Mad Men on Advertising

I watched a Mad Men marathon July 4th weekend. I had to prepare for the new episodes that begin July 25th. This was a must do. I love this drama as much as I loved Law and Order; and the Sopranos.Well, I took notes whenever the advertising team actually worked on ad copy. Here is what I learned:(1) Advertising is based on one thing – i.e. happiness!It is about Freedom from fear. Whatever you are doing, it’s OK – and you are ok!Mad Men Example #1 – instead of revealing that cigarettes are poisonous, state that cigarettes are toasted tobacco leaves (say whatever you want)Mad Men Example #2 – instead of revealing how dangerous it might be to travel to Israel, exploit a land of exotic luxury(2) Ads create want!You know I studied civil engineering and law. I also learned city planning on the job and became a certified city planner. I have three (3) degrees but I do not have a MBA. So, I am no advertising or marketing expert if being an expert requires college degrees, licenses, or certificates. As with most small business owners, we wear all of the hats until we can hire the credentials. So, I have had to learn advertisement, promotion, marketing, public relations, and sales – and more importantly, the difference between them all. What has always been fascinating to me is that there are MBAs and PhDs in businesses that were not trained in these subject areas in a practical way. They were taught theory; and some learned via case studies. But, you only really learn when you have to actually do it!Well, although I do not have a MBA, I do own a neat little book called The Portable MBA Desk Reference. I dusted it off and read the sections on Advertising. Here, I reflect on what the Portable MBA teaches and compare that text to what I have experienced as a small business owner over the past five (5) years:(1) Advertising is the promotion of an idea, a product, or a service by an identified sponsor or organization that pays to have the message printed or broadcast by the mass media, including television, radio, newspapers, magazines, direct mail, telemarketing, billboards, transit cards, and the Internet.Well, as a small business owner, there was absolutely no money for print or broadcast by the mass media other than the Internet. Mass mailing cost a minimum of nearly $0.50 per piece of mail. So, to mail 100 letters a week costs $50 per week or $200 per month. Back in 2005, I also hung a shingle for a law office. I paid for Martindale and other paid directories. It was VERY expensive! My phone did not ring once. It was hard earned money flushed down the toilet.Unless there is cash flow, this nominal sum could crush a small business. Start ups absolutely need to take advantage of free advertising sources on the Internet (microblog on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, etc).Macro blogs (e.g. using WordPress) and the conversion of blogs into published articles, teleseminars, webinars, and ebooks are also helpful ways to advertise in a frugal way. These activities help small businesses position themselves as experts. These activities need to be viewed as ad campaigns and they need to be taken just as seriously.(2) An advertising agency is a company specializing in the production of advertising campaigns and strategies to help clients target and promote their products and services. There are three types: full service (advertising, public relations, marketing research, promotion, media buying, and publicity), specialty service, and in-house.Well, few startups can afford a full service or specialty service advertising agency. They have to handle their own ads in-house. Further, the small business owner has to either learn how to advertise or hire help. I learned “some” advertising by studying what others were doing. I select what I like and I mimic it. Just take notice and replicate what you can afford!(3) Advertising frequency is the number of times during a specified period that a member of a targeted audience is exposed to an advertisement – in popular magazines, television, radio ads. Frequent advertising can strengthen brand loyalty and help drive them to a product or service.Well, I had to learn how to “get out there”. I am old enough to remember entering into the big, black hole called the Internet back in the 90s. I remember a group of us at work saying: “she is going to go in there” with excitement and astonishment. Well, I felt the same way about going into Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn worlds.Social media is a great free way to achieve advertising frequency. The hard sell is not recommended. But, the soft sales of just letting the masses know what your passion is recommended. My passion is planning. I post famous quotes about the importance of strategic planning (vision, mission, goals, taking action). I am my firm’s brand and I am building brand loyalty.As a planner, I realize the importance of creating ad campaigns. As a business woman, I realize that people buy from others that trust and like. Social media is a great way to share information, and to become trusted and liked. It is also a great way to use word of mouth advertising where satisfied customers refer products or services to prospects.