Promotional Products: The Other Non-Traditional Medium


Final In A Five-Part Series. See Part One, Part Two, Part Three and Part Four.

In this series, we’ve looked at how traditional advertising media are sold and why promotional products can be a better choice, and can also enhance and extend the reach of those media. This month, we examine the final five measured media: product placement, outdoor advertising, event marketing, point-of-purchase and direct mail. These five, like promotional products, are considered non-traditional media. While they may not pop to mind when one talks about advertising, they too compel and engage consumers to take action. The more you understand how they work and how they are sold, the more effectively you can work with these media to sell more promotional products.

Product Placement: An Implied Endorsement

I know what you’re thinking. Product placement? Isn’t that just for the megabrands? When I think of product placement, I think of E.T. leaving a trail of Reese’s Pieces in the 1982 movie. Actually, product placement is a $4.7 billion advertising medium that experienced an 11.4 percent increase in 2012.

Product placement actually dates back to 1873 when Jules Verne, the author of Around the World in Eighty Days, was so popular that transport and shipping companies were offering him money to be mentioned in the story as it was published in serial form. As magazines became popular, publishers would often pay prominent people to hold their magazines in photographs that appeared in news articles and society pages.

It didn’t take long for cinema to become a popular place for products to appear, and Red Crown gasoline was featured prominently in the 1920 comedy, The Garage, starring Fatty Arbuckle. The 1927 Academy Award-winning Best Picture, Wings, a silent movie, contained a plug for Hershey’s chocolate. The 2013 release Man of Steel features $160 million in product placements.

In television, HBO’s “Sex and the City” included plots that revolved around Absolut Vodka. The television series “Knight Rider” was pretty much an ongoing commercial for the Pontiac Trans Am. Product placement also occurs in video games, music videos and live theatre productions.

Product placement works this way: It creates positive memories of the product by associating it with an emotional story. The result is an implied endorsement and the lifestyle attributes that the placement brings.

How To Sell Promotional Products With Product Placement

Most distributors will not have clients whose products, brands or images appear in major motion pictures or an ongoing television series. But promotional products do put advertisers where the action is, whether it’s in the news, at an event or in a photograph. Explain to your clients that by placing their logo and their message prominently on a promotional product, they are putting their brand out where it gets noticed, photographed, shared and appreciated. Promotional products create positive memories, they are an implied endorsement and they are a part of the story that you and your client are writing together.

Outdoor Advertising: Where The People Are

Whether you call it billboard or outdoor advertising, this advertising category generated $6.7 billion in sales last year, a 4.6 percent increase over 2011, and includes more than 100 different formats—all of them designed to catch people on the move. In addition to roadside billboards, outdoor advertising includes the Goodyear blimp (airship advertising), billboard bicycles, bus advertising, lamppost banners, taxi advertising, commuter train advertising and bus shelters, to just name a few.

Traditional roadside billboards remain the predominant form of outdoor advertising and make up two-thirds of the annual revenues. Here’s what you need to know: Seventy-three percent of outdoor advertising revenue is from local companies, and the top 10 buyers are: 1. Services and amusements, 2. Media and advertising, 3. Retail, 4. Restaurants, 5. Public transportation, hotels and resorts, 6. Financial, 7. Communications, 8. Insurance and real estate, 9. Government, politics and organizations and 10. Schools, camps and seminars.

While outdoor advertising can trace its roots back to the earliest civilizations (Egyptian obelisks, anyone?), it was the development of lithography in 1796 that gave rise to the illustrated poster. Outdoor advertising became not only a powerful advertising medium but also an art form. In America, roadside advertising began to take off in the early 1800s and by the 1860s the industry had been formed. Standardized sizes were introduced in 1900 so that national advertisers could mass-produce their posters. 

Any good outdoor advertising salesperson will tell you that outdoor advertising is big, bold and powerful. Size does matter, and at 14 feet by 48 feet, a billboard has a huge and powerful presence that creates a visual impact. Add in color, brevity of message and continuous exposure and the advertiser has created its story. Outdoor ad salespeople will also add this zinger: Outdoor advertising can’t be turned off or thrown away. (Ouch!)

A strong argument for outdoor advertising is that it forms a catalyst between mobility and the sale. In other words, it catches people on the move when they are making a decision to buy. This is why this type of advertising works so well for restaurants.

Frequency and reach are two critical components of successful advertising. As people tend to be creatures of habit and drive the same routes regularly, a well-placed billboard can provide that frequency to build awareness and drive home a message. Outdoor placements can target neighborhoods and specific demographics based on where the billboards are located. With its quick hit and high visual impact, outdoor advertising can reinforce other media messages, too.

Outdoor advertising also has an attractive cost per 1,000 impressions (CPM) delivering a target audience at a low cost.

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One Response to Promotional Products: The Other Non-Traditional Medium

  1. Gregg Emmer, Kaeser & Blair says:

    Since you make a point that Billboards are the media for outdoor advertising, why not indicate that promotional products are the media for promotional advertising? As long as the things we use are the focus rather than what we do with them – the position of promotional advertising in the overall advertising community will continue to be the “redheaded stepchild” . The Association made a huge mistake when they changed their name and articles and PR that do not focus on what we do continue to increase the damage. Suppliers are in the Promotional Products business, Distributors are in the Promotional Advertising business. And since client contact is at the distributor level – it is past time for the association to start promoting the advertising and marketing we do, not the products!

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