Offline Advertising

Back in the glory days of advertising (think the Don Draper Mad Men days), offline advertising wasn’t called offline advertising. It was just called advertising. There were no online options, and there were no forms of attribution or analytics other than estimates.

In those days, execs went with their gut on what they felt the most appealing ad spot would be. (Then they downed a glass of scotch and went out for lunch.)

It was pure opinion, and if you were good at pitching, your advertising firm would win a number of contracts because of how well you could speak to (or party with) the advertiser who was purchasing your services.

Essentially, the customers were just along for the ride.

Today, things have changed.

The age of digital advertising has elevated the quantitative standard that marketers and growth engineers adhere to. Particularly in the tracking and experimentation practices they bring to their advertising campaigns. As a result, many will choose to speak negatively about the world of offline marketing. Though whether they really believe that, or they’re just trying to sell you on their services that sway more digital in nature, is tough to say.

Either way, offline advertising isn’t the grand ole time it was in Mad Men. At least not anymore. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t still strong value to be had from this non-viral marketing method.

Offline Advertising: A Tough Nut to Track


The idea that traditional offline marketing methods are dead is just plain wrong.

To clarify, there is NO form of marketing that is “dead” unless it fails to get your message in front of your audience in some way. And even then that’s more on you, rather than the method. Some marketing channels may not favor your economics or cater to your specific audience, but your circumstances won’t be the same circumstances for everyone.

Print ads, billboards – hell, even the planes flying around with giant banners behind them – all of these CAN work if done by the right company and presented to the right audiences.

However, none of these are as easy to track as digital marketing channels. (Such as was the case with our previous two non-viral advertising models – SEM and social media.) So you MUST have a plan for attribution so you can know what leads and users are driven from which sources. At least with reasonable accuracy.

So . . . what does all this have to do with virality?

Offline Advertising and Virality


It turns out that in life, people are often around other people. Go figure.

But if those people are not psychically around other people, there’s a good chance they’re either currently or very soon will be interacting with others on the Internet via their mobile devices.

If you strategically craft your offline advertising efforts to help drive offline viral word of mouth marketing (i.e. create ads that make people point to and talk about), you can become the topic of conversation for those seeing your ad spots. That is so long as it evokes a high-arousal emotion. (No we’re not talking about that kind of arousal. Get your mind of the gutter.)

In a nutshell, the purpose of your offline ads is NOT just to acquire new leads, it’s to curate your touch point with that lead. The endgame then becomes to strategically encourage them to expose your message to other potential leads.

Expose Yourself (Sometimes Literally)


Consider American Apparel.

This company – that pretty much just sells comfy, yet blank apparel – is famous for effectively leveraging offline viral word of mouth (and sometimes online viral word of mouth) through their offline advertisements.

Here’s one of them. See if you can come up with why it works:

American Apparel Jeans Ad Nuked Girl - Viral Offline Advertising

(Okay, so maybe we are talking about that kind of arousal.)

Not getting it? Here’s another example:

American Apparel Vegas Legging Ad Topless Girl - Viral Offline Advertising

Spotting the trend? Wait, here’s one more:

American Apparel Jobs Ad Muscle Man - Viral Offline Advertising

Threw a monkey wrench at you with that last one, didn’t I? American Apparel’s ads aren’t just good looking women in provocative attire (though most of them are). But regardless of who’s flexing or cupping, there’s no denying they are eye catching.

Yet, a TON of brands advertise using good looking women (and men) in provocative poses. What makes American Apparel so special. Well, they just do it a bit differently.

You look at their ads, and you think:

  • Holy shit . . . I can almost see her nipple!
  • She looks pretty young . . . is she over 18?
  • Whoa, she’s about to take off her pants!
  • Is that girl going to fall over backwards?
  • I can almost see her boobs.
  • What the hell is up with those random reindeer statues?
  • That dude is buff as hell. I wonder if he’s a bodybuilder?
  • Is his shirt in Spanish? Is this an outsourced factory? No . . . it’s in LA. Wait, what?

These are questions I’m asking myself as I look at these. Each photo does something to the person seeing it. They either love it, are entertained by it, are aroused by it or absolutely hate it. However . . .

Almost NOBODY will look at any of these ads and feel nothing.

Those are high-arousal emotions. You see these ads, and talk to people about them. Your friends all have opinions about them. The Internet loses its collective mind because of them. And American Apparel gets free press along with some pretty sweet online and offline word of mouth marketing.

Which is what they were going for the whole time.

Get People Talking Like American Apparel


American Apparel’s products might not be newsworthy, but their branding decisions sure are. And don’t think for a second that it’s not all on purpose.

American Apparel Billboard Politically Correct Ad - Viral Offline Advertising

Even the above non-naked woman ad accomplishes this goal.

Those who see it and are in-the-know, will start to explain American Apparel’s controversial ad choices to those around them who don’t get it, or have never seen one of their more risqué ads. Those people will then start hitting up Google Images to see it for themselves. Most likely right on the spot since smartphones are awesome. American Apparel will then be the topic of conversation for the next 15 minutes, and when that newly-exposed person visits that same spot with one of their clueless friends, guess what happens?

Virality all the way.

What’s Next


Now that we’ve tackled how to fuel your viral engine with every form of advertising we can think of, let’s wrap back around and go back to talking about search engines. Because while SEM is for sure a powerful non-viral marketing channel, it doesn’t come close to boosting your product’s virality on the level of its platform’s originally intended purpose.


Do You Know the Ultimate Viral Sensation?

When it comes to spreading the word, few dynamically drive traffic better than search engines. So much so the likes of Google have practically become synonymous with the “Internet.” But are you getting the most out of them to feed your viral engine? Find out in our next chapter.


Travis Steffen
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