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Marketing pro with insatiable passion for new media, social / corp responsibility, creative solutions, family, pet Aussie, photography, perennials, global travel. http://www.linkedin.com/in/billdahl1

We Try Harder? Perhaps Not in Social Media

Avis_We try Harder?

The campaign is legendary:

“We Try Harder”

In fact AdAge lists this business-saving Avis campaign as #10 in their top 100 advertising campaigns of all time.

So what happened? Avis Car Rental started playing their classic ‘David vs. Goliath’ card against arch-rival Hertz in 1962. At the time Avis only had 11% of the US car rental business. Worse, it hadn’t been profitable in 13 years.

Life was good for Hertz. A quick peek at one of their 1960’s ads gives one a sense of their leadership confidence as well as a very different American social landscape.

Early 1960s Hertz Ad

But Hertz and the nation as a whole were  ripe for a game-changing campaign.

To take them on as a client, Bill Bernbach of the Doyle Dane Bernbach (DDB) advertising agency demanded from Avis total creative control and internal changes in training and service policies at Avis as part of his turnaround strategy. Bold. Decisive. And it worked. Immediately.

Playing off their number 2 status, DDB crafted a ground-breaking series of self-effacing ads that created a brand personality and connected with their community and the general public through traditional mass media. (Advertising Greatness-2 Avis, 2009)

Within a year Avis turned profitable. By 1966 the Avis market share tripled to 35%. Now pushing 40, the “We Try Harder” campaign is one of the longest-ever ad campaigns in history.

Classic Avis "We Try Harder" Ads

However, basking in its glory days may be the biggest problem Avis has in connecting with their desired audience.

Pushing 40 and being successful isn’t a bad thing for Avis’ “We Try Harder” campaign. But is it the best thing? Sadly, the answer is “no”. Avis seems to be showing its age. Not so much for the still-brilliant campaign, but for their tepid, almost non-existent social media presence.

Fast Forward to 2012

As evidenced by the Delta Air Lines example the travel industry is not only using social media, they are creating an ongoing dialog with customers. Delta has created a Social Media Lab that is on the forefront of  rethinking the travel experience from a customer perspective.

Delta Airlines Finds Traction On Facebook

Delta has trained and redeployed reservation agents to their Social Media Lab to help service customers via multiple social media channels (including Twitter and Facebook).

As pointed out in the Rise of Social Commerce, Delta’s Ticket Window (now morphed to Ticket Counter) on allows for friends and family to share group travel events via their Away We Go Facebook travel planner app. Delta Assist and Ideas in Flight provide other ways to connect or find help through Facebook. (Wilson, 2010)

While the travel industry in general has embraced social media, closer to home to Avis the car rental market seems to be stuck in low gear. Social media activity among the Big 3 is rather limited.

In the Big 3 of the US car rental market, Avis is now #3. Yes, the perennial number #2 “We try Harder” is now third. However, arch-rival Hertz no longer leads the pack and is now #2–and a distant #2 at that. Enterprise Holdings (consisting of Alamo Rent A Car, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, and National Rent-A-Car) is now top dog with revenues nearly matching ALL of the other top 12 car rental agencies.

Can Avis Meet The Challenge?

Find out in Part Two

Works Cited:

AdAge. (2011, July). TOP 100 ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS. Retrieved February 28, 2012, from adage.com: http://adage.com/century/campaigns.html

Advertising Greatness-2 Avis. (2009, September 29). Retrieved February 26, 2012, from SellSellBlog: http://sellsellblog.blogspot.com/2008/09/advertising-greatness-2-avis.html

Avis Case Study. (2012). Retrieved February 2012, from Create Marketing: http://www.createmarketing.co.uk/pdf/avis-case-study.pdf

Market Data – 2011 U.S.Car Rental Market. (2011). Retrieved February 29, 2012, from Auto Rental News: http://www.autorentalnews.com/fileviewer/1410.aspx

Owyang, J. (2010). /rise-of-social-commerce-webinar. Retrieved February 27, 2012, from Slideshare.net: http://www.slideshare.net/jeremiah_owyang/rise-of-social-commerce-webinar

Parten, C. (2011, July 11). Top Ad Campaigns of the 20th Century. Retrieved February 28, 2012, from CNBC.com: http://www.cnbc.com/id/43673665/Top_Ad_Campaigns_of_the_20th_Century

Wilson, B. (2010, July). Step Into Delta Air Lines’ Social Media Lab. Retrieved February 2012, from Aviatiuon Week: http://www.aviationweek.com/aw/blogs/commercial_aviation/ThingsWithWings/index.jsp?plckController=Blog&plckBlogPage=BlogViewPost&newspaperUserId=7a78f54e-b3dd-4fa6-ae6e-dff2ffd7bdbb&plckPostId=Blog%3a7a78f54e-b3dd-4fa6-ae6e-dff2ffd7bdbbPost%3a39e76505-520


2 Comments on “We Try Harder? Perhaps Not in Social Media”

  1. socialmediatoothpaste March 12, 2012 at 12:36 pm #

    Solid blog post. I look forward to reading part two. You’ve woven a blog post with a common concept across multiple industries and created a story that I genuinely want to follow up with and read the conclusion two.

    Great use of historical images—it’s a nice juxtaposition to the modernity of social media.


  2. Lindsay March 17, 2012 at 8:46 am #

    I really enjoyed your post. Being in the rental industry I can relate directly to Avis’ We try harder example. At Ryder we have a Rental guarantee that allows credit customers money back should we not succeed in meeting certain guidelines protrayed to our customers. We are able to use this guarantee as a selling point to our customer to avoid them renting with our competitors. There are two downfalls to this program which I think that Ryder could learn from Avis. One being that not all of our customers are aware of the guarantee in the first place and two being when the guarantee is given customers are not aware that we are extending our rental guarantee for reason x y and z.

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