Local advertisers, it seems, don’t want to remind us of the lousy economy.
But national advertisers are rolling out more and more ads that address the country’s current economic situation, sometimes opting for a humorous tack.
A Denny’s ad asks “Who’s gonna bail you out?” to advertise a $4 breakfast special. Crate & Barrel magazine ads promote their pots and pans as not only oven- and dishwasher-proof, but also “401(k)-proof.”
The recession-themed marketing is global. Kleenex has begun a guerrilla-style campaign of placing tissue boxes near ATMs in Paris.
Locally, it appears advertisers are more hesitant to address the economy or use such buzzwords as “bailout” or “credit crunch”. Not a single ad in the latest Style Weekly, Richmond Magazine or RVA Magazine make a specific mention of current economic conditions. (We didn’t see any on TV, either).
But at least one local bakery is having some fun with the downturn. The Baker’s Lady jumped on the marketing craze last month by creating a Bailout Bites menu featuring Poor Man’s Caviar, S&P steak and potatoes, and a peanut butter-jelly-graham cracker-marshmallow dessert called the Sweetener.
“We just thought we’d make a little bit of light of this situation that was so heavy weighing on people’s minds,” owner Kim Baker said.
David Urban, a marketing professor at Virginia Commonwealth University, expects more recession-themed ads as retailers fight for their survival this holiday season.
“Consumers are looking for the best values they can possibly get. Value is about either adding benefits or decreasing costs,” Urban said. “If they can do one or both of those things and communicate that effectively to the consumers, it is probably going to help.”
But Urban said the risk advertisers run is being perceived as talking down to the customer while trying to strike a responsive chord.
“Its important to be able to relate to the consumer and establish a common frame of reference without talking down to the consumer and giving the impression the company is bestowing charity,” Urban said.
In general, it takes advertisers at least a few months from the time news hits to the time responsive ads air.
Ukrop’s has had considerable success with its gas discount program. An ad for “fuelperks!” features a shopper explaining that she is saving more on gas because in addition to food, she buys all her toiletries and prescriptions at Ukrop’s as well. Another shopper heads back to buy more stuff so she, too, can save more on her next fill-up.
It’s not exactly using the recession as an advertising ploy, but it might mean more recession ads could be on the way.
Dean Jarrett, director of corporate communications at the Martin Agency, said the fuelperks! campaign is part of a trend of sympathizing with customers and convincing them that the company is doing what it can to help save them money.
“I think there is a chance during times like this to form an even deeper relationship with your consumer by showing you understand what they are going through,” Jarrett said.
More reading: Striving for Balance Between Losses and Laughs