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Companies Tailor Ads For Recession

JACKI LYDEN, host:

Okay, so say you're a company with a product to sell. How do you get people who don't want to spend money to open their wallets, especially if you don't have as much money to spend on marketing? Maybe you try something like this.

(Soundbite of advertisement)

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Woman #1: Spend $200 on a new camera in these times? No way. (Unintelligible), really no way.

(Soundbite of advertisement)

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Man #1: The inherent value of a Range Rover Sport easily handles the ups and downs of sand, mud and the economy.

(Soundbite of advertisement)

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Woman #2: Grand. At only 25 cents a biscuit, you'll find any excuse to eat in.

LYDEN: Well, we don't need any excuse to take a look inside the ad business. Marc Fleishhacker is a managing director with Ogilvy Consulting, part of the Madison Avenue ad giant, with a few clients you might have heard of: IBM, British Airways, Sears.

Marc Fleishhacker's been developing new marketing strategies for the recession, and he joins us from our New York studios. Hi, there.

Mr. MARC FLEISHHACKER (Managing Director, Ogilvy Consulting): Good afternoon.

LYDEN: For months, companies have acknowledged the recession in their advertising, and the ads that we just heard all aired yesterday. So, there's a definite theme.

Mr. FLEISHHACKER: The theme is about price and frankly, that's the one driver for anybody to spend money when it comes to discretionary spending.

LYDEN: We've heard a lot about Starbucks trying to combat its image as the $4-cup-of-coffee company, and one of the things it's fighting back with is a discount breakfast-and-coffee deal, among other things.

But I was wondering, is there a danger of going too far, in a way, that sort of cheapens or takes the mystique off the brand?

Mr. FLEISHHACKER: I think the danger lies if you only talk about price, and don't talk about what I like to call the other part of value or values, and that's not just about price. That's about what you believe in as a company, whether it be the quality of products or services you provide.

LYDEN: What kind of messages can we expect as long as the recession lasts?

Mr. FLEISHHACKER: We will see more and more messages talking about this duality of values. Recently, one of our clients that makes Ragu spaghetti sauce, they used to say, you put natural things into what you made; so do we. That was prerecession.

Now, they're saying, the perfect meal when your family is growing and the economy is shrinking. Both of these advertisements, print advertisements, are about family and show a nice, big picture of Ragu spaghetti sauce.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. FLEISHHACKER: So, what's changed is all of a sudden now, we're talking about your family. Families become the code word for more than one. It's not just about you, it's about you and your family. It's about good price across a number of people, and your family is growing, the economy is shrinking, and Ragu is there to help you.

LYDEN: What about where companies are spending their marketing dollars now. Where are they spending them?

Mr. FLEISHHACKER: With technology today, we're able to understand at the individual level of a ZIP code, whether that specific area in a community is hurting more or less.

And so, in determining whether you're buying print advertising, whether you're buying television advertising or even more surgically, where you're placing your online and Internet advertising, you go into those areas where there is still a capacity to purchase your products. So, targeting is everything.

LYDEN: Assuming we recover from this recession, and let's assume this.

Mr. FLEISHHACKER: Please.

LYDEN: Do you see companies moving back to their old strategies, or do you think this kind of direct targeting is going to be a permanent change?

Mr. FLEISHHACKER: We don't live in a black-andwhite world, but I do believe it will be, for the most part, a permanent change. And frankly, if this recession hadn't occurred, we as marketers might have had to invent it.

No, we didn't. We're not taking responsibility for the recession. But the point is, we all owe it to ourselves, we owe it to the shareholders of our client companies, to be far more measurable and to be far more rigorous in the way we apply math to marketing.

So the world, forced now by recession, will not go back to what it was, which was not measurable enough.

LYDEN: Marc Fleishhacker is with the North American office of Ogilvy Consulting, a division of Ogilvy & Mather, and he joined us from our New York studios. Thanks very much.

Mr. FLEISHHACKER: Thanks for your time. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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