By Roy H. Williams
Advertising isn’t working like it did a few years ago. You’ve noticed this, right?
Most advertisers are convinced that technology is to blame. TV advertisers will tell you that TiVo and her sister Digital Video Recorders are blocking their television ads. But according to a recent report released by Leichtman Research Group, only 12 percent of American households own a DVR. But TV ad results are down far more than 12 percent.
Radio advertisers will tell you that everyone is listening to iPods and satellite radio. But in truth, most of radio’s loss has been in the 12 to 17 year-old age group. These pre-adults are now spending only 51 quarter-hours per week listening to commercial radio, down from a zenith of 65 quarter-hours per week during the pre-Internet 80s and early 90s. The rest of us are listening about as much as we ever did. We wake up to radio alarm clocks and listen at work and in our cars. Overall, the audience for commercial radio has declined only about 4 percent over the past 3 years. But Radio ad results are down far more than 4 percent.
Online news aggregators gather worldwide news for us and deliver it instantly to our desktops. Traditional Newspaper subscriptions are at an all-time low and so are Newspaper ad results. But the results are declining faster than subscriptions. Yes, technology is to blame. But not in the way that you think.
I’m paid according to how much my clients grow, remember? So I don’t really care what the problem is. My job is to find it and fix it. Here’s what I’ve discovered, tested and proved:
1: Internet surfing has trained us to disregard empty words.
2: Relevance has become more important than repetition.
Bottom line: Meaningful messages are working better than ever, especially when the fundamental premise of your ad is clearly stated in the opening line. Ads full of unsupported claims and overworked “image-building” phrases are being rejected before they ever enter the brain. So say what matters. Say it tight, say it true. The audience is still there. What’s gone is their willingness to pay attention to drivel.
You spend about a minute each day going through the mail delivered by the Post Office, right? Before Yahoo and Google came along, those 6 minutes each week constituted your total weekly exercise in the high-speed evaluation of content. But now you’re spending more than a quarter-hour per day scanning search engine results and web pages for relevant, meaningful, salient information. These daily quarter-hours are teaching you – and your customers – to more quickly recognize and disregard word-fluff and other irrelevant information. We’re learning to filter out hyperbole and empty phrases. Is this beginning to make sense to you?
To make your advertising work like it should, you’re going to have to:
1. Talk about things your customer actually cares about.
2. Write your ads in a style that rings true.
3. Avoid heroic chest thumping. “We are the number one…” is now considered gauche and passé.
4. Close the loopholes in your ads. Offer evidence to support what you say.
5. Be specific. Details are more believable than generalities.
6. Deliver a real message. Substance is more important than style.
Creativity and repetition can no longer cover up the fact that an advertiser has nothing to say. You’ve got to have a message that matters.