Advertisers look to the positive in US

14 October 2009

NEW YORK: Major marketers including General Electric, Bank of America and Levi's are all using more positive messages in their advertising in the US, as they seek to engage with consumers in new ways and differentiate their communications.

Recent research from Performics, part of Publicis Groupe's VivaKi, found that 60% of Americans are planning to cut back their expenditure levels during the holiday season, building on a trend that has been observable throughout the year.

In response, many companies have also increasingly been focusing on value in an effort to attract price-conscious shoppers to their brands.

Bank of America's new campaign, which will run until early 2010, covers a wide range of broadcast, print and web advertising, and is valued at around $40 million (€27m; £25m).

One of its TV spots emphasises that the organisation lends $3 billion a day to its customers, and also features the tagline "America. Growing stronger every day."

The financial services giant carefully assessed the overall climate – based on information from economic, policy and PR experts – before finally deciding to launch these ads.

Meredith Verdone, the organisation's advertising and research executive, said "we really waited for the proper time to put it on air, and we believe the time is now."

The Charlotte-based firm is currently under investigation by New York's authorities regarding its failure to reveal certain information to shareholders when it took over Merrill Lynch late last year.

It has also previously faced a lot of negative publicity regarding its receipt of funding from the Troubled Asset Relief Program, through which the US government bought up a range hard-to-value assets.

"There were a lot of question marks, particularly when we took the TARP dollars, and everyone was questioning what we were doing with those dollars," Verdone argued.

While this is not "as much of an overhang as it was," she added, the "headwinds are pretty strong – it's hard to get our voice heard. So this was an opportunity for us to tell the role that we're playing in the country's recovery."

David Lubars, chairman and chief creative officer of BBDO North America, BoA's advertising agency, said the timing behind the new platform was largely down to "just gut."

"People are starting to look for opportunities to help them move ahead, and this feels like the right time to talk about that," he argued.

A voiceover in one General Electric's TV spots states that "manufacturing is part of GE's belief that the American renewal is making things right here in America".

Other such optimistic pronouncements include the fact that the corporation is "creating the advanced technologies that create jobs."

Judy Hu, its global executive director of advertising and branding, said "we really wanted to focus on the idea that GE's creating and manufacturing key technologies in America that are helping to drive and build the US economy."

However, Timothy B. Heath, marketing professor at Miami University, said the "very bright scene" in one of GE's executions "seemed almost too cheery, given where a lot of people are right now."

Levi's has also adopted a new positioning, Go Forth, which it hopes will reinvigorate the brand's image, particularly among young men.

Its ads, developed by Wieden + Kennedy, feature verses from Walt Whitman's poems "America" and "Pioneers! O Pioneers!"

Megan O'Connor, director of digital marketing for Levi's, said this approach was aiming to "bring out the pioneering spirit of Levi's and Am

Data sourced from New York Times; additional content by Warc staff