Certain numbers stick out in advertising. The Empire carpet jingle, 1-877-CARS-FOR-KIDS, and one local company I saw recently:
The phone number 630-293-7663 – or 630-AWESOME – works in two ways. First, it fits with the company name A.W.E. which stands for Air, Water, and Energy. Second, what company would not want to be known as awesome? Whether fitting the definition for inspiring awe or remarkable, this number will get remembered. All it needs now is a jingle that sticks in your head…
If you too want to make cool words out of phone numbers, here is a phone number to word generator.
Schaumburg, Illinois, nearly 30 miles northwest of downtown Chicago, is a prototypical edge city. Home to Woodfield Mall, hundreds of thousands of square feet of office space, and over 70,000 residents plus located at the convergence of I-290, I-90, and IL-390, journalist Joel Garreau mentioned Schaumburg in his 1991 book Edge City: Life on the New Frontier. When I heard Schaumburg advertising on the radio, I wondered: is this an aggressive or a desperate move in these particular times? Where does Schaumburg fit among other Chicago suburbs also trying to get their name out there (examples here and here)? A few thoughts on this.
-Woodfield Shopping Mall is one of the largest in the United States. Even with numerous shopping malls struggling plus the problems of brick and mortar retailers, Woodfield will probably survive due to its size, location, and status. It may need to transform significantly – can it still support hundreds of stores? – but it is likely in good shape compared to numerous other Chicago area malls that are exploring new paths (other examples here, here, and here).
–Growth is important to American communities. Like many edge cities, Schaumburg experienced explosive growth early in its history: it had 986 residents in 1960, in 1980 had over 53,000 residents, and peaked in 2000 at over 75,000 residents. Where does it go from here? Population loss and/or the loss of businesses would not be a good image for the community as it tries to chart a bright future.
Compared to other Chicago suburbs, Schaumburg is likely in good shape. At the same time, the growth and status of the past and present does not have to continue amid new social pressures and internal decisions. If Schaumburg is advertising in order to attract businesses, perhaps this hints at broader issues across suburbs: can they all succeed in what may be a challenging several year period?
Of all the Chicago auto dealers who ever graced the small screen as their own TV pitchman, few were as delightfully campy as Bob Rohrman.
Rohrman’s low-budget commercials radiated good humor and bad production, featuring his mustachioed and bespectacled face peering out from a variety of goofy costumes, a uniquely awkward delivery and flubbed lines that often devolved into a joyous cackle.
The spots were punctuated by a cheesy cartoon lion and the tag line: “There’s only one Bob ROHRRRR-man!”
Somehow it all worked, turning the Bob Rohrman Auto Group into one of the largest family-owned dealership groups in the Midwest, and its spokesman/founder into something of a Chicago celebrity.
In the era of cable and satellite television, streaming options, declining network television and local radio, and targeted commercials on particular platforms, we may be at the end of local advertising like this. All the advertising then becomes more corporate, slick, tied to national or multinational corporations. And we lose a few public characters who few people may have actually met but who many could recognize.
We purchased a vehicle from a Rohrman dealership several years ago. At no point, did I think about the commercials in that process. But, given the number of Rohrman commercials I have seen and heard over the years, who knows if it influenced me. (I can safely say that other auto pitchmen or dealers, including Max Madsen or the Webb boys, did not lead me to visit their lots.)
In March 1996, men’s clothier Bigsby & Kruthers painted an image of Rodman on the side of a building just off the Kennedy Expressway. The 32-foot-high mural stared eastbound traffic in the eye, causing gapers delays in both directions that snarled traffic as badly as road construction.
An operations manager for a traffic-data company said the larger-than-life image added 20 to 30 minutes to morning commutes on the Kennedy and the Edens Expressway. And that was before Rodman’s hair was even on it.
