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Decision Points for Your Business Marketing: Advertise, Promote or Publicize?

10/30/2013 01:47 pm 13:47:01 | Updated Dec 29, 2013

All businesses, large and small, share basic commonalities. One of them is "How much bang for how little buck?" How to market your business requires a careful study. Where do you spend your money? Advertising? Promotion? Public relations? We recently had a conversation on the topic and the results can be applied to all industries.

Mat Gleason is a small business owner. He operates Coagula Projects, an art gallery in the Chinatown of Los Angeles. In order to sell product, he needs to advertise and promote. An upcoming show features the work of Kim Dingle, a well-known and prestigious artist. Her show is fresh and unique for she has painted on wine bottles, specifically three cases of Verdicchio. The gallery will be remade into a wine and craft beer boutique.

Gleason asked, "Should I advertise in ArtForum?" ArtForum is regarded as the preeminent art magazine in America. An ad says the gallery and the artist are to be taken seriously. What will be the return on investment? Gleason's situation is the same as every business owner. In your region, there are a wide variety of media choices, from the Pennysaver to ArtForum. What will provide results for your business? What should Gleason do? A full-page color ad will nick him $4900. We asked a variety of experts to get into the conversation.

Artist Mike Kelly replied, "If you're doing it for sales no. If you're doing it to increase your profile among artists and that's worth $5000 to you yes."

Mat Gleason: "Mike, did you have a bad experience/low response with an ad in the magazine?"

Mike Kelly:

No its an opinion that comes from taking out several print ads in other places, talking about ads in general with other gallerists including a couple of galleries one who got press or who took out an ad in AF. It just reinforced what my experience, big or small ads give you some credibility (more among artists imo) but not sales... I also worked at a fairly large gallery whose owner didn't take out ads unless he got a deal. I'm pretty sure for the same reason.

Marilyn Nix, with a history in Public relations, asked, "Makes sense maybe for an art fair where you might want a national reach."

Artist Lara Jo Regan has much experience as a publisher:

It's a cumulative, indirect thing. Every bit of exposure drills the artist/gallery into the mind of the public /buyer a little more each time, gradually giving the name more seeming legitimacy and making a buyer feel better about dealing with you. But art magazine ads don't necessarily lead to immediate direct sales. It's more of a long-term investment.

Annie Seaton asked, "Can you commit to run for 1-2 years? I hear that is how long it takes for advertising to be effective."

Peter Frank is an art writer and critic:

Folks generally right about sales -- to sell anything, you need to reproduce something in the ad, and the ad has to be in a mag that reaches the outer as well as inner orbits of the art world (e.g. Art in America, Art News). You'll probably sell the work you reproduced. Otherwise, it's a prestige thang, and the work and the gallery have to look in place -- although if you look THOROUGHLY inappropriate, that's also a plus.

Curator Catlin Moore: "We've tried many different combos of advertising over the past few decades, and the ArtForum ad drove the least business to us for the most cost."

Whether you are an orthodontist, a gallerist or a plumbing contractor, image and perception matter.

Gary Lloyd is an artist. "Basic rule of advertising exposure is the 3-10 ratio
Takes three to ten times before 80 percent of your desired audience remembers or it sticks within their consciousness for it to have power."

Public relations executive Carolyn Campbell agrees: "Lloyd has the numbers correct. McGraw Hill study noted that it takes about nine repeats of a message before a customer moves to point of sale. So that would mean they see an ad, hear something on the radio, get a recommendation from a friend etc. x nine."

Promotion and basic sales are definitely in every business conversation. David McDonald said, "One very successful dealer I worked for felt he was better off spending the money taking clients out to dinner and lunches, based on his results I'd have to agree."

Who can say No to lunch? Gary Lloyd continues, "Unless you can buy a year of ads do what David McDonald suggested. $5,000 will buy you 52 weekly lunches with collectors, art writers and folks who have the ear of those who advocate for art! People talk and ads don't! Work the internet to network images."

Peter Reginato, an artist, agrees, " My last experience with an ArtForum ad was when my dealer went to show me the Ad, she couldn't find it LOL. It's so filled with ads that I told her we would have been better off throwing a big dinner in a "art" restaurant and looking like a big success."

