Coupon & Pre-Sale Advertising for Auction Houses

In Auction Advertising on November 16, 2010 at 6:13 pm

I continue to be impressed by the graphics that auction house Morton Casa de Subastas, of Mexico City and Houston, puts out. Not only do they entice me with email subject lines that generate interest, whoever is doing their marketing has a firm grasp of the cross-overs between public relations and advertising.

When all is said and done, it’s hard to draw the line between publicity and advertising. Sure, sure, advertising is paid and if you think publicity isn’t, check your publicist’s fees again.

Whatever you call it, advertising, public relations, media relations –  it’s all marketing.

All about getting the word out so your auction house is number one with buyers. In the past I’ve talked about the importance of post sale releases.  Today, let’s talk about your pre-sale marketing efforts.

Morton Casa de Subastas routinely peppers the email with vibrant newsletters, as I said. Last week, they used a very old technique in a new way. It’s the  coupon, complete with a cut-along-dotted-line box.   Think it sounds hokey – look at how they managed to follow a very beautiful gilded porcelain vase with a coupon:

Using a Coupon to Drive a Benefit

The coupon was actually an invitation to call a specialist to learn how to bid without being present. Absentee bidding. Clearly, they are reaching out to people who are not familiar with the auction process.

I say kudos on the effort.

On the other hand,  while this coupon blends old technique with new technology, I still see  auctioneers who can’t seem to get beyond the listing … and I mean the endless listing.  Here’s an example:

All Text Auction Ad

Stuff like this makes me wonder how these businesses are faring? Are they selling only to the trade, buyers with an ability to sniff out potential finds? Because if they are looking for new audiences, this sort of listing isn’t going to grab anyone’s attention.

Content may be king on the Internet, but in print, it’s a headache.

Then there’s the other extreme, using one item to represent many. Projecting a classy image. The big houses can get away with this because they’re selling a brand as much as they are selling product.

So, what’s the answer? From a marketing point of view, I suggest re-thinking the way you present your goods.  Even if the trade is your audience, a print ad with photos is going to attract more attention. While I’m not a big fan of ads like this, multiple photos speak more than a 1,000 words.

A Full Page of Pictures

So, given the choice between lot listings and lot photos, which would I choose?

If the ad were for the internet, it would have to be the listings. Not that I expect anyone to read it but at least the spiders that crawl the web would have a content feeding frenzy.

For print, I’d take the photographs. But on the web, the advertiser could expect zero traffic from this ad. Why?  Have I mentioned that content is king?

If both types of ads were turned into videos and circulated on YouTube, they would still need alteration. Clearly, the content heavy ads would need photos. The photo ad would need subtitles for the spiders to chew on.  (We’re talking keyword content for search engine page ranking.)

But looking at these examples, it’s still clear that auction advertising has a long long way to go.

It’s time to turn up the volume. If you want to entice new buyers you must speak their language.

Auctioneers must get up off the heavy duty stuff and lighten up. You’ll win more friends and potential buyers with an attractive ad that looks great and is well written and flavored with keywords.

Take the time to re-evaluate your media budget in light of your audience. And make the design and copy of the ads you’re running fit your media strategy.

Until auctioneers can bite the bullet on

  • good graphics
  • headlines that appeal to people as well as spiders
  • content that offers benefits instead of features …

until then, you won’t expand the circle of buyers.

Let’s advance the business. Turn up the heat on design and copy.

And if you don’t have the time because you’re corralling commissions, combing the warehouse to find sequential lots, getting the catalog to the printer… and the Bee deadline is almost here…whoa! Step back and take a breath. Call PR To the Trade. We’ll help you get your act together bigger and better than before.


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