Leading Meeting Professionals

Professional Convention Management Association

April 11 2016

This Meeting Is Advertising In A Very Unlikely Place

David McMillin
As I sat at a bus stop on the north side of Chicago last Friday, a surprising advertisement caught my attention. It wasn’t a common street corner commercial such as a promotion for an apartment finder or an attorney’s legal services. Instead, the advertisement was right up my niche professional alley; it was produced by someone in the meetings industry. “The Largest Meeting of Entrepreneurs in France!” the ad proclaimed from the bus stop at the intersection of Lincoln Avenue and Cleveland Avenue.

If you’re a regular reader, you may remember that I covered the pros and cons of a convention’s marketing partnership with Groupon a few weeks ago. Needless to say, I was equally interested in this effort to inspire me to travel to France for Bpifrance Inno Génération. In a noisy digital world, this advertisement’s placement required more than simply sending some emails or posting a stream of promotional language on social media. But how had the organizers of BIG settled on a small neighborhood in Chicago as a prime place to build their brand presence? Are loads of my neighbors French? I don’t think so. Are many of them entrepreneurs? I have no idea.

I was intrigued to learn more, and I discovered that, regardless of the demographic composition of my block, out-of-home advertising can be very expensive. According to figures from Blue Line Media, one ad on a bus stop in a high-income area can cost as much as $6,500 for a four-week period. This seems like quite a hefty investment for the meeting, especially considering that the experience kicks off in approximately seven weeks. Motivating someone to travel thousands of miles for a conference can be very challenging, and the challenge grows even larger when the travel expenses are higher.

This already puts the hurdles of time and money in front of any entrepreneur who may be interested in learning more about the experience. But here’s the bigger issue with this advertising effort: where it sends someone who might decide to learn more about the experience while waiting for the #37 bus to arrive. The landing page is written in French. While the advertisement is geared toward an English-speaking audience, the place where someone in Chicago could convert into a paying meeting participant does not match deliver any details in the same language.

I applaud any meeting marketer willing to think about new ways to reach prospective attendees. But making an investment doesn’t automatically equal creating an impact. Before you consider pumping money into alternative advertising efforts, think about where the promotion will reside, who it might reach and how it will inspire them to take action. Looking for more advice on spreading the word about your upcoming meeting? Check out “3 Lessons To Strengthen Your Meeting Marketing Strategy.”

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