while the British site uSwitch actually helps perform transactions for home services.

That means retailers only pay for "qualified leads," providing a higher return that can be precisely measured.

Content designed for mobile phones. In some Asian countries, you can take a picture of a bar code on a billboard and then use that to get instant discounts sent to your phone. Mobile penetration in the U.S. hasn't gotten big enough to support much of that content yet, marketers say.

Blogs, which often are written by individuals and have not yet been fully exploited by marketers. In one example, the Candy Blog (www.candyblog.net) links directly to a discussion of Perfetti Van Melle products.

Online video, which creates a multiplying effect with appearances on YouTube or other sites. The American Association of Advertising Agencies expects viewership to grow more than 80 percent this year, with spending topping $400 million.

Because there are few limits on length or frequency of the videos, they present a huge opportunity for marketers, says Pete Blackshaw, chief marketing officer at Nielsen BuzzMetrics in Over-the-Rhine.

"In the TV world, it was 30 seconds," Blackshaw says. "Now, if you keep consumers engaged, it could be an hour."

 

Cliff Peale, The Cincinnati Enquirer. December 4, 2006

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