What “The Thing” and Ad Agency PR Have in Common

The Thing in ArizonaIf you’ve ever driven across Arizona on I-10, you’ve no doubt heard aboutThe Thing.”

Along a 200-mile stretch in the desert 247 billboards cry out to drivers to come see “The Mystery of the Desert.” The Thing.

Mile after mile, there’s nothing much to look at along the roadside except red, black and yellow signs tantalizing readers to stop and view The Thing. It’s been a tourist attraction since 1950, and surely one of the greatest marketing campaigns of all time.

Years ago one of my clients told a story about a colleague whose father was a professor. They lived in California, but each year the family packed up and headed east where his father taught during the summers.

Their summer journeys took them through Arizona, so as a boy this colleague had to ride past these billboards—at least one every mile—about The Thing. You can imagine how irresistible it must have been for him; he desperately wanted to stop and see The Thing, whatever this mystery was.

But there was a problem: it cost a quarter to see The Thing.

His father was a real tight wad and refused to spend the money. And so every summer, year after year, this boy had to endure 200 miles of teaser billboards about The Thing.

Signs like, “The Thing?” then a littler farther down the road, “What is it?” and then “The Thing – What is it?” and “Don’t miss the thing!”

It sort of hurts to think about that, doesn’t it? This boy grew up never getting to see The Thing.

Fast forward some 20 years later, and this boy, who is now a man, finds himself traveling that same highway on a business trip. Only this time, he is NOT going to be denied.

He turns off the exit, pays the admission fee and goes inside to gaze at The Thing. The Mystery of the Desert.

After finally fulfilling this life-long dream of seeing The Thing, he called his father, who was now retired.

Dad, you’ll never guess where I am!” he said when his father answered the phone.

“Son, I have no idea. Where are you?”

“I just saw The Thing!”

His father was appalled. “You paid a quarter to see that Thing?”

“No, Dad, it’s a dollar now.”

When his father got over the shock of his son spending his money so foolishly, he said, “So, what is The Thing?”

There was a pause, and then with a smile you could hear through the phone came this reply:

“I’m not going to tell you.”

While there are probably a number of lessons that could be learned from this story, the one I want to focus on is the power of frequency.

Ad agencies know that for advertising to maximize its potential, there has to be sufficient frequency to effectively convey the advertising message and move the target market through the multi-step process that starts with awareness and ends with purchase.

Consistent advertising also reinforces a brand and provides top-of-mind awareness.

Yet when it comes to ad agency PR, agencies often lack consistency in their public relations efforts, relying instead sporadic activity. This is not the optimum way to utilize public relations, especially publicity.

Consistent ad agency PR can help you . . .

  • Build your agency’s brand and reputation
  • Give you a stronger presence in the marketplace
  • Make you more “discoverable” among those whom you most want to reach
  • Gain expert status for a particular agency niche

Frequency works extremely well in marketing The Thing, and it will work for your ad agency PR efforts.

photo credit: Tim Patterson via photopin cc

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