Advertising And Web Opportunities Level The Playing Field

Nov. 18, 2011
Over 50 years, advertising and its associated technologies have changed as much as microwave product development, revolutionizing the industry in the process.

Since the advent of the Internet and manufacturer's websites, ads no longer need to carry a full load of information. Instead, they can attract attention and entice the reader into providing information. Then, the website can furnish the detailseven taking the order and shipping the merchandise. The lower cost and accessibility of today's advertising has actually leveled the playing field for microwave companies, allowing even the smallest companies to push their message. Much has changed in microwave advertising and marketing over the last 50 yearsalthough it is still vital for companies to get their messages to the outside world.

Whether on the print page, television, the Internet, or elsewhere, the key to successful advertising is repetition. The best way to build brand recognition is by establishing a running theme that can be reinforced through a series of ads using a standard format. Run in a series, the ads cumulatively build an indelible image over time. At the same time, they sell the attributes of each new product being introducedmaking for a win-win situation.

That successful approach is probably the only thing about advertising that hasn't changed in the last 50 years. Both subtle and dramatic changes have impacted the laborious ways that advertising was formerly prepared and produced. Remember the paste-ups and felt-pen layouts and the cameras that used film that had to be processed? What about the Linotype that set the headlines and text copy after the Art Director specified the copy for the third time? It used to take two days for the engraver to turn out the separations and four-color platesnot to mention the messenger services and the innumerable contacts by automobile with clients and suppliers that added to the traffic congestion.

Enter the Information Revolution. The pervasive desktop computer is so helpful and multitasking that we wonder how we ever got along without it. Along with the cell phone and the Internet, the impact that this triad has had on the advertising and publishing businesses is unprecedented.

Today, computers with graphic-design programs make it possible for even the smallest companies to advertise. They can create and produce their ad materials themselves. With a digital camera and the various computer programs available, it is practical for an in-house art department to do all of the following: lay out the ad, compose and typeset the copy, photograph the product, retouch it, assemble the elements, e-mail the ad proof around for comments and approvals, and even transmit the reproduction materials to the publications.

By the same token, creative specialists in advertising agenciescopywriters, art directors, and production peopleare infinitely more efficient in their separate and combined tasks. Because of the large volume of ads being produced, it used to take large ad agencies two weeks to create and produce a comprehensive layout and get copy ready for presentation to the client. After copy revisions, it took another two weeks to complete the finished art and produce the reproduction material. It then had to be prepared for air shipment to the publication.

A Trip Down Memory Lane

This was the state of the industry when I entered it 50 years ago. I started in various advertising positions for manufacturers of high-tech products, serving as Account Director at FCB and three other advertising agencies. Finally, I became Co-Owner of my own shop. In the process, I leveraged my early experience as a production-line inspector on P-38 fighters. In World War II, I managed mandatory BuAer upgrades on Navy aircraft, which imbued me with a passion for working with and promoting new products in the intriguing, growing fields of aerospace and electronics.

With college and sales experience from an international company under my belt, my first position in advertising was in 1951 with a manufacturer of automatic controls for heating, cooling, and aircraft systems. I would become so involved with the products and their applications that it was possible to design and engineer a new automatic system for product demonstration and even for commercial use (Fig. 1).

Another benefit of my involvement was having the opportunity to work closely with top executives of the companies that I served. Just observing the nature of these leaders in action is an education in itself. When Bill Lear decided to get involved in his company's advertising, for example, it was an education in management style and persistence. Lear liked to collaborate with his staff in writing some of the ad copy himselfbut not before inviting me to join him in a short beverage to "help along" the creative process. Here are some fun Lear recollections:

Upon landing his Twin Beech airplane on one of his own personal test flights, it was said that Lear yanked the failed navigation device out of the instrument panel and threw it across the runway. It was his way of impressing to the engineers his gross disappointment. And when he couldn't convince the management of his own aviation radio and accessories company to start building executive jets for under $600,000 apiece in 1960 dollarsto compete with two others on the market selling for $1.5 to $2 millionhe quit. He sold his company stock, moved his family to Switzerland in the early 1960s, and designed the famousand still producedLearjet executive transport. Lear calculated that if he could keep the plane's weight under 12,500 lbs., it would not be required to carry such additional costly equipment as fuel dump chutes, dual VOR instruments, and a bird-proof windshield.

In the mid-1950s, we began to see commercial applications for the essential technology that made World War II's radars possible. First, they took the form of microwave-communications antenna towers, which sprang up to relieve the growing load on the landlines carrying transcontinental telephone transmissions. Once the microwave genie was out of the bottleand with a boost from the Cold War stimulusUS defense contractors began tooling up to create new and more powerful electronic military systems. Such systems targeted basic functions like airborne radar, secure communications, electronic-countermeasures (ECM) systems, navigation, and guidance.

During the mid- and late-1960s, Hughes Aircraft built large new facilities in Fullerton, CA for its Ground Systems Division to make ground-based radar. In addition, it built a microwave complex in Torrance, CA to produce traveling-wave tubes (TWTs) and millimeter-wave components. Ford Motor Co. erected a Science Center in Newport Beach, CA to house its new Aeronutronics Division. Southern California also was host to the rapidly growing defense industry, which included TRW, Rockwell, Douglas, and Lockheed, along with many others.

Today, of course, the landscape has changed and keeps changing. The once-largest employer in California, Hughes Aircraft Co. (later re-named Hughes)subsidiary of GM Hughes Electronics with 95,000 employees, last owned by General Motorshas been divided up and sold off to remaining defense manufacturers Boeing, Raytheon, and others. One of the previously most concentrated areas of aerospace development and manufacturingSouthern Californiahas been shifting and adjusting to a wider range of industries. Much manufacturing remains. Yet the last of the headquarters of the major aerospace/defense companies (Northrop Grumman) is in the process of moving East like the others to be near the decision-makers in Washington DC.

No matter the changes, microwave advertisers still need to find and use efficient, effective ways to reach their audiences. A prime example is the famous Science/Scope ad series. This carefully combined collection of Hughes news releases came from seven or eight major Hughes divisions and two research centers. Rated the most cost-effective ad campaign between 1966 and the 1990s, the ad format was a typewritten newsletter similar to the Kiplinger Report and US News and World Report's Today newsletter. This international ad series ran for over 30 years in lieu of dramatic full-color ads because Howard Hughes did not want his company to have a military imageeven though it was wholly owned at the time by the Howard Hughes Medical Foundation, which still operates today.

I was an Ad and PR Manager or agency Account Director for some major companies during these times, and I remember these cycles well. Right along with the burgeoning aerospace and electronics business rose a plethora of trade periodicals, which emerged to report the advances and applications of these wondrous new products and systems. They opened the door to the marketing side of the business, which had to create ad campaigns and finagle editorial coverage (Figs. 2 and 3).

In 2011, I continue to serve the microwave industry, preparing and placing advertising for Daico Industries. I also serve as a consultant on special projects to Maury Microwave Corp. and other microwave companies. In my decades serving the industry, I learned repeatedly that it is essential for microwave firms to get their message outno matter how the nature of that message changed.

Huntly P. Briggs, Briggs Advertising, 5935 Tuxedo Terrace, Hollywood, CA 90068; (323) 469-7792, e-mail: [email protected].

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