Advertising on Theater Screens

by Claude Whitacre 24 replies
I just have to tell this story.

I live in a town of about 17,000. There are two vacuum cleaner stores in town. I own one of them. We get along well.

About 25 years ago, my friendly competitor calls me up to tell me that he is going to get the best advertising deal in town, and I missed out on it. So, I asked him to tell me about it;

Him "You promise me you won't try to do it too?"
Me "Yes"
Him "Well, I got the contract for the last advertiser on the local theater screen before every movie plays. How about that?"
Me "How much?"
Him "$2,000 for the graphics and $1,250 a month. But I'm on every screen for every movie. Guaranteed"

Me; "Tell me, when you go to the movies and see these ads, do you ever write down the contact information on the screen to contact them later?"
Him "Of course not. It's dark in the theater"
Me "And who mostly goes to the movies?"
Him "Teenagers, kids"
Me "Do you ever sell vacuum cleaners to teenagers?"
Him "Well......."
Me "Are you anywhere near the theater?"
Him "No, You know I'm across town"
Me "Ad when do most people go to the movies?"
Him "Weekends, evenings"
Me "Are you open weekends or evenings?"
Him "Well...no"
Me "Good luck with it. Let me know how it does"

But the reason I'm posting this is that merchants make equally dumb advertising decisions every day. Here is a list of advertising promotions I have done that increased my sales by exactly zero;

1) Advertising in high school yearbooks, local directories, cookbooks (I'm not kidding).
2) Sponsoring the neighborhood softball team. Advertising on the local baseball backdrops.
3) advertising on the cash register receipts at the local grocery stores. (for 6 months. Twice!)
4) advertising on place mats in local restaurants.
5) advertising at the local bowling alley on the score sheets.

Honorable mention.
Mailing 10,000 flyers that gave a way a free 35 mm camera for a vacuum cleaner demonstration. Our phone lit up for 3 days solid. Every homeless person, every renter, every unemployed person called us....I had to give away about 300 cameras....got two presentations with people that actually had a job...and sold one. I made maybe $200....minus the $8,000 I spent on mailing flyers and delivered free cameras.

Thank God I did most of this when I first opened my retail store....and knew nothing about marketing. I wish I could go back in time and punch myself in the face for every bone headed idea I listened to from an advertising rep. But the cameras? My idea alone. Yippee.
#offline marketing #advertising #screens #theater
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  • Profile picture of the author eccj
    I remember reading about the movie screen one in your books. It's painful to hear.

    There is a saying... "horses for courses."

    A movie screen is a bad course for a vacuum cleaning horse. Maybe a great medium for candy though.

    You'll love this:

    Maybe 7 years ago a few mail houses convinced some final expense insurance agencies that Wal-Mart gift card leads were the golden keys.

    If you don't know anything about the final expense demographic it is equal to the demographic that gets title loans in the city and lives in trailers in the country. It's rough stuff.

    As you can imagine, agents got really giddy when they were getting 4 and 5 times the response rates from regular direct mail leads. Of course most of the people didn't even have bank accounts to pay for life insurance and just wanted to know about the gift card. Even the very best agents couldn't sell the leads.

    If you ever bring up the Wal-Mart leads to old final expense guys you'll hear curse words combined in ways you didn't think was possible.
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    • Profile picture of the author Claude Whitacre
      Originally Posted by eccj View Post

      If you don't know anything about the final expense demographic it is equal to the demographic that gets title loans in the city and lives in trailers in the country. It's rough stuff.

      As you can imagine, agents got really giddy when they were getting 4 and 5 times the response rates from regular direct mail leads. Of course most of the people didn't even have bank accounts to pay for life insurance and just wanted to know about the gift card. Even the very best agents couldn't sell the leads.
      .
      Whenever we were trying a new lead generation idea, it seemed that there was a pyramid of people who responded. Completely unqualified people always responded. "Something for nothing" was what they lived for. At the top end were people that were highly qualified that almost never responded.

      So we usually ended up throwing a huge net with minimum qualifications...must have a job, phone, be 21 or over... then most of the people we saw were at the lower end of the spectrum, but usually qualified for some form of financing.

      I remember finding a finance company that would accept anyone with a full time job and a phone. For about six months, we flooded them with sales...and of course, they learned after a few months that collecting money from these people was going to be a chore.


      Originally Posted by Dennis Gaskill View Post

      From the "on the other hand" department, we brought a ton of business to the bar that sponsored our softball team. You should have sold beer.
      Yup, bars, restaurants, and sporting goods stores did well. The businesses matched the events.

      And the theater screens? Pizza shops near the theater, a roller skating rink, and fast food restaurants did well....because they matched the majority of the audience and were open as soon as the movies were over.

