I manage a television station. The money we pay our people, our vendors, and our parent company comes solely advertising. As a result, I have a real interest in knowing why clients advertise and what they want from their efforts.
Advertise comes from the Old French verb advertir, to notice, and the even older Latin advertere, to turn toward. People advertise to get other people to notice them and to turn toward their products and services. Thats pretty obvious, I know, but what may not be evident is how advertising works.
There are instances where a single ad or a short flight of announcements will do the job. Les Misérables is such a popular musical that its loyal fans will fill venues like Hancher Auditorium year after year. Promoters for such events need only to tell fans where and when to buy tickets. Fan loyalty does the rest.
But most other products and services require advertising and promotion on a continuing basis. I would be delighted (and retired) if everyone would advertise all the time, but the number of clients who advertise to please me is exceedingly small. Clients advertise in any mediumprint, radio, direct mail, outdoor, Internet, or televisionfor the same reason they pay rent, hire staff, or stock their shelves. Advertising increases sales.
Have you ever wondered why even exceptionally powerful brand names like McDonalds or Coca-Cola continue advertising despite their worldwide recognition? Early on, I wondered about that too, until someone pointed out a simple truth. The sun comes up fresh every morning. People who want other people to notice have to work at it all the time.
Being good is not enough to ensure success in any marketplace. Many products and services offer people satisfaction and value. But great products offer satisfaction and value time after time, year after year, and they never leave their quality, their availability, or their advertising and promotion to chance. They never assume that people will notice them or turn to them out of familiarity or habit. Great products and services make people notice by reaching out to them every day.
The University of Iowa is a great service with great products and a powerful brand name. If you were to ask people anywhere outside Iowa to name three things they know about our state, I suspect most of the time you would hear corn and hogs, John Deere tractors, and The University of Iowa. Cyclone and Panther fans might disagree, but that disagreement actually strengthens my point. The state of Iowa is known for farm products, farm machinery, and public education. Collectively, the three Regents institutions of UNI, Iowa State, and The University of Iowa are Iowa to many Iowans and much of the outside world.
They will remain that way only to the degree that we parents help support them. There are countless ways to diminish even the strongest brand names, but none will do the job more surely or painfully than underfunding. Underfunding a Regents institution makes no more sense than boarding up the drive-through windows at McDonalds or changing the taste of Coca-Cola. If youre old enough to be a Hawkeye parent, youre old enough to remember New Coke and share the story with those who may have forgotten that even the strongest brand name can be changed to death.
UI parents are beneficiaries of a great brand name. We owe it to ourselves and our children to keep The University of Iowa strong. Like every other state, Iowa struggles to balance endless needs against limited resources. We parents have a legitimate voice in those deliberations, and we must use it, individually and collectively. Legislators need to hear from us. We must advertise the Universitys needs and promote the Universitys benefits directly to the men and women who appropriate funds to our public institutions. Great brand names require great support, time after time, year after year. It is far cheaper to keep them strong than to pay the terrible price of faded glory.
Jim Waterbury is general manager of KWWL-TV in Waterloo, Iowa. He and his wife, Carol, are parents of Hawkeye senior Libby and West Waterloo High School senior Dan.