I’ll be the first to admit that advertising often isn’t logical. It appeals to the consumer’s emotions, hopefully in a positive way. Having walked past the above pictured trash bins for the last two years and seeing these signs have only elicited my confusion and frustration.

We’ve already examined the fallacy of correlation = causation before. What have I proven by looking at the sign?

  1. The sign is placed in a conspicuous location at the eye level of many pedestrians.

That’s it. All Creative Outdoor Advertising has proven is that the sign is placed somewhere that is trafficked. Advertising is not just about eyeballs. There’s a concept in marketing called conversion. Advertising is only as effective as its ability to induce behavior. For Creative to prove anything, it has to show that the use of its own advertising has actually convinced people to buy advertising space from them. A successful conversion for Creative would be a purchase of space; a failed conversion would be a blog entry negatively criticizing its tactics.

But wait, perhaps the concept of conversion is more important in the online realm and isn’t that vital a measurement in real world advertising. That is just ludicrous. What is the point of advertising that does not induce action or awareness? It’s not like Creative is benefiting from brand awareness.

I especially like this other fallacy of causation in their FAQ:

Why should I advertise on a bench/recycling unit?
Street furniture advertising has seen high success rates in reaching potential customers. Many of our clients have been with us for over 7 years and with a 75% contract renewal rate it just further reaffirms that street furniture advertising is a proven, cost effective means for communicating to your current and future clients.

They measure their success rate by the evidence that their clients haven’t decided to pull their ads. The longevity of the contracts is questionable. I imagine that those companies that choose to advertise on trash cans aren’t too devoted to cutting edge advertising techniques. They probably have never heard of social networking. The products or services that these clients advertise are also probably local to the community. Also, a high contract renewal rate only reveals that the marginal cost of continuing the ad is less than the marginal benefit of associating your product/brand with trash. It doesn’t mean that the initial cost would be worth it for new clients. A more convincing statistic would be some statistic about the success of clients’ ad campaigns after the introduction of garbage advertising. Of course, Creative doesn’t have these numbers so it must rely on the imprecise measure of contract renewals. That would entail actually proving that the ad works.

Perhaps Creative Outdoor wins after all; they got me to write about the stupidity of their campaign.

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