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REI’s “#OptOutside” magazine ad is quite simply brilliant. REI is a company that sells a myriad of outdoors and adventure products to its consumers. Its’ “#OptOutside” ad informs readers that REI will be closing all of its 143 retail stores on Black Friday and politely asks the reader to forgo shopping on Black Friday and, instead, “#OptOutside.” The phrase “#OptOutside” also doubles as a hashtag readers can attach to their social media posts, which allows the ad to exist even beyond the initial reading. This paper will explore the effectiveness of REI’s “#OptOutside” ad and analyze its advertising elements.
First, the “#OptOutside” ad does an excellent job of not only identifying the sponsor (REI) but also drawing attention to the sponsor’s name. The ad reads, in large and readable font: “REI IS CLOSING.” The vivid text draws in the reader’s eyes. There is a considerable amount of white space in this ad. This white space isolates the reader’s focus on the ad’s copy, and when this occurs, the reader naturally focuses on the copy with the largest font. Thus, REI made a significant statement (“REI IS CLOSING”), and the ad was formatted in such a way that the ad’s core statement became the focal point of the ad. Further, the statement “REI IS CLOSING” creates questions in the mind of the reader. When used correctly, questions are very valuable in advertising because they entice the reader to find answers to those questions, which means reading more of the ad’s copy, searching for answers online, or simply engaging with the ad for a longer period of time (which creates an impression). Finally, the questions in the reader’s mind might be influenced by fear, a common advertising tactic. For REI’s primary target audience, which is comprised of regular and loyal REI customers, the statement “REI IS CLOSING” could create feelings of fear. These customers will have more reason to continue reading this ad than the average consumer because they might worry about one of their favorite stores shutting its doors for good.
What is especially interesting about this ad is that it is very effective, in that it uses the association principle in conjunction with a call to action, but it actually does not try to sell the potential consumer any product or service. Instead, REI is actively positioning itself completely separated from its direct competitors, or any other retail store for that matter. In this ad, as mentioned in this paper’s introduction, REI states that it will be closing every single one of its 143 retail stores of Black Friday, which is the biggest shopping day of the year for brick-and-mortar retail stores. As it is commonly known, retail stores offer massive deals and savings on Black Friday. These deals and savings are so enticing that fights among customers, who are vying for the same or last product on the shelf, have broken out inside of retail stores on Black Friday. REI smartly points this out in the smaller text of its ad and delivers a call to action to the reader: instead of fighting over deals in our competitor’s stores, join our employees outside by taking a hike outside in nature. Simultaneously, REI does an excellent job of employing the association principle in this ad. In the bottom right-hand side of the ad, there is an image of a serene, isolated, possibly peaceful mountain. REI recognizes that Black Friday is colloquially understood to be a day of chaos among competing consumers. While all consumers want deals, nearly every one of them does not want to have to deal with huge crowds and, potentially, fights. REI successfully associates negative impressions with shopping and deal hunting while also connecting positive impressions, via the image of the mountain, with hiking and opting outside. Further, REI is telling the consumer that its brand, one that sells outdoor equipment, is more committed to the love of nature and the reason the consumer buys products at REI than the products themselves.
In conclusion, REI’s approach to advertising (in the larger picture) in this ad could indicate a shift more towards integrating company values with advertising. Typically, an ad sells a specific product or service through sex appeal, celebrity endorsers, or other gimmicks that are detached from the company selling the product itself. However, the world as a whole, and especially American culture, is becoming more attuned to corporate responsibility and company values. In this ad, REI successfully sold the consumer its company values instead of a product that will be forgotten about in a year. This holds a much more lasting influence in consumer buying habits. In my opinion, REI’s “#OptOutside” is an extremely effective ad, as supported by all of the above writing. The ad clearly communicates company values, entices the reader to ask questions, and places a call to action for the reader to do exactly what REI products are meant for. It is clear that this ad was well thought out and is highly produced. It is a huge risk to close one’s company doors on the biggest shopping day of the year, but REI took this risk because it knows its audience, the market segment to which it is advertising. Consumers that hike, consumers that explore, consumers that love nature, no matter what age, gender, or other demographic, are quietly simply not as materialistic as, say, a consumer who shops at Tiffany’s. REI is a store that helps its customers better explore nature and get away from city life or the daily grind. Thus, through a relatively small amount of copy, REI succinctly “sold” its brand to the end consumer. A consumer is not going to buy a specific product because they saw this ad, but they will remember that they agree with REI’s core message as a brand, which will ultimately cause the consumer to visit REI and buy products.
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