21 August 2000
Those of you who still engage in that great sport of driving into London are set for a new way of whiling away those spare half hours in Clerkenwell and on the A11. A US outdoor advertising contractor claims that its set of four 85ft back-illuminated poster sites (the other two for ad-spotters are at Finsbury Square and Tower Gate) are the biggest roadside structures in the UK.
Apparently the contractors have clients queuing up as fast as the motorists to take the sites in order to reach the City's finest, who "earn about 78 per cent more than the national average".
And so, as you wait for Ken to bring down the barriers and charge for access to the Square Mile, you can marvel at the size of some companies' marketing messages and budgets.
It probably comes as no surprise to City firms that to some, size still matters. As firms merge and take over their way to become the size of small multinationals or lesser third world countries and compete architecturally for the grandest footprint on an increasingly small map, the desire of a certain breed of marketers to say it loud and say it proud makes perfect sense.
For all I know, some of The Lawyer's loyal readers may be poring over their marketing budgets for 2000-2001 to see if they could stretch to 85ft.
Of course some will argue that even if they do register the billboards - as stationary as they are or as fleeting as their sense of humour is on a summer morning at 5mph - they certainly do not let it influence their purchasing. Now is not the time to enter into a discussion about the effectiveness of advertising. After all, the key thing is that the game is changing and a 30 yard boast or a more refined and modest claim may suffer a fate common to a generation of e-commerce sites - the click away.
Internet vendors are well aware (or at least should be by now) that their competitors are merely a mouseclick away. Traditional marketers are about to do battle in a world where the consumer has the equivalent of an advertising remote control.
Already software is available to block banners and video recorders are on the market that cut out the advertisements when recording from the television. Furthermore, as consumers begin to feel at home with multi-channel, interactive TV, even a so-called interactive advertisement will not hold the attention. Shouting does not work if the target can turn down the volume.
Big budget epics impress no one when they are ten a penny and have nothing to say. We may even be about to see that great British art of the "creative" come back to the fore. And not a moment too soon for a sector which still thinks that a brochure on the web, a paranoid attitude towards the press, and a makeover for the logo counts as a creative marketing strategy.
Now is the time for marketers - and that includes professional services marketers - to stop trying to get a bigger budget n order to write the same old message bigger, and instead look for something different.
Firms are spending more and more on marketing. In an increasingly competitive world and a rapidly maturing industry, so they should. But how much time, effort and, yes, money are they spending on creativity?
It is not only the pizza-buying, lager-drinking Mondeo driver on the A11 who is looking for something new, it is also that professional two Beemers behind who yawns as he passes the billboards and opens his direct mailshots.