Advertising Is Still the Same, Only the Names Have Changed

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I have become obsessed with the TV show Mad Men—an award-winning television series about a fictional, 1960s Madison Avenue ad agency. After downloading each of the season’s episodes, I have come to the realization that advertising, while offering different forms of media these days, has pretty much remained the same.

Oh sure, back in the 60s, the key mediums were primarily TV, radio, print, outdoor, and direct mail. Direct mail was used sporadically in the 60s for car dealers. TV was just becoming a viable medium, and newspaper garnered most, if not all, of a dealerships budget. As I look back and compare it with today’s advertising world, however, many of the basic principles remain the same.

I started my advertising career in 1971, at the tail end of the Mad Men era, and handled my first dealership in 1973. Back then, as today, I focused on the four Ps—Product, Price, Place, and Promotion. One area that has seen a marked improvement over time has been our metrics for performance. Today we are much better at measuring results, where in the early days, it was more hit and miss and trial by error. The web has given us analytics that can tell us how many people looked at our message and how many responded.

In the 60s and 70s most homes had just one TV set and the entire family would watch it together. Today, not only do most families have multiple sets catering to each member in the family, but most viewing is done on multiple screens—televisions, computers, and mobile phones. So now car dealers can reach mom and dad in the living room with one message, and Jimmy upstairs in his bedroom on his computer or mobile device, with a different message. The challenge today for car dealers is to expand their marketing parameters and seek out audiences utilizing each of the available screens. This means dealers need to expand their marketing goals for the dealership to reach different segments of the market.

Many people say the biggest change in advertising has been the digital revolution, but I feel the recent “great recession” is what has changed the world of advertising more than anything these past 50 years. During the recession dealers cut advertising budgets to a level far below pre-2008 levels. That in turn became the biggest mistake dealers made. The dealers who advertised their way through the recession are the ones that have capitalized today. Consumers take more time today searching for the best product and price. They are more willing to postpone purchases, trade down, or buy less. Must-have features of pre-08 can wait.

Trusted brands or branded dealerships are the ones that are winning today as the recession ends. Those that stayed on the sidelines trying to save into a profit will have to wait to benefit from the growing economy. In 2012 we will see many dealerships increase budgets dramatically, as we return to the new normal. At the end of the day, however, what we have experienced in the past is no different than what advertisers have been experiencing since advertising began.

Tom Letizia is the president of Letizia Mass Media, a full-service advertising agency specializing in automotive. He can be reached at 702-777-2121 or email



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