CAN ONLY TAKE YOU SO FAR
Interview with Joe Walter and Terry Fetterman
retailers and ad agencies need to expand beyond questions of creative and
media to ensure that messaging aligns with customer perceptions and
This installment in Furniture World’s series on retail advertising
features information and advice from Terry Fetterman and Joe Walter of Tango
Multimedia. Their ad agency works with independent family-owned stores with
sales in the $3 million to $20+ million range.
Fetterman spent the first two-thirds of his career working for companies such
as Radius Communications, Comcast and Viacom-owned CBS in TV advertising and
video production sales, management and direct response.
“Before founding Tango,” he recalled, “I also worked for a
technology company as director of sales on the operational side of broadcast
television and early streaming media services.
There are so many ways stores can build rapport with customers and provide
an alternative to scrolling through sofa images accompanied by boilerplate
copy about exemplary customer service and how many years they’ve
been in business.
Joe Walter met Terry years ago following a disappointing experience with a TV
ad buy he made while working at his family’s furniture operation,
Highland Park Furniture.
“One Black Friday weekend,” he recalled, “We invested
heavily in TV ads to bring in customers.
“The spots were a complete failure. It was our first substantial
investment in television advertising, and we were unable to tie any business
directly to the promotion.
“Our print supplier, Banner Marketing, suggested that I speak to Terry
before doing more television marketing. Terry immediately spotted the flaws in
our campaign and suggested a thoughtful, well-designed plan. As it turned out,
my dad, who owned Highland Park Furniture, said, ‘As long as I live,
I’ll never run another television ad! It doesn’t matter how good
the plan is. We spent our lifetime supply of TV money on that last
campaign.’ So, Terry, and I just remained friends. Over a number of
years, I developed expertise in digital ad management as an effective means of
advertising our stores, which ultimately led me to join Tango as VP of Online
New Advertising Conversation
“It’s not news to most Furniture World readers that access to data
allows retailers to create audiences based on data, track impressions and
clicks,” explained Fetterman. “Today, they can measure the number
of people who were served an ad, walked into a store and purchased.
“These analytics have fundamentally changed the conversation retailers
and their ad agencies should be having. Instead of being concerned with just
marketing and branding, advertising decision-making is increasingly connected
with how retailers buy, merchandise and sell their products.
“Here’s an example. We recently worked with a large retailer whose
brand message emphasized selling products for less than the competition. It
was and is a major pillar of their brand.
Note: Respondents who did not give an answer are not shown. Source: Survey
of U.S. adults conducted Jan. 25-Feb 8, 2021. PEW Research Center.
“When customers were asked to share their impressions about this
retailer, they explained that the operation delivered an excellent shopping
experience and were impressed with the employees, product quality and
selection. All good things.
“This retailer’s everyday prices were, in fact, lower than their
competitors’. Customers, however, believed the opposite. How was this
“To correct a mismatch like this takes more than just working with an ad
agency to place clever ads. The shopping experience needs to be re-aligned.
For example, it could be that when shoppers walked into this retailer’s
stores and turned right, they saw a selection of higher-end items. If a
$12,000 sofa is the first thing shoppers see, it makes an impression. Multiply
this by 1,000 and it can become a problem.
“Just moving a display from the front to the back of a store can have a
large effect over time,” noted Fetterman. “And there are many
non-advertising factors like this in retail operations that contribute to a
disconnect between a retailer’s advertised brand and the experience
people have of that brand. Advertising and marketing have become much more
comprehensive and holistic. It needs to be part of any discussion between
retailers and their advertising agencies.”
On the topic of media choices, Joe Walter noted that “the conversation
about television advertising has shifted quite a bit in the past few years due
to the importance of reaching people with video.”
“That’s certainly been the case,” agreed Fetterman. Video
has become the number one source of information for 66 percent of all adults.
The TV budgets we’re managing are shrinking as YouTube and Facebook
video advertising, OTT, CTV and streaming video have grown.
