The [email protected] advisory board held its first official board closed-door meeting 4/17 NBC Universal’s 30 Rock headquarters. With a nod to the all-female group gathered in the boardroom, Lauren Zalaznick, President of NBC Universal’s Women & Lifestyle Entertainment Networks, kicked of the meeting by asking, “Isn’t this the way we want the board room to look?”
Tony Cardinale, SVP, Research and Strategic Insight for Bravo Media, Oxygen Media and [email protected] kicked off the meeting with a sneak peak at [email protected]’s “Recessionista study” which shows that there are key segments of women who are resistant to the economic downturn and are still spending. The board agreed with these findings, the results of which will be released in full at next week’s “Marketing To Women Conference” in Chicago.
The meeting focused on “marketing to women in the recession,” a topic on which many of the board members have become experts. The group examined two key questions: 1) When is it time for a tone of optimism to replace value-oriented messages (if ever) 2) Record numbers of consumers are watching “aspirational” entertainment. What does this tell advertisers about the media environment that consumers are looking for? How should this impact the tone of ads and commercials?
The board unanimously agreed that marketers must convey both value and optimism in this economy. Those two messages are inextricably entwined.
“You just can’t separate the notion of value and optimism…they would have to go hand in hand. And no – value doesn’t really mean financial value anymore, value is more about value systems…consumers seem to be opportunists right now and realize that it’s a buyer’s market…everyone’s trolling for opportunities,” Said Monica Halpert, Head of Content, Community and Communications, Bluefly.
Linda Wells, Editor in Chief, Allure Magazine, added, “…value has become almost like a muscle that we’ve learned and now it’s going to be part of every decision that we make in terms of buying…And then optimism sort of translates to having fun and we need pleasure in whatever we do; we need pleasure in our entertainment and in our purchases …”
Wells also pointed to the skin care industry as a good example of where value is selling, unlike the make-up industry, which is more impacted by the economy. “…In skin care there is value because there’s innovation, because it’s based on ingredients and research… consumers are seeing it as an alternative to the dermatologist and things that are both scary, painful and less expensive.”
Peggy Green, Vice Chairman, Zenith Media, underscored the importance for marketers to continue to advertise, despite the economic climate. “…You won’t move the economy unless you advertise. ..We have told every one of our clients that in a downturn as long as you’re fiscally solvent, you should be spending money to keep your message out there. But it’s unfortunately Wall Street says your profits are down 3.5%, or whatever they’re down, and you can’t prove that advertising works because advertising is expendable. So what we really need to do is have better metrics to prove that it works…”
Green added, “Commercials need to be different for this environment.”
The board also agreed there is a significant need for marketers to convey a sense of human connection in advertisements.
According to Liz Lange, Founder and Creative Director, Liz Lange Maternity, “…there’s a big need for human connections in advertising, so rather than the big brand and the big company talking to you, having really involved consumers. And of course wouldn’t it great if Michelle Obama started doing ads, but she’s not going to. And there isn’t really anybody else like her. But the idea of someone being genuine and having that experience…”
Lange also said that pregnant women are mostly shopping for the basic “must-have” maternity clothes. “I imagine that where she used to feel that that was something she could afford if it was only $15 at Target, she doesn’t feel comfortable doing that now and she’s buying the t-shirts and the jeans, things that she absolutely needs to get her through her growing.”
So why in the midst of a recession are record numbers of women watching shows like are Bravo’s “The Real Housewives? According to Cara Stein, Co-Chief Operating Officer, William Morris Agency, these types of shows represent “an opportunity to escape” and “another big opportunity to laugh.” She added, “as sports is to men these reality shows – these competitive reality shows — are to women, some committed to it, we were consistent, you know, and you are rooting for it.”
Stein also said that advertisements in these types of programs “shouldn’t break from the tone of the show,” because they have committed viewers.
Formed in January 2009, the [email protected] advisory board is comprised of senior-level professional women across numerous industries from advertising to finance to fashion to retail to digital to media and entertainment. This high profile group serves as a “think tank” on female marketplace issues and trends, and provides counsel to [email protected] and its clients.