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Local advertisers speaking at WMS ’09 in Washington, D.C., this morning had plenty to say about how they perceive their choices in advertising, online and off.

Dianne Bonanno, senior manager, marketing communications, The Graduate School, said that her adult education company is doing good business. “In a downturn, people invest in themselves and institutions,” she noted.

Advertising-wise, things are changing quickly, as the company seeks to attract decision makers at companies who pay for their employees’ tuition, as well as open enrollment students who are paying for themselves. “We were a lot in print, but as a national institution, we have moved to a lot of online. We’ve added social media, too. It doesn’t cost hardly anything. There are so many free tools. We are taking full advantage of that.”

Bonanno also noted that social media takes the place of a lot of e-mail and other correspondence, which is too cumbersome to manage. The company also advertises in the Washington metro, news channels, news radio and other broadcast networks. Whenever possible, however, Bonanno said it works to put codes in its advertising to measure it.

Jerome Fowlkes, managing member, Broadlands, LLC, a discount haircut company, said it is spending 10 percent of its gross on advertising, in part via co-op campaigns with other haircut stores. It zeroes in on people looking for a deal or a discount, so direct mail efforts like RedPlum work especially well. Newspapers aren’t in the works, however.

“When a newspaper rep calls me, they don’t understand how I think. Basically, I ran a couple of ads with you, and got no response. Now I have moved on.” Fowlkes has also done some Internet marketing, and has aspirations to do more. “I want a more robust-type Web site to bring people in,” he said.

Valerie Passwaiter, assistant marketing manager for Northwest Federal Credit Union (and wife of BIA sales exec Steve Passwaiter) said her company has “benefited from recession in ways we never could have imagined” because credit unions are perceived as safe places to store money and provide good customer service. Her company has recently boosted its marketing budget by 10 percent to leverage the new interest in credit unions.

Some of the money is being spent on a co-op campaign developed by WRC-TV, which lets the credit union use a template ad that has 10 seconds customized for it at the end. Broadcasters aren’t necessarily going to win a larger share of the ad budget, however, “because they don’t listen. They talk at me.”

Newspapers are guilty of some of that as well, but they at least benefit from being a well-known commodity. “I know what they are, where they serve,” she said.

Some of the broadcast advertising has come with a Web site complement. The Web element is well worth the money, she said. “It has the best tracking mechanism. When we ran a campaign for auto loans on WTOP-FM, the Web site part of it on had clickthroughs from banners on top of the page. That $15,000 campaign ultimately was found to bring in $200,000 in car loans during a two-week period — a major success.

Passwaiter would like to use social media more as well. She has seen the success of Verity Credit Union in Washington state, which is paying young bloggers to comment on the good, bad and the ugly as they like. But company executives don’t see the value of it as a marketing tool. “They see daily visits to the fridge; what their kids are doing,” she said. “It is also tough for us to investigate as a tool, except on employees’ own time, because many office locations have restrictive Web site policies.”

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Thanks Valerie for the shout out to Verity Credit Union. I’d like to make one small clarification. We actually don’t pay folks to blog for us. Our blog, called Voices, has been written by volunteer staff since its inception in 2004. We rely on a pool of about ten employees to devote around one hour per month to the blog. We’ve found it to be a great communication tool. Our CEO has even started writing about the current economic conditions and most recently, the impact of the Wescorp conservatorship on our financial statements. Our blog has been an excellent way to communicate with our members about our safety and soundness.

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