“Even today, some retailers are handling advertising themselves. They
accept the packages offered to them by television, radio and newspaper ad
reps. This is not the best way to optimize an advertising budget. What
advertising reps say is not always the best advice for home furnishings
“In 2015,” Fetterman continued, “76 percent of adults
watched TV from cable or satellite. Today, that number has dropped to 56
percent. While it’s still a lot of people, media consumption habits
continue to shift.
“Often, furniture stores use broadcast TV—a combination of ABC,
NBC, CBS and FOX. In any market, one or two stations dominate the local news
and furniture stores choose those stations to carry the majority of their
network television placements. Many store owners believe that their customers
don’t watch cable TV anymore.
“They place commercials from five in the morning until six at night
during the early news, the evening news, occasionally on late-night news and
sometimes on entertainment shows like Kimmel and Fallon. Unfortunately, most
TV viewership is not during those time slots. It’s in prime time.”
Fetterman said that local furniture stores typically can’t afford prime
time, but that isn’t a huge problem because they can still reach people
before they leave for work, then again when they return home, through local
news programming. “On paper, it all sounds good. The problem is that
including travel time, most potential customers leave home at 7 a.m. and
return at 6 p.m.. Retailers are sometimes well served by reducing their
broadcast budget a bit and adding cable TV in primetime when people are
watching CNN, Fox News and MSNBC. Advertise on those three news channels from
6 p.m. until midnight. Every single furniture store can afford to do that to
better reach folks who work during the day.”
Digital Decision Making
Furniture World asked Joe Walter about current best practices for digital
About Google: “Google is foundational to any
advertising program,” he said. “It is the place people go to first
when they’re looking for furniture. When they’re interested in
buying, retailers need their website to show up in that moment. It’s the
modern equivalent of Yellow Pages advertising. Beyond Google, the market a
retailer is in, its budget, and goals dictate what needs to happen next in
terms of digital advertising.”
About Geofencing: "For some retailers, geofencing makes a lot
of sense for a similar reason. It’s a way to effectively communicate
with active shoppers. Even during the pandemic when closing ratios were as
high as 50 percent or more, there were still lots of consumers who walked out
of stores without buying. So, it makes sense for retailers to direct resources
to try to get their shoppers and those consumers who visited competitive
stores to come in and complete a purchase.”
About Competitors: “It’s a mistake to blindly
copy competitive stores’ advertising choices. For example, it’s
easy for a retailer to assume that an Ashley Furniture Home Store operating in
its market area wouldn’t place so much TV advertising if it wasn’t
working. For a retailer with a modest advertising budget, however, television
is often not the best way to go. It’s important to be aware of what
competitors are doing in terms of their media choices, but it’s
impossible to compete simply by copying large competitors.”
About Website Development: “Over the past two years,
many retailers have been patting themselves on the back for finally paying
some attention to their websites. But, there are still a large number of
furniture store websites that underperform.
“Retailers may spend huge sums on rent, salespeople and displays to
support physical locations. At the same time, they tend to shortchange their
websites. If a shopper’s first impression, based on a website experience
is poor, she probably won’t consider an in-store visit. When that
happens, investments in physical locations are wasted.”
Walter suggested that Furniture World readers who settle for just uploading
information provided by their manufacturers are unlikely to inspire shoppers.
“Over much of the last two years, it’s been a sellers’
market for a lot of retailers who’ve been able to cut their ad
budgets.” Rather than pocketing that savings, he said, they should fund
content creation. Whether they hire an influencer, post TikTok videos or
photograph beautiful in-store vignettes to replace cookie-cutter
manufacturers’ supplied photos, it’s worth the effort.
“Smart retailers are creating how-to and design videos. There are many
ways stores can build rapport with customers and provide an alternative to
scrolling through sofa images and boilerplate copy about great customer
service and how many years they’ve been in business.
“Most retailers know that they need to create better content. Often
though, that’s where the discussion ends. Store owners hardly have the
time to take care of basic things like hiring, payroll and placing orders,
much less brainstorming about what kinds of blog posts to write.
