Now, thanks to the growth in digital TV channels and the explosion in the availability of different media, P&G – whose fortune is founded on soap powders - estimates it needs to show 1,000 commercials to get the same impact.
Speaking at the American Association of Advertising Agencies a couple of years ago, P&G’s global marketing officer Jim Stengel first explored the realities of today’s marketing world. He noted not just the advent of video recorders, remote controls that allow viewers to switch from adverts, the rise of the internet and the increase in cable channels, but also the habit of younger people to use several entertainment devices simultaneously.
“We have lost whole segments of consumers whose needs are just not being met by today’s TV programming. There is no ‘mass’ in ‘mass media’ any more,” he said.
No wonder then that Stengel is now looking to launch a global revolution in advertising and marketing; one that moves away from traditional advertising, whether in print or on radio or on TV, and has the single aim of bringing P&G closer to its consumers.
Stengel calls this a “consumer-learning journey” and insists the intention is not just to understand P&G customers better, but actually to “touch their lives and improve their lives”.
It all sounds a bit trendy, cool and ‘Live Aid’ but where Jim Stengel leads, others must follow. After all P&G traditionally spends a mind-blowing $6 billion a year on advertising. However, in 2005 it reduced its expenditure on US television advertising by 23 per cent, and shifted most of this money from old media to new, in particular increasing internet advertising spend by over 88 per cent.
Interestingly, it looks as if Dodge has come to some similar conclusions as it prepares the American brand for Europe. Instead of launching an expensive traditional advertising campaign when it first unveiled its cars at this year’s Geneva Motor Show, it chose to release a series of viral ads through its website www.ramrash.com. They are offbeat short films involving the Dodge Ram logo mysteriously appearing on the skin of various protagonists, who then acquire superhuman strength – enough strength for a young woman to smash a door down with her head, flattening her grandmother in the process.
No cars are shown on the site – nor in the films – because, according to Chrysler executive vice president of marketing Joe Eberhardt, “first we want to position the brand”. He also wants to get across the fact that Dodge represents a certain edgy attitude that he hopes will appeal to Europe’s younger drivers. That’s why he is unapologetic that the viral ads will “probably” upset some people.
A Dodge Caliber hatchback and Nitro SUV will shortly go on sale in Europe, lining up alongside the Viper SRT-10 that’s already on sale. Later may come a version of the B-segment Hornet concept that Dodge showed at Geneva. Who knows, they may even appeal to feisty grandmas.
Alfa’s resurrection plans
Alfa Romeo – whose sales have plummeted 20 per cent in the last year – has earmarked £6.5 million for above-the-line marketing to revitalise the brand. According to Nicholas Bernard, the 32-year old recently-appointed marketing director, half this budget will be spent on launching and sustaining the sales programme for the new 159 range. The remaining 50% will be spent on launching the new Brera and Alfa Spider.
He promised that the long awaited Spider would be a ‘halo’ hearts and minds high profile convertible which will restore the sporting pedigree of the brand and benefit sales of all models in the range, hence the disproportionate marketing spend for the relatively small number of cars available for sale.
Most importantly, Alfa Romeo GB has finally been allowed to shake off European shackles and produce its own locally-developed campaigns rather than having to piggy-back on Italian campaigns which frankly were not always suitable.
Bernard also candidly admitted that Alfa’s 67 dealers in the UK have not in general been up to scratch, but a good part of the blame for this lay with Alfa GB itself. “We didn’t have a stable management structure over here and so a permanent question mark hung over the future of our dealers. Now they know what we are doing and what our future strategy is.”
He continued: “Our communication with both dealers and customers has been poor. We spent very little on marketing last year but this is changing. We will be concentrating on improving customer care, reducing ownership costs and we’ll shortly be using UK sourced television advertising for the first time in five years.”