SAN FRANCISCO -- In an industry that's shrinking, it's important for companies to reduce costs wherever possible -- part of the reason Harris Teeter has moved its production of TV spots in-house, Steve Kent, the chain's director of advertising/creative, said here last week.
"Harris Teeter is a strong, well-run company, but so were other companies [that aren't around anymore]," Kent said. "I anticipate we will be strong for a long time, but it's important to find ways to do things better, faster and cheaper with quality. It's important for us to understand and use technology to do it."
Using available software to do the commercials in-house has enabled Harris Teeter to save money, Kent said. "What cost us millions of dollars eight or nine years ago and $250,000 four or five years ago now costs about $60,000," he pointed out.
Kent made his remarks at the Advertising and Marketing Executive Conference sponsored by Food Marketing Institute, Washington.
Besides reducing costs, the process of bringing the technology in-house is a way to attract more professional graphic artists to the industry, Kent added. "Years ago, graphic artists didn't want to work for supermarket companies because they felt it mostly involved ad paste-ups. But with the kind of technology that exists today, college kids will be anxious to join your companies and do this work over the next few years," he said.
"If you want to attract the best and brightest and most talented, then you've got to take advantage of the technology that's out there. They will come knocking on your door."
Telling a story is the key to making radio work as an advertising medium, Scott McCormick, president and chief creative officer for VML, Kansas City, Mo., told the conference. "Radio is a story-telling medium. So the power is still there if you use it right and always tell a story," he explained.
McCormick said Winn-Dixie is telling its story in radio spots by talking about its past. "Winn-Dixie is a once-beloved brand that's gone into decline. To fulfill the need to get people to like it again, it's using commercials that harken back to a time when they loved the company."
He played a radio spot in which a woman talks about what Winn-Dixie meant to her family in terms of meal preparation when she was growing up. "It tells a story and doesn't push too hard," McCormick pointed out.
He also suggested that companies using radio should keep their message simple. He illustrated his point by playing a spot by Meijer, Grand Rapids, Mich., for its private-label lines. The spot portrays a little girl tasting national-brand spinach and Meijer's brand, and expressing disgust at both, concluding with an announcer saying, "The only difference is the price."
Radio spots should also "sell rather than yell," McCormick said, "to give listeners a way to discover value for themselves." To demonstrate, he played an IGA spot in which a woman talking on the phone tells her friend about IGA's better checkers, sweeter onions and helpful seafood clerks.
Advertisers should avoid using music unless the music is good, McCormick said. "Music is such a powerful emotional trigger that you don't want to let it misfire with hard-sell lyrics set to elevator music," he explained, demonstrating his point with a spot for Rainbow Foods using a catchy tune to suggest gift certificates as an appropriate present.
In a spot for Albertsons.com, the chain "found a life need and a truth in the product, and used it to convert customers," McCormick said. The commercial involved a wife phoning her husband and telling him to prepare dinner for an important client, with an announcer suggesting Albertsons.com offers great meals in a hurry.
In a keynote presentation to the conference, Mark Stevens, chief executive officer of MSCO, Purchase, N.Y. -- and the author of the book, "Your Marketing Sucks: A 7-Day Crash Course for Declaring War on Your Business" -- said marketing must be linked to sales and growth. "Art directors want to win awards for the creativity of their campaigns, but business people want to sell products," he explained.
"Awards mean nothing. You're supposed to be selling merchandise. That's why marketers should admire Ron Popeil [the founder of Ronco, who developed the infomercial]. He was the salesman of the century. He didn't win awards; he just sold a lot of product."
Stevens said most people, including himself, don't like to go grocery shopping. "One of the great things about your business is you sell something people need, but it's a functional experience. However, since I discovered Whole Foods, I go there for fun. Whole Foods doesn't take customers for granted -- it tells them the story of why they're different.
"The challenge is, can you find ways to make the daily need to buy food something that changes drudgery to excitement? Great stores are theater, so make it entertaining and sales will follow."