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Frequently-Asked Questions about Advertising - Part IV

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Frequently-Asked Questions about Advertising - Part IV

On exactly his 50th year in advertising, Vincent R. Pozon -- Vince to most, 'Koyang' to adfolk, 'Tatay' to his students and present staff -- decided to start a series of articles where he answers questions often asked of him.

This article is the fourth installment of the conversation. He hopes it can be of value to the young and the newcomer.

For years, Koyang has been answering questions about advertising on Quora and Reddit, bylined and anonymously. This is a selection.

"Why don't people buy our services, though they say they like it and appreciate it?"

Koyang: I don’t know exactly what you’re selling, but it doesn’t matter. If the prospective customer, one, knows of it, and, two, likes it, and, three, knows how to acquire it, that covers Product, Promotions and Place of Kotler’s 4Ps. Consider checking the last P, which is Price. You need to survey to determine the top price customers will pay for your service.

"I was selected to present an advertising campaign for a new client. If I close the deal, it means a huge financial win for the firm. However I am afraid of speaking in front of people. What would you do?"

Koyang: People are asked to make presentations so they may gain experience, and that is good. But if it really means a huge financial win for the agency, then that occasion is not the time for building presentation skills in anyone. If you are not the best presenter, then render to Caesar what is Caesar’s: Let people contribute of themselves, from their strengths, and let the agency’s best storyteller, no matter what discipline he comes from, stand on the podium.

"How do you make an advertisement entertaining (while still getting the message across)?"

Koyang: “Entertaining” is not a goal of an advertisement. Definitely not one of clients, too. I prefer to devote each precious second of an advertisement trying to ring the cash register. All our pieces of communications are designed to be “in-your-face”, well-crafted, yes, but impactful. They may be entertaining, but that is never an objective, lest we be waylaid by the non-essential.

Craft should bow to strategy. Clarity and effectiveness should prevail over style.

"What is the brutal truth about advertising?"

Koyang: That it works? That it is the engine for the creation of wealth all over the world? That it is the reason content is accessible to you for free? That it is a business template accepted as sturdy and reliable? That the capitulation of cable TV then and Netflix now to the advertising business model is proof of that?

"Should billboard advertising be banned?"

Koyang: Why go for a blanket ban when there are regulations covering their display based on weather, tourism concerns, safety, distance to airport, amongst others? Is there no value to helping businesses promote themselves and their products and services out of home?

The old Kai Tak, the airport wedged right in the middle of the bustling island of Hong Kong, was considered the 6th most dangerous airport in the world. To help pilots land, there were no flashing lights allowed. The island was a sea of frozen neons and billboards.

"What is the best billboard you've ever seen?"

Koyang: This isn’t recent but it sticks out in my memory as high up in my list of 'Billboards I Wish I Wrote'. This was before the People Power revolution, so it must have been in the mid-80s. I was on my way home, in hardly moving traffic. An expensive gated community along EDSA had a billboard visible from the road, and it only had these words:

”If you lived here, you’d be home now”.

On strat, succinct, seen by the prospective customer at the best possible moment, and successful.

(It isn't original; you could say it is owned by the real estate industry. I discovered that it is much used, some sarcastically, handpainted on walls where the homeless sleep.).

And this I love: MacDonald's had this billboard with a photo of a child peering from behind the door of a house, as if greeting the father disembarking from his car. Copy was something like "Did you get me my Happy Meal, Dad?" The billboard was strategically situated right before a commercial block with a MacDonald's store. Imagine how many people heading home after work decided to drive through for a Happy Meal.

"Does the over abundance of commercials destroy the continuity and enjoyment of TV programming for you?"

Koyang: If it is an over-abundance, yes, of course. But networks know to "moderate their greed" lest they lose viewers. Actually the intervals – every quarter of the hour – are already expected. The viewer, accustomed to the regularity, expects the advertising. If you will notice, programming is written and edited with the 'bathroom breaks' in mind: the writer uses them to incorporate suspense in the design of the content.

"Can you make people buy things they don't need?"

Koyang: Yes, I can. But remove the judgmental pharisaical skew of the question. People do not buy only what they need. Why are Rolexes and Omegas sold at an age where there are digits blinking and telling time everywhere? There’s a clock on your phone, tablet, wall, laptop, microwave oven if you took the trouble to set it. The wrist watch has been made “redundundant”.

The question comes from that dark, ignorant, self-righteous section of the heart. Some people demonize advertising because they consider many of the promoted items to be immoral, and there are numerous successful advertisements they wish did not exist.

Advertising is an instrument in the arsenal of communications, and you and I "advertise" constantly. We try to convince others to "buy what they don't need": another charity, an advocacy, or a locket watch. When we woo, we advertise. I just heard a wise public relations practitioner say, "we campaign for votes everyday".

What would change in our society if we didn't have commercials?

Koyang: The need or desire to reach out, to compel, sell will not diminish. There will be other venues, channels, ways to communicate, to convince them regarding causes, candidates and commercial products. Nothing changes. There will always be commercials in one form or another.

Vincent R. Pozon

After a year of college, Koyang entered advertising, and there he stayed for half a century, in various agencies, multinational and local. He is known for aberrant strategic successes (e.g., Clusivol’s ‘Bawal Magkasakit’, Promil’s ‘The Gifted Child’, RiteMED’s ‘May RiteMED ba nito?”). He is chairman of Estima, an ad agency dedicated to helping local industrialists, causes and candidates. He is co-founder and counselor for advertising, public relations, and crisis management of Caucus, Inc., a multi-discipline consultancy firm. He can be reached through vpozon@me.com.

The Conversation, so far:

Ask Koyang Part 1: “How do you handle humor in advertising?" and "What is the hardest part about creating an advertisement?"

Ask Koyang Part 2: "Why do creatives treat accounts people badly?" and"Would you do a campaign for just anyone?"

Ask Koyang Part 3: "What advice do you have to people entering the ad industry?" and "why do people work late hours in advertising?"

Ask Koyang Part 4: "Can you make people buy things they don't need?" "What is the brutal truth about advertising?" "What would change in our society if we didn't have commercials?"

Ask Koyang Part 5: “Can’t a good product sell itself?" and "marketing or advertising -- which is the better career?"

Ask Koyang Part 6: "How do you know if you have a terrific idea to present?" and "How do you present effectively?"

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