”The good news for retailers is that platforms such as TikTok and
Snapchat have changed the threshold for what’s considered entertainment.
Our customers have become used to low-fidelity content, so compelling social
media messaging no longer requires fantastic high-resolution images or
Stories are being continually created inside stores, almost like video
diaries that don’t have to be accompanied by grand explanations or
pitch the next big sale event to be considered great content.
Retailers who visit TikTok can see thousands of submissions from top-100 to
small independent retailers. A quick search for the phrase “furniture
store” reveals content that ranges from useful information to playful
clips featuring furniture store employees and customers. “Mrs. Jones
came in and bought a sleeper sofa. Why? That can be your piece of
content,” observed Walter. “Or, a salesperson on-camera can talk
about how happy a recent customer was when she solved her back problem with an
“Stories are being continually created inside stores. They are almost
like video diaries that don’t have to be accompanied by grand
explanations or pitch the next big sale event. But not everyone is capable of
creating persuasive content. I would caution retailers against choosing the
youngest person they know to be their social media and website content person,
”advised Walter. “Just because an intern or junior employee is
using Instagram all the time, it does not mean that they are qualified to
control something as important as a retailer’s social media
The good news for retailers
is that platforms such as TikTok and Snapchat have changed the threshold for
what’s considered entertainment. Our customers are used to
low-fidelity content now."
Fetterman remarked, “There will always be challenges as well as
opportunities for furniture stores. In good times and bad, some retailers find
reasons based on current business conditions, the news cycle, or a collective
mindset to cut back on advertising.
“Before making big advertising decisions, it’s wise to take a step
back and ask a few questions. ‘How do we improve today so we can grow?
How do we develop better business and brand focus? How can we reflect our
unique branding via in-store shopping experiences? How might we extend this
experience outwardly through our online and social presence?
“Good decision making requires leveraging data, but, many stores
don’t know how many households there are within 10 miles of their
operation. Neither are they aware of what those homes look like, the
demographics and geographics of the families that live in them or their
occupants’ style preferences.
“We recently worked on a campaign targeting roughly 330,000 women with
household incomes of at least $60,000 in a retailer’s trading area.
These women had an interest in home furnishings, decorating and home
“Here’s some context. The typical U.S. household purchases, on
average, $1,900 to $2,300 on home furnishings a year. A quick calculation
using an average yearly spend of $2,000 multiplied by 330,000 households told
us that the targeted group was likely to spend in the neighborhood of $660
million on home furnishings during a one year period.
“The media this retailer used to reach this audience included targeted
ads served via paid social advertising, online advertising, programmatic,
video marketing, OTT, YouTube and print. Impressions, clicks and how many
people from the targeted group entered the store and purchased were captured.
This retailer generated more than $820,000 In sales on a $55,000 ad spend.
“People used to say, ‘Man, if I knew which half of my advertising
worked, and which didn’t, I’d be a genius. Today, retailers can
have that information. It doesn’t matter if a retailer can invest
$100,000 on an advertising campaign or just $2,000. An insightful in-house
marketing team or ad agency can create an articulated advertising program that
is responsive, data-driven, filled with analytics and market intelligence.
But, great advertising can only take a retailer so far. It has to be
accompanied by looking closely at what’s happening when shoppers
targeted by ads visit a store.
“That’s why it’s so important for furniture retailers to
have conversations with their agencies or marketing teams about how consumers
interact with their websites and in-store experiences. These can be incredibly
Furniture World is the oldest, continuously published trade publication in the United States. It is published for the benefit of furniture retail executives. Print circulation of 20,000 is directed primarily to furniture retailers in the US and Canada. In 1970, the magazine established and endowed the Bernice Bienenstock Furniture Library (www.furniturelibrary.com) in High Point, NC, now a public foundation containing more than 5,000 books on furniture and design dating from 1620. For more information contact email@example.com.