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Something's Fishy

Visa has a current advertising campaign titled "Aquarium." The ad appears on TV's two most popular primetime shows, "Apprentice" and "American Idol." The ad itself is very well done and features a father and daughter at a public aquarium viewing fish.

Now before going further, I would like to say that this is a great ad and would have a high level of appeal to the 200 million Americans who visit animal attractions every year. The demographics of these animal attraction visitors would also appeal to most advertisers. They are educated, more affluent than the average American, and enjoy travel.

I understand that if an advertising venue is chosen for a media planner they can justify the placement of almost any ad. This is accomplished by using the demographic information that would best reinforce the decision and discarding the adverse information. However, this one defies explanation and must be a masterful piece of salesmanship to justify these two placements.

Here's the problem; the majority of animal attraction visitors, including those of public aquariums, fall into three classifications; young families, mature adults with grandchildren, and mature adults.

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"American Idol" ranks in the Top 10 for delivering an audience between the ages of 18 and 49. "Apprentice" also ranks high among the 18-49-year-old age group. The majority of both audiences are childless young adults.

The audience that most closely mirrors the demographics of Visa's ad are found viewing the cable stations Animal Planet, Discovery, National Geographic and Sundance. The audiences for these specific cable channels would pay as close attention to this well-made ad as they would to the scheduled program.

With the amount of money spent to buy premium spots on the two most expensive shows this season, I believe Visa missed a great opportunity to take advantage of a great ad. In addition to appearing before a very receptive TV audience, Visa could have sponsored events at aquariums across the country, bought ad space on our site, and still had money left over.

There are always two issues behind any media buy, but I have no indication that either one of these reasons played a role in this particular decision-making process. The first is laziness, as it is easier to place all of the ad dollars with two very large entities with the gross numbers justifying the buy. This never results in the greatest penetration or the best brand recognition.

The other reason is to make buys so you are placed on the "A" list for advertiser and sponsorship parties. I'm sure that NBC-Trump or CBS-Cowell advertiser parties are the place to be seen in certain circles and are viewed as a sign of success. If this is the real reason for making an ad buy, it is a gross misuse of corporate funds.

Many companies, and Visa is a good example, are trying to imply a green image by having their brands appear with wildlife or against an outdoor background. However, when it comes to spending ad dollars, Visa is not supporting the venues that reach out to educate people on the plight of wildlife and the environment. I am sure that in the course of a year, Visa and every other company sponsors events and makes token donations to promote their "green" image.

This Visa "Aquarium" ad campaign is an example of a great ad placed in the wrong venue. I believe a tremendous amount of money was spent by Visa to provide the audience of each show with a bathroom break without worrying that they might have missed something of interest to them.

2 comments about "Something's Fishy ".
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  1. Kevin Horne from Lairig Marketing, March 27, 2009 at 11:49 a.m.

    Excellent post. Is Visa doing a "spray and pray"?

    Here's hoping that someone from the Media community will jump in to explain this move by Visa (or by its media agency).

  2. Tim Orr from Barnett Orr Marketing Group, Inc., March 27, 2009 at 7:16 p.m.

    Can it possibly be true that *most* 18-49ers are "childless young adults"? What do we consider "young" nowadays? And when are people finally having children? I can understand that this may not be the ideal media buy for this spot, but can it possibly be *that* wrong?

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