I got introduced to institutional advertising a long time ago. It came about this way.
I was in a motorcycle club, and we were putting on this race. It was going to be a big affair, and we were printing programs. The person arranging the printing advised us we could include paid advertisements and defray the expense of printing the programs. For example, Coca Cola.
Now, why would Coca Cola pay to advertise in our handout programs? Did they expect to sell a bunch of pop at the race. No, the idea is called institutional advertising. Coca Cola and other large concerns employ institutional advertising just to keep their brand out front. That’s one of the strategies used to maintain market position.
So now I’m watching the news on cable TV, and I see a lot of ads by Norfolk Southern. And these are really glitzy productions. There’s a cute jingle playing over the video (“Helping this here country move ahead as one”), and there are beautifully choreographed sequences of products being moved and trains and powerful locomotives moving in perfect harmony. Steven Spielberg, you need to watch this.
And it’s all so fascinating. But what I find even more fascinating is…
I’m not a Norfolk Southern customer. I never have been. I never will be. If I had 250 thousand tons of barbed wire to ship to North Dakota, I might pick up the phone and make a deal with Norfolk Southern. Except that Norfolk Southern does not serve my location. The closest their line comes to me is Dallas, Texas, 300 miles away. As far as I know Norfolk Southern does not even have a passenger service in case I wanted to go to, Norfolk for example.
And that, dear readers, is what institutional advertising is all about. There is more.
I see wonderful ads by Lockheed Martin. This giant defense contractor makes high-performance fighter airplanes. I have decided to forgo purchasing a high-performance fighter this year, so Lockheed Martin’s ads, though attractive to the senses, do not as yet tug on my purse strings. Same for Northrop Grumman. Keep up the good work, guys, but I’m still not buying.
Wait! I see. I really am buying their products. I just mailed in a tax payment to the United States government, and they are going to use that money to purchase a bunch of B-2 stealth bombers. Or at least an ejection seat handle for one B-2 stealth bomber, which handle I hope never gets used, else the government will be coming back to me with its collective hand out wanting money to replace the B-2 stealth bomber the two pilots just bailed out of.
Anyhow, institutional advertising is used by defense contractors to keep their name in front of the voters, so the next time the appropriations bill comes before your local congressman you will urge him to sign off on it, because you so loved the cute ad on TV. Or at least you can tell your congressman, “Yes, I know who Lockheed Martin is. I saw their ad on TV”
It’s all about institutional advertising.