Spluttering at the telly the other evening, after watching that really irritating advert from ICL on teleworking (smug type goes on about how 'we bought the city with us' while he counts the sheep), I was reminded of a recent report from marketing consultant PCMC that investigated the state of computer industry advertising.
Surprise, surprise, the report found that much of the current ad spend is ill-conceived and poorly targeted. There are underlying reasons for this: advertising agencies are not usually technology specialists and are perhaps not best placed to come up with simple, effective messages that successfully market technologies they don't understand to a public which equally doesn't understand, doesn't want the mechanics, but just wants to know how it can help.
It's above-the-line advertising which comes in for criticism. Below-the-line activity - mail shots, press campaigns, special promotions - always appears to me to be more successful. Let's face it, it's easy to think of terrible ads from computer companies - remember the 'where do you want to go today' ads from the Windows 95 campaign, or Digital's current over-the-top 'we know all about Internet' campaign. The other turkey is that CHS teleworking print ad which recently appeared in PC Dealer (woman in nightie brings man breakfast in bed while he's powering up his laptop).
The distributor reportedly commissioned an ad agency to produce this wonder - you couldn't wish for a more apt illustration of the state of computer industry advertising.
There's a serious point to all this. It's all very well for vendors to say they'll provide soft dollar funds for pull-through advertising and for distributors to administer them, but if the ads are just provoking derision, they're never going to pull any business through. And it seems the response mechanism so favoured by the trade, a coupon that must be cut out and posted, is seen as clumsy and time-consuming. So how much of the u209 million spent each year in the UK on computer product advertising is wasted? Most of it, I fear.
The question that dealers must ask themselves is how much are their co-op marketing funds really worth? How much of your business is generated by your own efforts and relationships alone? Wouldn't you rather have a couple of extra points of margin instead?
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