      In fact pizza shops, hair cutting places, oil change shops, and fast food restaurants almost always do well with any kind of coupon in any media
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      • Profile picture of the author Dennis Gaskill
        Originally Posted by Claude Whitacre View Post

        Yup, bars, restaurants, and sporting goods stores did well. The businesses matched the events.
        I just wanted you to think about applying for a liquor license for the vacuum store.
        Signature

        Just when you think you've got it all figured out, someone changes the rules.

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        • Profile picture of the author Oziboomer
          Originally Posted by Dennis Gaskill View Post

          I just wanted you to think about applying for a liquor license for the vacuum store.
          Unfortunately in Claude's neck of the woods that might cut opening times by 50%.

          On second thoughts that might be a gentle way to ease into retirement.

          Best regards,

          Ozi
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        • Profile picture of the author Ron Lafuddy
          Originally Posted by Dennis Gaskill View Post

          I just wanted you to think about applying for a liquor license for the vacuum store.
          Well, this could be Claude's version of a "juice bar" at the vacuum spa.

          And, there's always those customers who are "on the fence" about making a purchase decision.

          Claude's new contemplative approach, may help dissolve some of that inner turmoil

          "While your thinkin', do some drinkin'.
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  • Profile picture of the author jimbo13
    [DELETED]
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    • Profile picture of the author TrickyDick
      Originally Posted by jimbo13 View Post

      Your post reminded me about Hoover UK's disastrous marketing idea of giving away something with a vacuum cleaner.

      A free flight for 2 to America if you spend £100 on a new vacuum! (Flights cost £500 which for some reason they never bothered to find out before the great idea )

      200,000 bought a vacuum they didn't want and Hoover lost £50 million and basically ceased to exist.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hoover...ghts_promotion

      Dan

      PS: With the other ideas you have listed; place mats, year books etc, you didn't have a chap called Don Alm living near you by any chance

      Dan
      Instead of having awesome profit margins, they sold in volume... A great "success" for them!

      Too bad no one at Hoover had ever heard of the concept of net profit..... :-) I assume they had at least ONE Accountant on staff back then. Right?
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  • Profile picture of the author BuddyFox
    Awesome post...but even if you were warned, you still would have done them! There's something about HAVING to learn for yourself as an entrepreneur...and it's usually learned the hard way
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  • Profile picture of the author Dennis Gaskill
    Originally Posted by Claude Whitacre View Post

    Here is a list of advertising promotions I have done that increased my sales by exactly zero;

    2) Sponsoring the neighborhood softball team.
    From the "on the other hand" department, we brought a ton of business to the bar that sponsored our softball team. You should have sold beer.
    Signature

    Just when you think you've got it all figured out, someone changes the rules.

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  • Profile picture of the author Regional Warrior
    Claude
    Now a days they use mobiles to write down stuff , saw a lady just before the movie started the other day quickly copy the number to the store on the screen!
    Jason
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    • Profile picture of the author helisell
      Originally Posted by Regional Warrior View Post

      Claude
      Now a days they use mobiles to write down stuff , saw a lady just before the movie started the other day quickly copy the number to the store on the screen!
      Jason
      Yes there's always an exception...let's hope enough other people did the same ;0)
      Signature

      Just an old goat who knows quite a lot about sales and marketing.

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  • Profile picture of the author DABK
    She's the exception to writing down the number. Is she an exception to remembering, after the movie, that she wrote down a number?

    I saw a bunch of people write down my a company's number from a banner at a festival. None of them got around to actually calling the company. From that, the owner decided that marketing does not work, so he did not market for 1 year. The 2nd year after? He spent $1500 to have his banner displayed at said festival. Go figure!

    Originally Posted by helisell View Post

    Yes there's always an exception...let's hope enough other people did the same ;0)
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    • Profile picture of the author Claude Whitacre
      Originally Posted by DABK View Post

      She's the exception to writing down the number. Is she an exception to remembering, after the movie, that she wrote down a number?

      I saw a bunch of people write down my a company's number from a banner at a festival. None of them got around to actually calling the company. From that, the owner decided that marketing does not work, so he did not market for 1 year. The 2nd year after? He spent $1500 to have his banner displayed at said festival. Go figure!
      I hear that a lot from retailers and business owners. "I tried advertising/marketing...and it doesn't work"

      What they almost always mean is "I have no idea what I'm doing, so I threw something at the wall.....one time.... and it didn't stick. Therefore nothing ever works".

