I had the strangest dream. I was sitting in the office running my hands through my luxurious blond hair (hey, it’s my dream!) when the phone rang. It was a new client who wanted us to help with a big new campaign. I quickly set up a meeting.
The client was SofaTown—a major furniture store—one of the biggest in the state. They wanted us to create a complete campaign for a big one day sale. They had been saving all of their advertising budget for the last four years and wanted to spend it all on this Big One Day Sale on the first Tuesday in November. I asked them why they had chosen that day. “Because that’s the day that our main competitor Couch City is having a big one day sale and we can’t let them beat us.” We questioned the intelligence of gambling everything on that one day sale, but they assured us that they had done this every four years and it had always worked well for them.
So we set off to create a fantastic ad campaign for the Big One Day Sale. We did television and radio. We created direct mail, print and outdoor. We did internet banners and social media. We had a strong public relations component and got lots of news coverage about how great the sale would be. We even went so far as to contact people who had purchased from SofaTown before and asked them to put signs in their yards and bumper stickers on their cars to let their friends and neighbors know that they intended to buy new furniture from SofaTown.
It was awesome. Everyone in town knew about the Big One Day Sale. But Couch City wasn’t going to take this lying down. They hired their own ad agency. They ran TV, radio, print and outdoor. They had a cool website and lots of fans on their Facebook page. And their PR had made Couch City a bit of a media darling.
Uh oh. Things were really starting to heat up. We did market research to ask people who were likely to purchase furniture in the fall where they intended to shop. Couch City was gaining on us. In fact, in some key neighborhoods, Couch City was in the lead.
When we told SofaTown about the research, they said we needed to spend more money, but this time it wasn’t their money, they were tapping into their “co-op funds.” With this new budget, we created a whole new campaign.
The new campaign, since it wasn’t being funded directly by SofaTown, took a different direction. The new ads didn’t talk about SofaTown’s great selection and low prices – these ads talked about Couch City. The ads said that Couch City’s “free leather ottoman with every purchase” was made from puppies. We attacked Couch City from every angle, insinuating that if you bought a dinette set from Couch City, it was like inviting terrorists over to dinner. But it wasn’t like SofaTown was attacking Couch City directly, because the ads said they were “paid for by Citizens for Better Furniture.”
Of course Couch City had co-op funds of their own. They started running ads saying SofaTown’s mattresses were stuffed with kittens. (Not true!) They said our client’s salespeople were escaped war criminals. (OK, so one guy in recliners was questionable, but SofaTown fired him and sent out press releases apologizing for ever hiring him.)
In the end, all of the ads started to turn people off. Our research showed fewer people were going to buy furniture in the fall. We learned that some people who had bought furniture from SofaTown before were thinking about buying from a smaller furniture store, Recliner Village. Some people even said they were so disgusted they were throwing out all of their furniture and were going to sit on the floor.
That’s when I woke up. Man, what an awful dream. I’m glad that never happens in real life.