William Bush has a long history as a publisher. Today, he produces the art magazine Artweek LA.:

Based on my 30 years selling advertising in special interest magazines the rule of thumb has always been REPETITION. Repeated impressions increase response. However, a single ad (in any magazine of ArtForum's stature) could achieve your objective if it was part of an overall integrated program. Today that means social media such as Facebook, direct mail (email), PR, website, etc. Running an ad is absolutely more impressive (The medium is the message). The artists especially like it. If this is for Kim D's show you might have to do it. The thing that advertisers should ask themselves is "what is the response I want to my ad?" Art is one of those things where the typical response is the desire to see/know more. To become more educated before investing. In this age that means going to the gallery's (or artist's) website to read more about the artist and see more images of her work. Where buyers once relied on the "salesperson" to educated them, today they feel empowered to do this one their own. SO FOR EXAMPLE, if you used the ad in part to drive qualified buyers to your website, where you then offered more information (content) and a more complete portfolio of the artist's work (more content), with a means of contacting the gallery to inquire about the work, set an appointment, etc., THEN I would say that a single ad could work. This "closed loop" approach is very effective.

Stu Rapeport agrees, "An ad works as part of an overall publicity campaign, but standing alone the ad is a great ego boost for the artist but isn't going to increase sales. But an ego boost to lesser known artists is priceless."

William Bush:

Personally, I'd spend some of that dough on a writer to pen a decent essay/press release that I could send out to the press (print, online, art, general) where I am sure to get FREE coverage. Then spruce up my website (include the essay) and establish links via all social media, online sources, etc. If I had a good mailing list I would do a print postcard or invitation. This would stand out. Few are mailing these days. And, YES, I would do some banner ads linking back to the website.

Artist Jim Caron:

A coordinated campaign with goals set. That is what an advertising plan needs, not just one ad in a publication, but a plan that includes peripheral exposure to support it. A strong vision of expectations and multiple exposures that support each other, focused on a specific result. That's advertising. Otherwise you simply have an ad in a mag and hope for results.

Ryan McIntosh says, "Not worth running just one ad. It won't do anything. It's only be worth it if you're going to regularly do it every issue for a long period of times to build name recognition of your gallery and artists. Does not really generate sales or even help with show attendance."

What is the value of prestige and image building?

William Bush: "In the art world, prestige is a value builder. And by value I mean price. So while that ad may not make the phone ring it can help establish and build credibility for both the artist and the gallery. But all advertising should be part of an integrated marketing strategy."

F Scott Hess: "Back in the 80s (when my career was a bit hotter) I noticed that the ads in the big national art mags brought in nothing tangible, but the blurbs and articles in local style magazines (LA Style, Venice Magazine, Los Angeles Magazine, etc.) Always brought in sales."

Chris Moran:

I was in niche marketing for a publisher for a decade (1990s) and consistent advertising, even the smallest with good spot color is better than any larger one-off or 2 or 3 run ad. It used to be known as "institutional advertising" -- getting your 'brand' out there and remembered. The one-off might be good for a special event that you REALLY believe-in, but mostly it is only good for stroking the ego of an artist or author and produces little or no results.

Carolyn Campbell:

Editorial coverage is worth 3x that of advertising. Nothing beats third party validation. And then you leverage that review/article/radio interview through social media, whatever. Work it! If you are in PR then you may be familiar with the local chapter of PRSA and the 3 to 1 ratio which has been an evaluative standard for decades. It's a value model, not a declaration, that editorial is for sale.

Chris Moran:

Advertising is only "expensive and unproductive" if it is approached without sensibility. Time-consuming yet inexpensive "Guerilla Marketing Tactics" is functional to some extent and is a valuable approach. Just shouldn't be the only approach. Social Media the same. I know, the dreaded, horrible term "advertising" is hard to pronounce in the Human Microphone Age, but it works if it is designed and placed well.

The argument that "print is dead" is utterly ridiculous, especially when it comes to fine art publications. Unless all you plan to promote only digital art seen online, you need a physical presence in print media. Art people -- people who buy Art from painters who work on real canvases, sculptors who use real stone, clay, wood, plastic and metals, print makers who make real prints on real paper -- are people who buy and read fine art magazines.

William Bush:

Print certainly isn't what it used to be. People have grown accustomed to the notion of "free, perfect, now". I want my information to be free, without problems, and delivered immediately. Print cannot compete and has yet to transform into the media it needs to be to survive. Instead print publications have gotten smaller, printed on cheaper paper, fewer long articles, and stuffed with ads, often of products and services unrelated to the publication content.

At the end of the discussion, Mat Gleason purchased an ad in ArtForum. It was a beaut.

Where does your business fit in your local community? Does your image meet their needs? How can you best present your goods and services? The answers are never easy. As you have just read, the best approach is everywhere all the time.

Gordy Grundy serves as Project Manager for the marketing think tank the Promotionalist Group.

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