Local Commentary

Editorial: How Ads Work

Despite the almost breathtaking initiative coming out of Falls Church’s City Hall last week to move with warp-speed to pitch the City to the new Congress, in Washington for orientation, and the legions applying for 7,000 jobs with the new administration, no mention of the effort was made at this week’s City Council meeting.

The City’s Economic Development office had intersected the ferment on Capitol Hill with an attractive, eye-catching full-page ad in The Hill newspaper, outlining the benefits of living in Falls Church and welcoming new people moving to the area to consider moving here. In the best spirit of small-town Falls Church, a local business owner and resident, Matt Smith of the Smith-Gifford marketing firm, was drawn into the action, and quickly produced the ad pro bono, himself a firm supporter of the City’s taking such bold marketing initiatives. It was a proud day for Falls Church, as reported in last week’s News-Press. City residents saw their government willing to step “out of the box” to act on their behalf in an effort to buoy the City’s tax base and ease pressures on individual taxpayers. Leaders of neighboring regional jurisdictions had their jaws drop at the audacity of hope, if you will, that little Falls Church displayed. In Washington, the buzz was created that certainly will, in coming weeks and months, pay off for the City.

But some at City Hall are perhaps leery that the ad did not result in phones ringing of their hooks immediately when it appeared. It is a typical reaction from people who are new to the world, and realities, of advertising. We’ve dealt with that a lot over 17 years at the News-Press, since advertising is our “bread and butter.” There is almost never a one-to-one relationship between an ad and a response, unless the ad includes a coupon for a free toaster. An ad begins a process that produces results over time. It’s one reason that we advise our customers never to advertise just once, but to do it on a regular basis, to be successful. In the case of the City’s ad last week, however, the one-time shot was an exception, creating a disproportionately powerful impact because of its extraordinary uniqueness.

Still, the same ad should be used economically in a wide variety of other ways in the next period. Some would argue that’s only spending more money in an already-tight budget environment. But the debate, nationally, on the role of marketing in a recession suggests that tough economic times are exactly when the bold and brave advertise to gain a competitive edge. The News-Press was founded in the throes of a deep recession in 1991. There were visionary advertisers who saw in the News-Press an affordable, special opportunity. They prospered over the period since then, because they were the first to step forward. Some who advertised in the first-ever edition have been in the News-Press every week to the present. They’ve been the biggest winners.