November 10, 2009

Brought To You By Your Central New Mexico Chrysler-Jeep Dealers

Recently, in Creative For Carpetbaggers, I commented on the idiotic ways that big companies moving into new markets always try to associate themselves with the area, and usually get all caught up in their underwear.

Today I would like to put another really dumb advertising tradition in the crosshairs -- superficial localization.

Let's start at the beginning.

The general purpose of advertising is to give a consumer a reason to buy your product. This is not easy. Usually an advertiser has way more to say about his product than can be fit comfortably into a 30-second tv spot or a 60-second radio spot or a 1/2 page ad.

And yet some advertisers are happy -- as a matter of fact, clamoring -- to waste part of those precious seconds and pages by saying something that may sound nice to them, but is useless to consumers. Something like: "See your Central New Mexico Chrysler-Jeep Dealer."

Here's why it's a waste.

It's been my experience that most people know where they live. If they live in New Mexico they're usually aware of it. It says so right on their driver's license. And if they are able to find their way home at night, I think we can safely assume that they know what part of New Mexico they live in.

Now it may be true that there are a few people who don't know where they live (you know, like account planners.) But even so, I think that if they live in Central New Mexico and they have a hankering to see a Chrysler-Jeep Dealer, they're going to see a Central New Mexico one. It's kind of a long trip to see a Western Illinois Chrysler-Jeep Dealer.

On the other hand if they live in, say, the Bronx, they're probably not going to see a Central New Mexico Chrysler-Jeep Dealer regardless of what the spot says. Even if they wanted to travel from the Bronx to see a Central New Mexico Chrysler-Jeep Dealer, mentioning that in the spot is of no use because the spot is not going to run in the Bronx -- it's only going to run in Central New Mexico.

So who, exactly, is that phrase meant to influence? Those who live in Central New Mexico and have no choice, or those who don't and will never hear it?

When you point this out to the account guy who insists on inserting this into a spot, the comment you usually get is, "well it doesn't hurt, does it?"

Of course it hurts.

There are very good reasons for advertisers to run regional and local advertising. But reminding people of where they live is not one of them. If you are taking 5 of your 30 seconds to remind people where they live, you are essentially taking 15% of your advertising budget and flushing it down the toilet.

So if you're a client and you're committed to pissing away 15% of your ad budget, don't waste it on superficial localization. Do something noble with it. Give it to an ad agency.

Which reminds me...
...of a great quote by an old-time comedian named Fred Allen: "Advertising is 85% confusion and 15% commission."

Those were the days.

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