ALL ADVERTISING IS TRADE ADVERTISING

When I started work as a junior copywriter at BMP, I got given the work no one else wanted to do.
That’s the way it is in any job.
You work your way up, you serve your apprenticeship.
If it was a factory, I’d have been sweeping floors.
If it was a football team, I’d have been cleaning boots.
If it was the army, I’d have been swabbing-out toilets.
There’s a good reason for that.
You learn the job absolutely from the ground up.
Later on, when you’re in charge, nobody can tell you a job can’t be done.
You know if it can or can’t be done, because you’ve done it.
If worse comes to worst, you can do it yourself.
So there’s a really good reason to start at the bottom.
For us the bottom was trade ads.
Ads that don’t run in consumer media.
Ads that your mum and friends won’t see.
Ads that tell the retailers why they should stock your client’s product.
And here’s why.
Because the most important part of the link between factory and consumer is the stockist.
If no one stocks it, no one can buy it.
It’s that simple.
But if retailers stock and display your product, it will sell.
Even without any advertising, it will sell.
Maybe not much, but it will sell.
Just by being displayed.
So the first, most important job, as far as the client’s concerned, is to get the trade to stock it.
That’s why we were given so many trade ads to do.
One of the first jobs I always got was the four-page leaflet.
This would either run in trade magazines: The Grocer, Hardware Trade Journal, Electrical Retail Trader, etc.
Or it would be carried around by the sales force.
To show to the retailer, when they tried to get them to stock the product.
The leaflet was usually divided into three parts.
The front cover was what made the product different and/or better than the competition (a reason to stock).
The inside spread was about how fast sales were growing (why the stockist would make money).
And the back cover was about how much advertising it was going to be supported by.
Usually some stills from the commercial(s) and a line about ‘Backed by our new multi-million pound TV campaign’.
Because, if it had advertising support, retailers were more likely to stock it.
They could see it would have big money behind it.
But, more importantly, they thought their customers would see it.
So the biggest part about consumer advertising was to persuade the trade to stock the product.
Usually we did these ads even before the commercials were shot.
The lead times for the magazines were a lot longer than for TV.
So we couldn’t even use stills from the ads.
We’d have to mock-up a packshot.
But it didn’t matter.
The trade didn’t care what the advertising was.
Just how much was being spent.
That was the great lesson for me.
It didn’t matter how creative the advertising was.
What mattered was that they were going to have advertising.
They were going to be supported by a multi-million pound campaign.
That’s pretty sobering isn’t it.
The main job of advertising is to get the product stocked.
Think of that while the art director is throwing a hissy fit about the client choosing the wrong typeface
While the copywriter is sulking that the client chose the wrong music.
While the director is horrified that the client chose the wrong cut.
While all that’s going on.
And while everyone knows that their personal area of skill is crucial to the success or failure of the campaign.
The most important factor in selling the product isn’t the quality of the ads.
It’s the fact that there is any advertising at all.
Because that’s what makes the stockist stock it.
If they don’t stock it, it won’t sell.
If they stock it, it will.

Kind of puts our job into a bit more perspective, doesn’t it?

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    Dave

    Bottom-up always beats top-down.

    Cloughie always built his teams from the back. Think SAF did this when he bought Schmeichel. Get your gk right and the rest should fall into place.

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    Think the moral of the story is – Understand who you’re selling to. That’s key.

    There’s no point creating an ad that your customer doesn’t understand, no matter how colourful or creative it is.

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    On a slightly different angle I am constantly surpirsed when some new product gets end racking and discounted in supermarkets (no doubt at great expense to the suppliers) only to not be stocked instore post racking. An example of this was Oatabix – back in stores now but disappeared post campaign. Thing was I really liked them!

    There seems to be a frequent reality gap between promotion and follow through.

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    Dave
    I thought business was all about markups? Surely retailers are only interested in the bottom line. Only interested in what they can gain when selling the product on. If they feel the can’t get a sizeable profit from a product perhaps that’s where the persuasive aspect of trade advertising kicks in.

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    John,
    There’s usually two ways to make profit.
    Hig volume, low margin.
    Low volume, high margin.
    The centre spread was usually about that.
    The back page was about driving demand, i.e. adspend.

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    Dave

    I think some products have a high volume high margin relationship. Bottled Water springs to mind.

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    When I was at BBH, John Hegarty told me the first ad he ever won an award for was a trade ad.To make the point that all ads are potential award winners.

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    Hi Rachel,
    No one at BMP wanted to do trade advertising until Gordon Smith won a D&AD silver with a trade ad.
    Then it occurred to everyone that they were the only ads we did that weren’t reasearched and sudeenly ecveryone wanted to do trade ads.

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    Hey Dave, I’ve always thought it’s much easier to do great work on stuff no-one wants to work on. They’re not expecting great stuff, so it really stands out. At one agency I found out they didn’t have an AAR film so volunteered to write and direct one.. No brief, no help, no account team and it took months to get the script through all the agency big shots. But the resulting film – featuring the whole 150 strong agency in groups of two or three lip-synching to ‘Fame’ with various client ads/ facts in shot. ( eg ‘Light up the sky like a flame’ lyric next to the Shell logo ) was loads of fun and got 2 standing ovations when shown to the agency. On the way back up in the lift after showing it, another creative said to us.’ It’s not fair. You get all the best briefs.’

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    Everything is a trade-off.

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    John,
    You could fit a massive price tag across the brim of that hat.