Williams agrees that advertisers should approach the 'R-word' (recession) with extreme caution. "Along with this economic downturn comes a lot of emotional response, such as anxiety. It is characterized by a sense that you lack control, that you don't know what's coming and you are at the whim of circumstance. To the extent that advertisers feel their clients or consumers are experiencing anxiety, ads should try to empower consumers and help them think of ways to be in control in a world where they feel out of control."
The Gold's Gym spots address this concern, she suggests. "'You can't control the economy but you can control how many pushups you do, and take control where you can, and we can help you.' That's a powerful message."
Value is another important message to build into marketing campaigns during a downturn, according to Williams. Many marketers design communications aimed at justifying the price they charge for goods and services, either by emphasizing a low price or touting the benefits the company can provide to buyers. "Advertisers will do both," she says. "Some are in a better position to talk about lower costs while others will have to focus on what you get for your money."
Luxury businesses should take a completely different approach, appealing more to emotion, Williams notes, emphasizing the need for some emotional release or comfort in difficult times. High-end advertisers will also attempt to emphasize long-term value -- such as suggesting that a watch is not just a purchase for today, but for years to come. "You can try to remind people that this is, hopefully, a temporary state of things and we should not be focusing on the immediate future but also longer-term."
David Sable, chief operating officer of Wunderman, a brand-building agency that is part of the global marketing firm, The WPP Group, advises advertisers in a downturn to rally to protect and preserve brand equity that has been nurtured for years, with continued investment in and support of branded products. "The worst thing you can do is cheap-out on products -- put less coffee in the cappuccino -- as many have in the past."