“The 75-foot-wide advertisement included a color image of Michael Jordan looking down on traffic,” a March 26, 1996, Tribune story read. “But it’s the oversize Rodman who has taken the rush out of rush hour. His power glower is punctuated with three earrings and a nose ring; his arms are crossed, and his natty suit has the sleeves ripped out to reveal his collection of tattoos. He is even leaning forward, as if he just might want to butt heads.”
Standing just before the North Avenue exit, the painting was wider and taller than billboard laws normally would have allowed. But because the building was being used as a Bigsby & Kruthers warehouse, the advertising was not limited in size.
While most of the mural was black and white, the hair was in color — and changed as Rodman’s dye did, only adding to the traffic headaches.
Alas, the mural didn’t last. Bigsby & Kruthers covered it up a little more than two weeks after it first appeared in response to the concern of traffic officials.
A few quick thoughts:
Cities have regular spots that come up on traffic reports and the Kennedy is typically on the list in Chicago (“from O’Hare to downtown”). These spots can be on the list for a variety of reasons: a chokepoint for traffic, an odd curve or different road design (such as narrowing of lanes), and/or regular accidents. Billboards probably are not common contributors to this.
At the same time, certain billboards or advertisements can be become part of the urban highway experience. As commuters travel regular routes, they get used to seeing particular signs. New signs can also garner attention if they are a significant change or unusual. The other sports one that comes to mind from the Chicago region involved a series of Brian Urlacher balding treatment billboards along I-294 that popped up several years ago. I’m not sure if it caused any delays but it certainly caught people’s eyes as one of the city’s most recognizable recent sports stars suddenly had hair.
The particular Rodman billboard came as part of a perfect storm. Take a regularly congested stretch of highway plus an incredible basketball team that set the record that year for most wins in a season plus a truly unique player on the billboard (and not one who fit the typical Chicago image). The billboard did not last long but it left a mark.
For decades, our televisions told us that men drank beer, women drank wine, and that’s just the way the world was. Beer commercials, even when they’re not overtly objectifying women, often still truck in mundane male fantasy: dudes sharing brews with their bros on game day, hanging out over the grill or golfing.
Wine, meanwhile, is often sold as Mommy Juice to stressed-out ladies who escape the suburban carpool grind with slugs from labelssuch as Little Black Dress and Skinnygirl.
And White Claw has a different approach:
There’s football — not on a bar TV but rather a co-ed game being played outdoors. Women might be shown in tightfitting clothes, but it’s athletic gear or just regular beachwear, and the models look strong and fit instead of seductive.
That’s entirely intentional, says Sanjiv Gajiwala, vice president of marketing for White Claw. When the brand launched in 2016, the idea behind it was that the traditional worlds depicted in beverage marketing had pretty much gone extinct. White Claw would be the drink of the new gender norms, of the kinds of “group hangs” that define young people’s social lives. “It wasn’t a world where guys got together in a basement and drank beer and women were off doing something else, drinking with their girlfriends,” Gajiwala said. “Whatever we put out creatively and how we positioned the brand really reflects that everyone hangs out together all the time.”
This gets at two issues:
How products market themselves. On one hand, they can target particular segments of the consuming public. This can help drive sales. On the other hand, that specific approach could alienate other consumers who would not consider the product. This reminds me of a possibly apocryphal quote from Michael Jordan that “Republicans buy sneakers, too.” Pitch one product to men and a similar product to women for decades and there may not be much overlap in consumers.
If White Claw is appealing to a new generation and new norms, does this mean gendered life in the suburbs has changed? More men are drinking wine and women are grilling more? Or, are suburban gatherings all together different as suggested above: “group hangs” where friends and family mingle? (Or, are these “group hangs” more for single folk or kidless folk in urban or surban environments?)
The village’s $300,000 fee to sponsor the Bahamas Bowl resulted in $12 million in media exposure, according to an independent audit, Mayor Craig Johnson told the village board Feb. 12. The village has an option to sponsor this year’s contest, which would entitle it to again tie its slogan — “Makers Wanted” — to the bowl game. A decision on whether to exercise that option is expected later this month.