(4) Behavioral segmentation is the subdivision of the market according to consumer behavior variables such as their status, brand loyalty, product usage, benefits sought, lifestyle, social class, and economic standing. Markets can be divided by age, gender, income, and geography. None of this gives marketers insight into consumer motivation. Consumers look for benefits and they make their choices on the basis of a single value which vary depending on the product.This is loaded. My interpretation of all of this is that put simply, the market research cannot predict consumer gut reaction to what you are selling. In consulting, we are selling our talent and who we are as people – our individual images or the corporation’s image. The benefits would be our ability to impart what we know and who we know onto our clients. The key value is our ability to get the job done on time and within budget. With respect to promoting image, our charitable work is also very important.Nevertheless, as a planner, I do believe in strategic marketing plans. This is actually one of the services we offer. We offer a strategic marketing plan for government contracting. It is important not to shot gun the approach – but rather, to laser target which agencies may be best to market to.(5) Point of purchase advertising uses eye catching displays near the location where customers pay for a product in an attempt to trigger impulse buying.Here, I would have recommend that small businesses invest money and hire professionals if necessary for professional graphic design. Even for banner ads online which are posted in locations where our prospects visit – hire a professional graphic designer to achieve a great first impression.In conclusion, small businesses need to be frugal and maximize the use of online social media for advertising. But, they need to be sure to follow Donald Draper’s advice and be positive, create happiness, and create want! Also, point out the pain and fear of pain – but be sure to point out that your product or services can alleviate the fear of pain.

Everything A Real Estate Agent Doesn’t Want You To Know, A Year In Review 2006

During 2006 I have written a number of articles known as the “Everything A Real Estate Agent Doesn’t Want You To Know” series which has been a consumer oriented series of information to help home buyers and sellers protect themselves when conducting a real estate transaction. These articles are a natural extension of books I have written known as “Everything A Real Estate Agent Doesn’t Want A Home Buyer To Know” and “Everything A Real Estate Agent Doesn’t Want A Home Seller To Know”.The first book written during 1990 was called “Everything A Real Estate Agent Doesn’t Want You To Know” and it had a fair degree of national success, much more than I thought it would, when I introduced it to the media during 1991/92. We sold the book in every state in the U.S. including Alaska, Hawaii and as far as Pakistan and Japan. This was not a bad performance for a self-published under-funded author.I wrote this book because I was a licensed real estate agent in the state of Ohio and, more importantly, I was a residential mortgage banker for a few years and I saw many home buyers and sellers experience financial damage from dealing with inexperienced and unethical real estate agents. Many of the agents were either totally incompetent or so self interested that they would mislead buyers and sellers, anything to get them to sign a purchase offer or a listing contract. Many of these home buyers and sellers who were cut through the neck and didn’t even realize they were bleeding because they lacked knowledge and insight into how the real estate game is played.These books have always caused friction between real estate agents and myself because many agents resent the title of the books and the ill conceived premise that my position is that all agents are bad crooked people, which is false. In fact, whenever I did a media gig I always made it a point to clarify this is NOT a blanket indictment against real estate agents. There are good, honest, knowledgeable, full time real estate agents in the business who are highly professional. The problem is they are the minority and not the majority.The major problem with the real estate industry as a whole is the ease with which a person can get a real estate license. While the educational requirements vary from state to state, in most cases, anybody can get a license to sell real estate in about 90 days. This just doesn’t make sense to me. Consider that many agents are little old women who operate part-time, have no business or selling background, go to school for 30 or 90 days and are licensed to represent home sellers in property transactions from around $50,000.00 and up. I mean, a lawyer has to go to school for seven years to get a license to write a fifty-dollar will or represent somebody in a petty traffic accident. But silly-sally can go to school for 30 days and list a $250,000 house for sale? That does not compute in my mind. What kind of representation will a seller get from a part time agent with one toe in the tub? And the full-time pros know what I am talking about.I have had many close discussions with agents while I was in the business and the bottom line is that part timers are often the weakest link in getting a deal done, unavailable for