"Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don't know which half."

I don't know precisely when John Wanamaker uttered this famous quote. He built his retail empire in the late 1800s so he said it long before terms like content marketing, search engine marketing, pay-per-click, or even television had entered the advertising industry consciousness.

Fast forward to 2017… specifically focusing on the destination marketing world… more precisely small to medium-sized destinations that don't enjoy universal brand recognition. I know that far too many communities are wasting money. How? By boring the general public with incredibly banal advertising.

Travelers have a lot of choices. Visitors need to be inspired to take action. Even people who have an innate sense of curiosity and a love for discovery need to be convinced to choose one destination over another. It’s a greater challenge for small and medium-sized communities because they are not likely on anyone’s Bucket List. Not to mention, they usually have smaller budgets. But that is exactly the reason why they can't afford to waste anything.

I have a feeling that Wanamaker’s famous quote is probably a lament about the inability to track results of ads in different media outlets, like magazines and newspapers considering the era in which he lived. Today, I’m applying his point to the creative work. If a destination is putting out advertising that does not make potential visitors gasp, they are wasting money. Print, digital, social or video advertising that does not make people stop in their tracks to read or watch is wasting money. If the message doesn’t make people think “Hmm, I need to know more,” it’s wasting money. If the imagery and style doesn’t make people think “I need to see and experience that with my own eyes,” it’s wasting money. I have never understood why a marketer would invest significant money buying media space only to run amateur ad content. No one is inspired by “Eat Stay Play” as an advertising message.


6 Walnut Avenue • Vinton, Virginia 24179

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