      And the almost universally accepted marketing system for business owners depends on which ad rep shows up, and what they are selling.
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      • Profile picture of the author Ron Lafuddy
        Originally Posted by Claude Whitacre View Post

        I hear that a lot from retailers and business owners. "I tried advertising/marketing...and it doesn't work"

        What they almost always mean is "I have no idea what I'm doing, so I thew something at the wall.....one time.... and it didn't stick. Therefore nothing ever works".

        And the almost universally accepted marketing system for business owners depends on which ad rep shows up, and what they are selling.
        Claude,

        You've probably tried some version of the "try it before you buy it" offer. Did that kind of offer make a notable difference in the number of sales?
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        • Profile picture of the author Claude Whitacre
          Originally Posted by Ron Lafuddy View Post

          Claude,

          You've probably tried some version of the "try it before you buy it" offer. Did that kind of offer make a notable difference in the number of sales?
          I'm glad you asked. In in home sales, the customer has three business days to cancel an order.

          When selling in home, I tried letting people borrow the machine for a few day as a "try before you buy". I did that maybe 20 times one month, and all the sales fell through. In the prospect's mind, they weren't buying anything...they were borrowing or testing the machine.

          In my retail store I did "Try before you buy" with air purifiers ($599). They kept the air purifier for 3 days and could return it if they wanted. 75% brought the purifier back.

          And then I learned a secret from a mentor......I kept running the "Try before you buy" ads, and just changed the offer (after they were in the store) to a "Two weeks safe ownership". Meaning that they bought, but could get a refund if they brought the purifier back within two weeks. 75% kept the purifiers. My sales tripled.

          The reason was, if they tried the product for three days (without us processing their card) they didn't feel like they bought anything, and sometimes I even had to drive to their home and pick it up. But if they paid me up front? In their mind it was the same deal...except they had two weeks instead of three days. But now, they felt that they had bought the product. And getting a refund was a hassle.

          We still advertise "Try before you buy". But they try the vacuum cleaners in our store. We have several carpet samples and bare floors and tile in our demonstration area.

          And we still offer a "Two week safe ownership" on our premium vacuums. But we don't advertise it. We just use it to stimulate a decision while they are in the store. We get less than 1% back. But when we used to let people "borrow" vacuums to try at home, 75% would be returned. And we cannot sell a vacuum cleaner as new after it's been used in someone's home. It's a real loser for us.

          The huge difference in results is from how the customer thinks when they leave the store. Did they feel like they bought it...or just borrowed it? Huge difference in results.

          When I sold my Advertising course from the stage (at conventions and trade shows), I got the great idea of telling the audience that I wouldn't run their cards for 30 days. They had 30 days to return the course ($599, I think).

          My sales went from about 20% of the audience to 30% of the audience. The bad news is that my refunds were almost 40%. And when I just sold it straight...my refunds were zero. Every additional sale I made by making the "try before you buy" was to someone who was already planning to get a refund. In selling courses and information product from the front of the room, there is a huge "borrow/copy/refund" contingent. In fact, people were getting refunds just because they knew others that got refunds.

          I made that mistake in two seminars in a row. It took me a few weeks to see all the refunds.

          Added later; as an aside, when I was selling my advertising course, a speaker that heard my pitch took me aside and told me that I should charge $1,500. So I did on my next speech. My sales went down by about 10% and I got a few refunds. But my income from sales increased by about 300%.
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    • Profile picture of the author eccj
      Originally Posted by DABK View Post

      She's the exception to writing down the number. Is she an exception to remembering, after the movie, that she wrote down a number?

      I saw a bunch of people write down my a company's number from a banner at a festival. None of them got around to actually calling the company. From that, the owner decided that marketing does not work, so he did not market for 1 year. The 2nd year after? He spent $1500 to have his banner displayed at said festival. Go figure!
      That's a great story. Thanks for the laugh.

      Business owners have made me say "huh?" So many times.

      I know a guy who is a 2nd gen owner of a mattress store. The dude does nothing but read while laying on a mattress.

      He started to do some marketing so he paid some guy to put advertising on a calendar; the calendar guy skipped town.

      He then put his logo, not an ad, a logo, on a BBQ menu for like $500 bucks. He had no idea how many menus or how long the promo lasted BUT he "liked eating there." Go figure.

      He then paid the local newspaper to do an ad campaign using digital media and in insert which he swore went to 100,000 people even though there weren't 100,000 people in the area.

      I asked him how many customers he had and suggested he maile the ones who bought between 7 and 12 years ago. You know, people who need a mattress.

      He said "I don't want to put their info in the computer because the government could look at it."

      I answered "Sure. But what will the government learn? That they sleep on mattresses?"

      We haven't talked in over a year but I'm waiting on some great buys at the going out of business sale.
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  • Profile picture of the author JohnMcCabe
    Back in the days when cameras still had film in them, I spent some time on the road selling photo finishing by mail.

