It is crazy to think how much money is spent annually on advertising. Political ads, energy drinks, tampons, diapers, whatever you are wearing right now, and everything else you can imagine has advertising money behind it. Radio spots, TV spots, NASCAR cars, billboards, hockey rink boards, newspaper (less than it used to be), internet, the most unawkward view at the urinal, anywhere you look likely has some ad money spent to make you notice it.
This post is not to pitch for getting rid of ads. Often times, ads are as entertaining as they are informative.
Certain ad campaigns are powerful enough to become nationally recognized. The highest paid advertising director should be whoever is in charge of GEICO. They have multiple campaigns going, which are all memorable. "It's so easy a caveman can do it" was so successful that someone even tried to turn it into a primetime SitCom. The GEICO Gecko has made everyone think that geckos are Brittish, or Austrailian, or South African, or whatever, but are uncomparably adorable. Their campaign of "Can 15 minutes really save you 15% on car insurance..." was incredibly funny, so much so, that the little piggy that cried wee wee wee all the way home is now ziplining and street luging in his own campaign. Now I don't know how many people have switched to the Government Employees Insurance Company as a result of these ads, but at least it keeps the GEICO brand on the forefront.
GEICO took over as my favorite ads from Budweiser. From the Bud-Wise-Errrr frogs a decade or more ago to the field goal kicking clydesdale more recently, they also had a great ad campaign.
However, those incredible campaigns are few and far between. It seems like more ads are horrible wastes of money. When I drive across the Port of Tacoma bridge on my commute, I see a billboard for Red Wind Casino. They are pushing something called "Windfall". The caption says "Random acts of luck". Maybe I am in the minority, but if I were considering going to a casino, the reminder that it is all random luck would do more to keep me out of the casino. I don't want it to be luck, I would rather you do something to make me think that if I stick around long enough and spend enough money, I am going to walk out a millionaire.
This being election season, I've heard Newt Gingrich's ads (okay, ads from his super-PAC, not directly from his campaign) twice today, Super Tuesday. Both ads said that he is the smartest person in the race. Maybe he is. It may very well be that Newt's IQ is a hundred points superior to that of Mitt, Rick and Ron. However, I don't see anyway that he has taken a step to prove that. Neither of the other candidates have done anything to make themselves look dumb, nor has Newt done anything to prove himself smarter than the others?
Great advertising directors must be very difficult to come by. I worked for an incredible one a number of years ago, and now that I am away from that atmosphere, I realize just how effective she was. People who went to college for advertising, if they paid attention in class, should never struggle to find a job. I think that if a good advertiser walked into the CEOs office at Red Wind casino and pointed out the flaws of the campaign and had better ideas, then the CEO would likely hire him or her on the spot. At least if the CEO was interested in not wasting money he would.
There is no telling how many companies are struggling to keep in the black, but I would like to know how many of them have horrible ad campaigns. A smaller, more effective campaign would be much more successful than a huge campaign that does not catch people, or does not pitch things in a more positive light.