By Roy H. Williams
It’s no secret that stronger ads generate faster growth. But with each higher level of awareness comes an increase in complaints:
“I’m sick of hearing your ads.”
TRANSLATION: “It makes me mad that I can’t ignore you.”
“Your ads don’t sound professional. They’re not polished and smooth.”
TRANSLATION: “It makes me mad that your ads stand out.”
“I’m offended by your ads and I’ll never do business with you.”
TRANSLATION: “Complaining is what I do to make me feel important.”
Over the past two decades, my fastest-growing clients have always been the ones willing to run my ads exactly as I’ve written them. Clients who ‘tweak’ my ads to make them softer typically grow at a softer pace.
If people complain about an ad, does that mean it isn’t working?
If people love an ad and compliment you on it, does that mean it’s generating traffic and profits? “Yo Quiero Taco Bell.”
Pepsico spent a couple hundred million dollars promoting that dog’s endorsement and it didn’t increase taco sales a dime. Seriously. But we all loved that little chihuahua, didn’t we? If Pepsico’s goal was to entertain America; mission accomplished. But if part of their plan was to increase the sale of tacos, well, that part didn’t work out.
You’ve got to decide once and for all how you’re going to measure success. It doesn’t matter what you consider to be success. It matters only that you have an objective way of measuring it, (and in the process, the effectiveness of your advertising.)
Do you want people to say they love your ads? No problem, I can make that happen. Do you want to measure units sold and dollars collected? I can make the mercury rise on that thermometer, too. Just not on both.
A professional ad writer is a person who has spent millions of dollars of other people’s money to learn what doesn’t work. Hang on to your hat: the worst ideas always make the most sense. Breakthrough ideas are always counter-intuitive.
“If the big ad agencies are doing all the wrong things, is it because they’re stupid?” I was asked that question last week by Karen Jonson, a magazine writer. My impulse was to answer fliply, “Yes,” but I choked it down, slowed my internal RPM, and listened to my heart. “No,” I told her, “the problem big agencies face is that they’re never able to sit across the table from someone with unconditional authority to say ‘absolutely yes.’ When a creative person knows they must gain the approval of a group, he or she will instinctively play it safe and give the group what they want, rather than what they need.”
Most ads aren’t written to move anyone. They’re written not to offend.
The next time you’re watching a really good TV show or listening to a funny comedian, ask yourself, “How much would this show be changed if a group of people were allowed to strip away everything in it that might offend?”
No committee will ever approve a great ad, they’ll castrate it. But in their minds they’re merely “tweaking it, softening it, taking off the offensive edge.” Subject a talented ad writer to a lot of second-guessing and he or she will reward you with ads that all your friends and family are guaranteed to like.
Congratulations. Now you’ve got ads that sound exactly like everyone else’s.