The Monday Morning Memo: Why Most Ads Don’t Work

Monday-Morning-Memo-Logo1By Roy H. Williams

I’ve said many times, “Most ads aren’t written to persuade, they’re written not to offend.”

This goes back to chapter one, “Nine Secret Words” in my first book, The Wizard of Ads. Do you remember the nine secret words? “The Risk of Insult is the Price of Clarity.”

Clarity. Ah, there we have it.

Rare is the ad that makes its point clearly.

The customers who cost you money are the ones you never see; the ones who don’t come in because your ads never got their attention.

I was writing an ad this week and decided to insert a word flag. I chose a phrase of declarative rebuttal: “And to that, we say, ‘Piffle and Pooh.’”

Obviously, ‘Piffle and Pooh’ is just a whimsical way of saying “Poppycock.”

My client was worried that people might be offended, so he asked me to change it to something else. I hung up the phone and yelled at the walls. If you’re curious what I said, just walk into my office. I’m pretty sure it’s still echoing in there.

Would you like to know the 4 Biggest Mistakes made by advertisers?

Mistake 1: Demanding “Polished and Professional” Ads

If you insist that your ads “sound right,” you force them to be predictable. Predictable ads do not surprise Broca’s Area of the brain. They do not open the door to conscious awareness. They fail to gain the attention of your prospective customer. This is bad.

Mistake 2: Informing without Persuading

Study journalism and you’ll create ads that present information without: (A) substantiating their claims,  “Lowest prices guaranteed!” (Or what, you apologize?) (B) explaining the benefit to the customer. “We use the Synchro-static method!” (Which means…?) “It’s Truck Month at Ramsey Ford!” (Come to the party, bring my truck?)

Mistake 3: Entertaining without Persuading

Study creative writing and you’ll draft ads that deliver entertainment without: (A) delivering a clear message.  “Yo Quiero Taco Bell” (Dogs like our food, you will, too?) (B) causing the customer to imagine themselves taking the desired action. “Yo Quiero Taco Bell” (I should buy a taco for my Chihuahua?)

The best ads cause customers to see themselves taking the action you desire. These ads deliver:

INVOLVEMENT: Watch a dancing silhouette ad for the iPod and mirror neurons in your brain will cause part of you to dance, as well. This is good advertising.

CLARITY: The white earphone cords leading into the ears of the dancing silhouette make it clear that the white iPod is a personal music machine.

Mistake 4: Decorating without Persuading

Graphic artists will often create a visual style and call it “branding.” This is fine if your product is fashion, a fragrance, an attitude or a lifestyle, but God help you if you sell a service or a product that’s meant to perform.

“Do you like the ad?” asks the graphic artist.

“Yes, it’s perfect,” replies the client, “the colors create the right mood and the images feel exactly right. I think it represents us well.”

Sorry, but your banker disagrees.

Hey, I’ve got an idea; why don’t you and Artsy go home and redecorate the living room at your house? Me? I’ll stay here and ruffle some feathers and sell some stuff. I hope you don’t mind.

But you probably will. Because you worry needlessly when people don’t like your ads.

Ninety-eight point nine percent of all the customers who hate your ads will still come to your store and buy from you when they need what you sell. These customers don’t cost you money; they just complain to the cashier as they’re handing over their cash.

Do you believe the public has to like an ad for the ad to be effective? You do?

To that I say “Piffle and Pooh.”

 

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