Power in Partnerships

Ariana Rodriguez

Co-branded advertising is standard to promoting manufacturer-distributor relationships to retailers en masse. For the growing adult retail industry in which distributors now offer thousands of adult goods from hundreds of vendors, deciding on an effective print ad campaign is not exactly cut-and-dry. By working with top adult vendors, distributors are perfecting strategies to promote the latest products while solidifying their own brand image and promoting their unique services.

“Eldorado has offered co-ops for as long as I can remember,” said Brian Sofer, Eldorado’s manager of emerging media and strategic partnerships. “In the last six months or so we’ve made a bigger push to utilize co-ops when a worthwhile opportunity is available.”

We needed to put a spotlight on our vendor and their product. At the same time, we are not only advertising what we distribute, but how we distribute it.

To showcase their wide assortment of products, as well as their business philosophy, sister companies East Coast News (ECN) and International Video Distributors (IVD), recently embraced the use of co-operative ads and advertorials.

“We needed to put a spotlight on our vendor and their product,” IVD/ECN Brand Manager Ken H. said. “At the same time, we are not only advertising what we distribute, but how we distribute it as well. We want to ensure our customers know they have a competitive advantage when they shop with us — from selection to service, everything we do truly does revolve around them.”

Built around their familiar globe logo, each ad features IVD/ECN’s slogan “our world revolves around you,” along with a highlighted product or brand.

“The distributor plans its ad layouts around both vendor requests and internal planning, focusing on products that will be in high demand, Ken H. said.

Coordinated sales efforts, press releases, email blasts and other support materials frequently bolster ECN’s print ads. “At the end of the day, we want to inform our customers and invite new business,” he continued. “While we can’t effectively advertise everything we sell, we want to make sure we’re comprehensive with the products we do focus on.”

Co-branding advertising is typically carried out entirely as a collaboration between the distributor and manufacturer in which flexibility, and oftentimes the manufacturer, is central.

“[The frequency and scale of each co-op advertising campaign] depends, if we’re currently working with one of our partners on a sale or a promotion, we may roll out a co-op as part of the promotion. As a distributor, Eldorado has relationships with many manufacturers whose success is obviously of great importance to us so we’ve definitely done multiple co-ops in a month.”

According to Sofer, the choice to have a single product or full collection featured in a co-op ad, is up to the manufacturer and both methods have proven successful.

“We’ve found success with both co-ops that focus on introducing a new line and ones that focus solely on specific products,” Sofer said. “Both types of ads have been successful in building brand recognition and association with Eldorado. Once, I ran into someone who quoted a tagline from a product ad to me word for word. Right then I knew that ad succeeded in establishing an identity for that product.”

The central focus of a co-op ad also can be used to promote exclusivity.

Montreal-based Shunga Erotic Art, which has limited U.S. distribution, relies on co-branded advertising to support its partnerships. According to Angela Mustone, Shunga’s director of business development, said that co-op advertising is essential to building stronger relationships with clients.

“We are a manufacturer so it’s important to let retailers know where they could get our line,” Mustone said. “Co-op ads let them know who our distributors are. It’s a great way to increase brand awareness for us and for our partners. It also makes sense financially — there is extra money to advertise for both parties when doing a co-op ad.”

On the effectiveness of promoting exclusivity in co-op ads, Eldorado’s Brian Sofer adds, “we highlight that Eldorado has an exclusive in the ad messaging to ensure that the customer understands these products are offered exclusively through Eldorado. We have found that building that kind of association in the minds of the customer is important.”

After 50 years of building partnerships with manufacturers as a distributor of a multitude of adult goods, this month Komar Company is rolling out a “Novelty Partner” cooperative ad program.

“Komar’s perspective of the manufacturer-distributor relationship is that of a partnership, where Komar is a direct extension of the manufacturer’s sales team,” Komar Company’s Mark Foreman said. “As a result, Komar initiated the co-op advertising program in an effort to be proactive and gain exposure for both the manufacturer and Komar.”

Komar Company has historically focused on single ads promoting a specific brand or a collection within the brand, Foreman says, its most recent focus being on Fantasy Lingerie’s Pink Box line.

“While not every ad we do contains trackable elements (although they increasingly will) we at the very least know the manufacturers and distributors are benefiting from a concept that gets their names out there more often while reducing the strain on everyone’s advertising budget, while at the same time strengthening their own relationship. We’re confident in saying we’ve achieved significant double-digit — sometimes triple-digit — sales growth as a result of a co-branded ad campaign.”

Komar’s co-branded ads are designed by the manufacturer and Komar’s graphic arts department led by creative director David Grauel, Foreman said, adding, “There’s been occasion for a manufacturer to insist on assuming full control of the art work — Komar offers flexibility on many facets so that’s perfectly okay. Beginning with the April 2012 XBIZ Premiere, readers will see the first example of our cooperative ad program. A standardized partner branded layout we are calling the Novelty Partner program. The ads will feature a minimalist design that gives the reader that chance to pause and connect.”

In addition to its standard co-op ads, ECN has been generating advertorials — editorial/advertisement hybrids — to educate customers about a particular product or brand. Typically, the focus of these pieces is on effective merchandising and promotion of the highlighted items.

“We looked to ECN’s advertorial format to help us position our brand correctly,” Tantus Channel Sales Manager Aaron Warburton said. “Their advertorial incorporates product and merchandising education, as well as spot-on brand representation in a clear and concise package. We’re proud to be partnered with an industry leader like East Coast News.”

The advertorials offer advice about servicing new consumers, cross-marketing and product education. ECN’s marketing staff works with vendors to create a piece that informs readers about the product, as well as ECN’s service.

“The ECN advertorial is a great example of understanding your audience and making the most of your advertising dollars. People need to understand the net benefit of what you are communicating to them about,” said Leon Benz, Standard Innovation Corporation’s vice president of marketing. “In short: showing customers the tools that are available and how to use them to effectively sell more products. Kudos to the ECN creative team for doing just that.”