Tuesday, December 14, 2004

On alternative advertising media

Sometimes they are the bane of the recruitment managers’ life – the words ‘can we do something creative / different’. The manager sees them as liberating; many recruiters see them as an opportunity to pour good money down the drain.

The results generated by such ‘alternative’ methods can be disappointing – why?

To really understand how your advertising is going to work you need to think about how people view advertising and use these behaviours to your advantage.

Most recruitment advertising is like the classified ad. You have something that the viewer wants and you need to communicate this in the most effective manner. They are usually looking at the ads for this information (it's not like a TV ad which you watch because you were watching the programme - here the ad watching is a consequence, not the reason for looking at the media)

There are two main sorts of people who will respond. Those who are active job seekers and those who are passive. The active may even have bought the paper because they wanted to look at its job ads. There is a purpose in the way they read through the sections – they go to the relevant pages, they scan the pages looking for the relevant information and only when it looks like they are going to be lucky do they read that copy that went through 7 iterations between ad agency and hiring manager.

Guess what – the easier you make this process the more likely you are of having success. What are they looking for? What the job is (scrap those useless internal titles), where the job is, who is it working for, how much it pays… Use creative images, but only if it’s the norm in the publication you are using. Your ad won’t win awards but it is likely to get the best response.

(Note: you can also use creative style ads if you are advertising for a role that people associate with your brand, so a retail chain wanting sales staff can lead with something creative because by having the brand on the ad you attract the interest of those looking for a retail job.)

The passive job seeker will be looking through the job papers in much the same way, but their scanning might be quicker. Here the information really needs to jump out, and so does your USP. If you believe that you can attract people with a great work / life balance (knowing that this is a common complaint with other firms in your sector) say it in the top of the advert, probably in a sub-heading.)

For both of these users they will be looking at the job pages because they have an interest – it’s just their level that differs. What happens with ‘alternative media’?

Let us consider the example of a marketing manager. We think about our marketing manager, how they live their life, what they read etc. and our marketing team suggests that this type of person is likely to read the Economist. We know that the Economist has recruitment ads – why don’t we place an ad there?

Well, who you are looking for may be a subscriber but when they get to the recruitment ad pages they skip through to the next set of pages. They don’t even scan the pages. They expect to get no benefit from what is written so they just miss them out. That is one expensive ad, which is likely to be seen only by those seeking the sort of jobs that are advertised in the Economist. We all are really good at missing adverts, especially those that we think will hold no value. (There is a great story that one of the UK banks placed an ad in their window offering free cash to anyone who came in and claimed it (to demonstrate that nobody looked in the windows) – they got maybe one person in a whole day. Thousands of people must have walked past, programmed not to look at advertising).

So what does and could work? Well the best ‘alternative’ location are where there are a lot of potential applicants all with some free time. Placing an ad in the store works for store assistants, but is less likely to find success for someone for a senior finance role in head office. Bus shelters and train stops work, especially on the routes to your office as people stand around with time to waste when they read ads that are of little interest (they have time to kill). Just make sure you have a clear and easily to remember next step (www.yourcompany.com/careers is hard to beat)

What can work for large recruitment campaigns is creating it into a story and then using PR – ‘BigRetailer opens in town – creates 200 new jobs’ is just the sort of story local press love. Again, think about how your target market will interact with the media.

Finally, what I haven’t discussed is alternative channels such as the internet, relationship management etc. These are more than likely to come up in the future but the same principle applies – understand how your target ‘consumes’ the media and you’ll be close to understanding how likely you are of succeeding.