    A partner and I would go to a small but not too small rural town, set up in a local motel, and head for the library to look up people who had just announced engagements, had new babies, etc. Looked up the addresses and mailed a postcard promising a free gift in return for sitting through a 20 minute presentation.

    Lo and behold, one fine afternoon we get a different kind of knock on the door. Open up, and there's a deputy sheriff standing there with his hand on his gun. Seems one of the families we'd sent the postcard to sent their teenage daughter to pick up their prize. She looked in the window and saw two guys sitting behind a table set up between the beds and bolted.

    The deputy heard our story, looked at our sales materials and called the parent company to verify we were really reps for the company. The answers kept us out of jail, but he "suggested" we close up shop early. We took his suggestion.

    I got out out of the photo finishing business very soon after. But that's a story for another day.

    Originally Posted by Dennis Gaskill View Post

    I just wanted you to think about applying for a liquor license for the vacuum store.
    I can see it now...

    "Uncle Claude's Suck 'n' Suds"

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    • Profile picture of the author Claude Whitacre
      Originally Posted by JohnMcCabe View Post

      Back in the days when cameras still had film in them, I spent some time on the road selling photo finishing by mail.

      A partner and I would go to a small but not too small rural town, set up in a local motel, and head for the library to look up people who had just announced engagements, had new babies, etc. Looked up the addresses and mailed a postcard promising a free gift in return for sitting through a 20 minute presentation.

      Lo and behold, one fine afternoon we get a different kind of knock on the door. Open up, and there's a deputy sheriff standing there with his hand on his gun. Seems one of the families we'd sent the postcard to sent their teenage daughter to pick up their prize. She looked in the window and saw two guys sitting behind a table set up between the beds and bolted.

      The deputy heard our story, looked at our sales materials and called the parent company to verify we were really reps for the company. The answers kept us out of jail, but he "suggested" we close up shop early. We took his suggestion.

      I got out out of the photo finishing business very soon after. But that's a story for another day.
      I knocked on a door once, and was holding a set of steak knives in my hand...and was offering them for sitting through my presentation. A young woman opened the door...
      i said that I would give her the set of knives for viewing a presentation. She slammed the door and screamed to someone, "There's a man outside with a knife and he just threatened me!".

      I also showed up at an appointment once with a woman...and a deputy was there. At first I thought it was her boyfriend. But about halfway through the presentation I found out that she just called the Sheriff...and he was there to make sure I didn't attack her.

      I just gave her the gift and left.

      But the worst appointments were when they were in the middle of an argument. I remember that one woman went into the bedroom, took off her top, and sat down to see the rest of my presentation topless..just to piss off her husband.

      I didn't look at her at all. I picked up my vacuum and left. I was actually willing to sit through almost any kind of drama, if I thought they were going to buy. But if they were drunk or arguing, I knew the sale wasn't going to stick, so I would just leave.
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    • Profile picture of the author Claude Whitacre
      Originally Posted by JohnMcCabe View Post



      I can see it now...

      "Uncle Claude's Suck 'n' Suds"

      When I opened my first vacuum cleaner store in maybe 1983, the local radio rep stopped by. My town is an extremely religious area. The rep said I should have a slogan.

      I said "How about..."If it sucks, we sell it"?"

      She was visibly distressed and said that wouldn't be appropriate. Personally, I thought it was a winner. But years later, I realized that it would have caused more problems than customers.

      If the store were in Chicago, (or any big city) I probably would have used it.
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  • Profile picture of the author sunnykhan345
    very useful post for use, thanks for being your valuable post.
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  • Profile picture of the author Jessica Amboos
    There's always a time for every stupid thing we do when we're young. We learn as we go. Everyone went through all of that. Thanks for sharing this. I always wondered how will people ever remember the ads on theater screens when they're going there to enjoy themselves and not preoccupy themselves with things other than movies.
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  • Profile picture of the author yukon
    You should have taken those 10,000 flyers and thrown them all over the theater floor, traffic would have them stuck to their shoes for a week.
    Signature
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    • Profile picture of the author Ron Lafuddy
      Originally Posted by yukon View Post

      You should have taken those 10,000 flyers and thrown them all over the theater floor, traffic would have them stuck to their shoes for a week.
      I don't think he was referring to those kind of theatres.
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      • Profile picture of the author yukon
        Originally Posted by Ron Lafuddy View Post

        I don't think he was referring to those kind theatres.

        He asked for extra butter without buying any popcorn.
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        • Profile picture of the author Ron Lafuddy
          Originally Posted by yukon View Post

          He asked for extra butter without buying any popcorn.
          Was it date night?
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