showings, etc. The bottom line, part time agents give part time results whether you are a buyer, seller or a full time agent trying to make a living.And the truth is that most people, especially first time home buyers and sellers don’t know what is going on…not really. How you select an agent to sell a home, the nature of contract law and the negotiable elements of listing contracts, purchase contracts, etc. is way beyond most first time buyers and sellers. The result is that sellers sign stupid long-term listing contracts with the wrong agents and the wrong companies and buyers pay way more for property then they would if they had more insight into the workings of real estate transactions involving commissioned real estate sales agents. I didn’t originate the problem, I just identified the problems and the solutions for home buyers and sellers.CAVEAT EMPTOR is legal jargon which means “buyer beware” and it means what it says. Whether you are a home seller or home buyer, you better know what you are doing when you are making decisions and signing contracts because, it is your duty to know and ignorance is no excuse under the law. If you do a stupid real estate deal, it’s your fault. Which is a shame because buying or selling a home is a BIG business decision. It is a business transaction composed of people, emotions, contracts and cash and those are all the ingredients for legal and financial pain if you don’t know what you are doing, and most people don’t. And how are people supposed to get access to this information that will protect their legal and financial interests before they buy or sell a home anyway?THE POWER OF THE NAR OVER GOVERNMENT AND MEDIA What many people don’t know is the National Association of Realtors  (NAR) is one of America’s largest special interest groups who have incredible lobbying power over our politicians to write real estate laws that benefit the real estate industry, not consumers. Thus, the caveat emptor clause… state and federal real estate laws are written in the interests of your local real estate company and not you.Something else people are not aware of is the tremendous advertising influence the NAR has over print and electronic media to manipulate the news you read, hear and see because of their advertising dollar power. There is an article written by Elizabeth Lesley of the Washington Journalism review called Demand Happy News And Often Get It and it exposes the corruption and manipulation of the news consumers count on to make decisions about buying or selling a home. I strongly urge everyone to read this article.Real estate is like the stock market in some ways. When you hear of a fad like “flipping” you are probably at the tail end of that gimmick bubble, kind of like the dot.com days… everybody jumped in because they thought it was hot and it was really the end of the dot.com bubble. A lot of people have gotten caught with their pants down on the flipping angle.Home foreclosures are up across the U.S. because real estate agents and the lenders who cater to them (the real estate industry has tremendous influence over the lending industry because the are the source of so many home loans) have qualified otherwise unqualified borrowers, by putting them in gimmick loans. In the mad dash to milk the market, people have been steered in to interest only loans, negative amortization loans or attractive teaser loans like low interest adjustable rate mortgage (ARM) and other stupid financing that is NOT in the best interest of the buyer. That’s why many of the foreclosures are happening. Naïve and gullible people were sold a bill of goods based on unrealistic property values. The market got hyped and the agents and lenders were right there to exploit buyers and sellers. Did some people make money? Sure. But many people have found themselves against the wall with too much “house”, too big a payment and a housing market that looks pretty bleak for a while…All it takes is one ripple in our fragile economy to turn the real estate market into a landslide. Here’s a news flash: The economy is on shaky ground. The economy has been kept strong by housing sales and corporate profits and both are an illusion. The real measure of the economy is durable goods, like automotive sales, which are in the tank causing massive restructuring and layoffs. People can’t afford to buy cars because they are scraping the enamel off their teeth trying to make house payments…So, whoever you are, and you read my real estate articles, keep in mind that the reason I have done what I have done, and will do what I do, is because I am on the side of the consumer. I am on the side of the person who wants to be a better, more informed consumer. I am on the side of the person who wants to save a few thousand on their real estate transaction by being smart and on a more level playing field with real estate agents.And you know what? By educating people and teaching them how to do deals more intelligently, how to weed out the part timer agents from the pros and save a few bucks in the process, I am actually helping the professional full time agents. The truth is that honest agents won’t have a problem with my position because it will get rid of the riff raff.Thanks for reading!Jim HartCopyright © 2006 James W. Hart, IV All Rights Reserved