Johnson said the audit, supplied to the village by ESPN, which owns the Bahamas Bowl and broadcasts it, indicates Elk Grove Village’s sponsorship generated a 40-times return in media coverage. The $12 million figure was derived from a formula that assigns a dollar amount to mentions, commercials and airtime showing the Makers Wanted logo, said Johnson, who was the driving force behind the sponsorship…
Of course, media exposure might not be the best metric by which to measure this:
Whether those talks lead to anything tangible will be the long-term gauge of success for the village’s sponsorship, said Dennis Coates, an economics professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and the editor of the Journal of Sports Economics.
But, the real payoff is knowing that advertising or sponsorship or particular information changed people’s behavior. It will take some time to know whether the impressions translate into new businesses in Elk Grove Village. Even then, new business activity may or may not be related to the game sponsorship. In ten years, can this suburb conclusively show that a one-time investment (or ongoing sponsorship over the years) like this led to positive change? And then, it might be worth doing a cost-benefit analysis to see if the sponsorship money was effectively spent.
Roadside advertising programs are administered by individual states, though specific service signs like the one in the picture above tend to be farmed out to contractors. One of the biggest of these contractors is a company called Interstate Logos, which works with transportation agencies in 23 states to not only install the huge blue panels, but also to work with businesses to run the programs…
But even if your business meets all the requirements, and you’ve submitted your online application, there may be competition from other nearby businesses. As for which of those businesses get to be on the signs, that depends on the state’s policy. Colorado rotates the businesses at the end of each contract year, but other states like Michigan give preference to businesses nearer the highway, while still others like Washington use a first come-first serve (with waiting list) approach…
Typical mainline logo signs are about 48 inches by 36 inches, so based on WSDOT’s ballpark figures, it’s probably safe to figure about $300 to $500 per sign (this agrees with theLexington Herald Leader’s claim of $1,253 for four logos)…
The sites says that in 2010, Kentucky Logos—contracted by the Kentucky DOT—paid the state $618,904.91. That’s great for the state, but according to the report, of the businesses on the 1,568 signs in the state, only 1 to 2 percent leave annually. So it seems the businesses are happy, too.
America: combining public services (highways) with business opportunities (advertising a select number of places for travelers to spend their money).
More thoughts on these signs:
Why not include signs for big box stores? Places like Walmart or Target or Costco could provide most or all of these amenities in one stop.
I don’t think the signs are as effective in denser areas where there a lot more options as you approach the exit. They can highlight a few options but you can already see a lot more signs in the distance.
The lodging and camping signs seem outdated. How many people now drive down the highway and pick out a hotel at the side of the road? That sign space could be better used for other amenities.
How effective are these advertisements compared to other forms? Does McDonald’s get a bigger return on the blue sign or a forty foot tall arch or a combination of both?
The most visible of suburbs’ problems was ugliness, assaulting the eyes on highways lined with billboards and strip malls. This was something the reformist spirit of the sixties would not ignore. President Johnson’s wife, Lady Bird, chose highway beautification as her signature issue. After a fierce legislative battle – the billboard industry did not lack for clout in congress – the Highway Beautification Act was passed, removing billboards from rural stretches of interstate highways. (p. 81)
The President signed the Highway Beautification Act on October 22, 1965. The signing ceremony took place 2 weeks after the President had surgery to remove his gall bladder and a kidney stone at Bethesda Naval Hospital. Although he had returned to the White House only the day before, President Johnson seemed to be in an expansive mood as he recalled the drive from the hospital to the White House along the George Washington Memorial Parkway:
I saw Nature at its purest. The dogwoods had turned red. The maple leaves were scarlet and gold . . . . And not one foot of it was marred by a single unsightly man-made obstruction–no advertising signs, no junkyards. Well, doctors could prescribe no better medicine for me.
