The role of customer-to-customer advertising has only recently developed as a fully fledged advertising tool for both direct and online media. There are many historical precedents of direct selling – most famously for Tupperware in the United States from the 1950s, where regional agents presented product ranges to their friends in a party-gathering environment.
However, customer-to-customer no longer requires gatherings but people with a bond with the brand who are willing to testify to its virtues to friends. In online advertising they aim to enlist the most influential of consumers, the early adopters who are quick to discover and adopt fashionable brands and the best consumer goods available. They are chosen because they are seen as taste-makers, able to influence friends and colleagues because they are regarded as filters for current tastes and trends.
Advertisers work on the basis that 1 person in 10 influences the tastes and choices of the others. It is assumed that late adapters tend to follow the recommendations of early adopters. The internet is (again) providing new opportunities for customer-to-customer selling. Many personal product experiences are recounted on blog and distribution sites – it is even a key feature on Amazon and eBay.
Customer researchers, Insight or planners are often charged with finding appropriate people for brands to adopt. Researchers tend to scan blog sites and web pages to find personal web spaces worth sponsoring. Much of the creative customer-to-customer work involves providing briefing packs and defining criteria for appropriate selection of customers. In some respects this is more the work of planning departments, but creative insights can help channel the approach consumers take to representing sponsoring brands.
Creative work for business-to-business advertising usually involves smaller volumes of correspondence but there can be a bigger budget per head, so creative output tends to be more exclusive. Pharmaceutical goods and service contracts tend to use business-to-business methods. For this type of work, most of the advertising work is around devising a strategy and researching the target market. Therefore the roles of Insight and account planning tend to be heavily utilized.
As the target market for business-to-business is tightly defined, samples or trial runs tend to be included. The aim is usually to create channels to open up opportunities for dialogue, so business-to-business advertising is usually designed to be layered, and is as likely to involve events organization as it is the production of printed advertising materials.