Advertising comes at us in a variety of forms. We can see and hear ads over a wide range of formats: print, radio, TV, mobile and stationary billboards, internet, embedded messages, mobile, in-store, celebrity branding, aerial, etc. Lately, one of the oldest forms of advertising has been making a comeback while adapting new variations. We’ve all seen the Statue of Liberty standing on the street corner during tax time pointing drivers into Liberty Tax locations. There has been a recent insurgence of “human directionals” enthusiastically twirling their signs and directing us into a new development, cell phone store or going out of business sale.
“Human directionals,” “human billboards,” “sign walkers,” “sign holders” or “sign twirlers” have been around for centuries. They became prevalent in the early 1800s after a tax was excised on
outdoor poster ads in London and businesses had to compete over the limited amount of wall space. Ads were worn on hats, human poster boards or on outrageous costumes. Later in the 1930s when the t-shirt began to be worn as an outer garment, it became a popular tool for advertisements.
Companies that are apt to get their message across not only display their messages by being worn or held up by people, but recently have found other innovative ways to display their walking billboards:
- The controversial GoldenPalace.com has paid athletes to display their web domain atsporting events in the form of temporary tattoos on their backs.
- The back of Jim Nelson’s head was auctioned off to the highest bidder – CI Host, who claim the tattoo resulted in 500 new customers.
- The last example comes to us from Sydney and is a cross between “a bag and a shirt,” which is a TV screen embedded in a vest that shows-yes you guessed it-moving advertisements.
During economic downturns, history has proved again and again that while most companies cut back, it is the smart ones that advertise. More sales have been rung up by companies that out-advertised their competitors. Consumers don’t go away during tough times, they merely become more selective in their choices. If the advertising presence for a company that consumers have come to rely on has simply vanished, what message are they sending their customers? While your competitors are reducing their advertising budget, augmenting yours will increase your reach over your customers and theirs.
Here are a few examples of how increased advertising budgets during the Great Depression helped companies weather stormy times:
In the late 1920s there were two dominant players in the packaged cereal market – Kellogg and Post. While Post cut its advertising expenditure, Kellogg doubled theirs, aggressively going after the radio market to advertise its new product, Rice Krispies. The end result: Kellogg’s sales rose more than 30% over the next few years, allowing it to dominate the market until this day.
Aggressive advertising turned the tide for Camel cigarettes whose top position began to slip in the 1930s in favor of Lucky Strike and Chesterfield. Aggressive advertising made the difference for Camel when they smoked the competition and regained the top spot in 1935.
Proctor and Gamble is a great example of how innovation and increased expenditure not only helped the company sail their way through the Great Depression, but changed the entire medium as well. Using radio, P&G’s president, Richard Deupree, (who believed people continued to purchase household products such as soap), decided to create serial programming that did not focus on products, but were clearly sponsored by them. This was the start of daytime Soap Operas.
During the 1930s, Chrysler zoomed past Ford as the country’s number two automaker with the introduction- and heavy advertising- of its new value brand, Plymouth. This new introduction was one of the only successful car brands during the Great Depression.