We have placed a wall of civilization between us and the beauty of our countryside. In our eagerness to expand and improve, we have relegated nature to a weekend role, banishing it from our daily lives. I think we are a poorer nation as a result. I do not choose to preside over the destiny of this country and to hide from view what God has gladly given.
After saying, “Beauty belongs to all the people,” he signed the bill and gave the first pen to Lady Bird, along with a kiss on the cheek.
Given the pervasiveness of advertising in the United States and a highly consumeristic society, this was a forward-thinking bill. Granted, seeing nature from the windows of a car doing 70 mph down a major interstate isn’t exactly a positive interaction with nature. But, things could be worse: the jumble of signs and logos that tend to mar many suburban strip mall areas aren’t present along highways.
Now, how about dealing with those digital billboards…
Location-tracking lets developers build fast, useful, personalized apps. They’re enticing, but they come with tradeoffs: your gadgets and apps maintain a log of where you’ve been and what you’re doing, and more of them than you think are sharing that data with others.
It’s going to advertisers, mostly, so they can lure you into the Starbucks a block away or the merch tent at Coachella. It’s as creepy as any other targeted marketing, but most of us have come to accept that it comes with the territory. Jennifer Lynch, a senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, says it goes deeper. Your data might get sold to your credit reporting agency, which wants to know more about you as it determines your credit score. It might go to your insurance company, which is very interested in your whereabouts. It might be subpoenaed by the government, for just about any reason. Maybe none of that is happening. Maybe all of it is. There’s really no way for us to know…
Your phone’s ability to pinpoint your exact location and use that info to deliver services—a meal, a ride, a tip, a coupon—is reason for excitement. But this world of always-on GPS raises questions about what happens to our data. How much privacy are we willing to surrender? What can these services learn about our activities? What keeps detailed maps of our lives from being sold to the highest bidder? These have been issues as long as we’ve had cellphones, but they are more pressing than ever.
Another major trade-off that I suspect most users will make without much fuss in the coming years. The cynical take on the advantages for the user is that this is primarily about customizable marketing that can account for both your individual traits and where exactly you are. In other words, sharing location data will give consumers new opportunities. More consumerism! On the flip side, it is less clear how or when location data might be used against you. But, when it is, it probably won’t be good.
The broader issue here is whether people should have geographical freedom that is not known to others. This is increasingly difficult in today’s world even as we would celebrate the mobility Americans have within their own communities, country, and to travel throughout the world.
The median age of a broadcast television viewer is now the highest ever at 54. Twenty years ago, it was 41. The most-watched scripted series in the 1993-94 season was “Home Improvement,” with a median viewer age of 34. Today, it’s “NCIS,” with a median viewer who is 61.
Confronted with these realities,the networks are aggressively making the case to advertisers that older viewers are valuable — especially the affluent and influential 55-to-64-year-olds they’re calling“alpha boomers.” The 50-and-up crowd of today, they contend, is far different than the frugal and brand-loyal group that came of age during the Great Depression and World War II…
Younger adults, busy with school, careers, socializing and child-rearing, have always watched less TV. Now they’re even harder to find, thanks to technology that allows them to watch TV whenever and wherever they want, and to skip over commercials…
A decade ago, networks primarily sold ad inventory for prime-time shows based on how many 18-to-49-year-olds were watching at home. Now, network sales teams are emphasizing other metrics, such as income and education level of viewers.
The population bulge known as the baby boomers continue to influence American society. There was a really nice infographic in the Chicago Tribune version of this story (I can’t seem to find it online) that clearly shows some of the patterns across networks: CBS has the highest median age where even their “younger shows,” like How I Met Your Mother and 2 Broke Girls, have a median viewer around 50. The youngest network, by far, is Fox with six shows with a median age under 40 whereas no other network has 1 show under 40 and each only have a few under 50.
It would be interesting to then compare these shifts on television to other areas of advertising and marketing. Can advertisers move away from targeting young people on television because it is so much more effective to target them on social media and websites? Or is television still such a big deal even with declining numbers that Internet advertising still can’t compare?