Television Advertising for Accounting Firms – Worth It or Not?

During the first half of the summer, I took a Marketing Research course that detailed the process of…well, marketing research.  We applied the principles we learned in class to a hypothetical project we planned around the topic of our choosing.

For a little bit, I wrestled with several potential ideas, based on products and brands that interested me.  “Soft drinks?  Nah, too trite.  Department stores?  No, I’ve already researched department stores once before in this program.  Cell phone providers?  Eh, not sure I wanna spend the next few weeks with that.”

So what was a man to do?  Well, I ditched the product idea and moved on to another major area of interest for me.  If you’ve been following this blog, you’ve probably guessed it…accounting.  Specifically, how accounting firms might decide for or against the usage of television advertising in their marketing mix.  It’s actually been a topic in which I’ve been interested for quite some time now, since I used to see firms advertising on television all the time, but now, not so much.

There are some exceptions, however.  Here are a few firms that have used the medium to advertise within the past few years.

Grant Thornton (they actually have a campaign)

BDO (they do, too)

PwC (their “kids” campaign launched just this year)

When I presented my research proposal to the professor of my class, she said she would be interested to see the results of the study if it were conducted in real life.  However, she also said I might be “chasing windmills”, and likened the notion of accounting firms advertising on television to “a shotgun doing the work of a rifle”.

And I can understand that.  Most large-scale accounting firms are B2B entities, so it really doesn’t make much sense for them to advertise on television, as doing so would blast their brand messaging across the maximum amount of people.  They’re usually more successful with mediums that are more carefully targeted towards businesspeople, such as business magazines and newspapers, business radio, online behavioral advertising, social media, and, of course, the firm’s website.  And as television is usually much more expensive than all of those options, firms see no reason to  make the investment in it if it isn’t going to reach their targeted audiences, and if it isn’t going to give them a suitable return.

However, I believe there are some arguments for the use of television.  There are particular channels, such as Bloomberg and CNBC, that are geared more towards business professionals.  I believe BDO actually aired their campaign on CNBC, actually, so that’s definitely a viable option.  But that doesn’t mean firms couldn’t advertise on major channels in regional markets.  Obviously, research would need to be conducted to gain an understanding into how many business professionals are actually watching primetime television over the course of a given time period.  Perhaps a firm won’t reach as many as they would with a more targeted medium such as Bloomberg Radio, let’s say, but only research would provide that kind of insight.

I also think there’s something to be said about generating consumer awareness about the far-reaching implications of accounting firms’ work.  Accountants, for all intents and purposes, give major support to all components of an economy.  Any company or brand that is favored by a consumer is able to stay in business due in great part to the work of the accountant or auditor ensuring the business’ well-being.  However, if accounting marketing through television is to take form within the next few years, the connection between consumer sentiment and increased firm revenue would have to be made.  And to be honest, I don’t have those answers right now.  I think many people are still trying to figure that out.  How do you convert people’s warm and fuzzy feelings about you to actual sales?  It would be especially harder for an accounting firm, since the average person using social media would most likely not be in the market for the firm’s services.  At least not at that moment, anyway.

But, there’s still the idea of brand salience.  Maybe it’s not possible to have a monopoly in the accounting world, but that doesn’t mean a firm can’t be the first name that pops into someone’s mind when they think “accounting”.  And who knows what that could do to a firm’s sales someday, if an entire generation is exposed to their name?  When that generation becomes the target market, they’ll know that firm’s name above all others.  Why?

Because that firm took the risk to advertise on TV.  As we all know, no great reward comes without great risk.

What do you think about television advertising for accounting firms?  Is there untapped possibility for that medium, or is it just a waste of time?  Let me know.

Ciao for now!

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