28 June 2006

The Right People

Trundling down Broadway - as you do - I noticed a billboard advertising the Los Angeles Times. Strange, I thought; while the LA Times is a perfectly fine newspaper, New York already has its own probably even better Times, and with New Yorkers barely able to interest themselves in what goes on in the Outer Boroughs, it's hard to imagine them being much concerned with happenings in far-flung La-La Land.

Then I looked more closely, and it turns out that the billboard wasn't actually advocating that you read the LA Times, it was urging you to advertise in it. By doing so, it promised, you could reach "3.3 million of the right people every Sunday." Okay, I thought, but of the many thousands of people who travel down that stretch of Broadway on a given day, how many of them are ad execs who have the power to make major purchasing decisions? And how many among them would not already be aware that the Los Angeles Times has a large circulation and accepts advertising?

I'm guessing maybe one or two per week? Or month? If that. Now most billboards are aimed at the masses: if you put up a McDonald's or Pepsi ad, I assume the idea is that out of the hundreds of thousands of people who walk or drive past it, a significant percentage will, consciously or not, get the idea of grabbing a hamburger or soda at the next opportunity. But that's the point: almost anyone who sees the billboard can come up with the buck or two to respond to it. But almost none of them is in a position to lay out hundreds of thousands of dollars for an ad in the West Coast's biggest newspaper.

And this was no shrinking violet of a billboard. Cut into rectangles, it could be reconfigured into a bigger apartment than I could ever afford in New York City. It must have cost a fortune to put up on Broadway - the spotlighting alone could light up at least the infield of Yankee Stadium - yet it's entirely possible that not a single ad has ever been placed in the Los Angeles Times as a result of its being there.

Never mind, though; it's the LA Times' money to spend as they please, and maybe it's important to someone out there that they be name-checked on Broadway. Or maybe the real point is make sure their newspaper is not forgotten about by "the right people," of whom I am apparently now one. But I still doubt I'm going to read the damn thing, let alone advertise in it.

1 comment:

Jonathan said...

Perhaps the same reason that chain stores insist on having locations in visible Manhattan neighborhoods (Soho, Midtown, Union Square area) despite the fact that 99% of the locations physically lose money? Because the amount of prestige they draw from those locations, and the simple fact of being able to say to Mr and Mrs. Mallshopper, "We have a store on Broadway" more than pays off. They lose money in New York to make money in Iowa.