The millennium friendly shall reap the rewards

We have all got friends who have thought of something neat to do on New Year’s Eve 1999 and smugly booked it years ago. For one reason or another you haven’t quite got around to it. This could be down to inertia, or perhaps you don’t want to be on the other side of the world when the Millennium Bug strikes.

The result is that you feel everything you might want to do is booked up or is going to be incredibly expensive.

We make business decisions in a similar way to those we make in our private lives. And this brings me to the World Cup. This time last year, media folk were rubbing their hands at the thought of the untold commercial wealth that the festivities in France would bring.

When marketing directors looked at the advertising opportunities presented by the Coupe du Monde at the turn of the year, many felt that other companies had got there first. This as it turns out was wrong. They also felt that it would be hideously expensive to buy media. Again, this for the most part was also wrong.

However, many marketing directors opted for an avoidance strategy. The reasoning was that if all their competitors were going to be there, they would promote their brand at another time, avoid clutter, and get better media value. The result was a thin month for media owners.

Were they right? The proliferation of football-with-everything TV ad breaks might lead you to think they were. Also, media owners (ourselves included) began with unrealistic price expectations.

Is this a foretaste of what media is in for around the millennium? The City analyst or even the casual observer, might assume that from September 1999 to January or February 2000 will be a bonanza, especially for the outdoor medium. Every marketing team will want to associate its brands with the dawn of a new age. But marketing directors who are thinking 15 months ahead might decide to implement the avoidance strategy again.

If advertisers do this, media owners will start the new millennium with an awful hangover. In fact, the World Cup and the millennium should be approached as entirely different species. While it is safe enough to have your brand out of circulation for four or five weeks, it is dangerous to leave the stage to your competitors for four or five months. There is also more creative scope to link your brand to the millennium than there is with football.

If you have a creative media imagination, you will find that, right now, everything is wide open for the run-up to the 21st century. The hotel room of your dreams may have gone but there is plenty of scope to make your brand famous at the beginning of a new era.

Alternatively, you could take the high ground and celebrate the following year in 2001, the “true” dawn of the millennium. But try explaining that to your shareholders or your family.

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