Ad Power

By Hannah Wallace July 31, 2006

"Build it, and they will come"-it worked in the movie Field of Dreams. The voices that urged Ray Kinsella, Kevin Costner's character, to build a baseball field in an Iowa cornfield were right: They came.

As a plot device in a baseball fantasy, "Build it and they'll come" was effective. But no one in the business world would count on that kind of fairy-tale optimism without running the risk of being considered hopelessly naive or crazy.

Yet just the other day one of our advertising account executives told me about a new business in our market-a locally owned consumer dealership-that opened its doors with no ad budget. The company is, however, looking for press coverage. "What!?" was my spontaneous reaction. I was shocked and concerned-not for our publications, which will surely survive that dealer's marketing plan, but for the dealer.

Advertising is so vital in the launch and growth of companies that I can't imagine any commercial lending institution or investor not insisting on the inclusion of a meaningful advertising budget in a business plan.

Relying solely on word-of-mouth and location is a dubious marketing strategy. This combination undoubtedly contributes to success but falls into the category of wishing, since control is in the hands of the marketplace, not the marketer. Initiating an ad campaign with the help of ad professionals is a proactive action that can reap large rewards. Having the power to create a high degree of awareness, to project the right image and to define the desired position that will exist in the minds of customers and prospects is awesome. It's the muscle behind so many successful businesses.

But if you're a local dealer, distributor or franchisee, why not just rely on the national ad campaign developed by the big corporation with its deep pockets and advertising expertise? Unless a local dealer is located in an accurate microcosm of the nation, it also ought to develop its own local ad campaign. While national advertising is targeted to specific demographics, it is aimed at multiple markets, if not the whole nation. National campaigns don't consider the dynamics of any one specific market; they target an average geographic sensibility. Sarasota-Manatee is not the average American market. Unique characteristics define our evolving market in profound ways, warranting special consideration.

So why would anyone-an independent or a local business with a national connection-launch without an ad budget? Those of us in local media occasionally hear that cost of advertising is "so expensive" or even worse, "too expensive," from those who just don't understand the power of advertising. In actuality, the cost of not advertising is much more expensive. Consider these costs: reduced awareness, vague company image, turning over positioning control to the marketplace and the competition.

I'd hope that if Ray Kinsella were starting a business, he'd hear voices urging him, "Build it, tell them you're here, who you are and why they should come.and then keep telling them."

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