The Best way to Learn advertising

I (and most people) have a love/hate relationship with advertising. Yes, I enjoy each new Absolut vodka print ad: Where will they hide the famous bottle? And I enjoy the humor in British ads, and the risqué quality of French ads. Even some advertising jingles and melodies stick in my mind. But I don’t enjoy most ads. In fact, I actively ignore them. They interrupt my thought processes. Some do worse: They irritate me. The best ads not only are creative, they sell. Creativity alone is not enough. Advertising must be more than an art form. But the art helps. William Bernbach, former head of Doyle, Dane & Bernbach, observed: “The facts are not enough. . . . Don’t forget that Shakespeare used some pretty hackneyed plots, yet his message came through with great execution.” Even a great ad execution must be renewed or it will become outdated. Coca-Cola cannot continue forever with a catchphrase like “The Real Thing,” “Coke Is It,” or “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing.” Advertising wear-out is a reality. Advertising leaders differ on how to create an effective ad campaign. Rosser Reeves of the Ted Bates & Company advertising agency favored linking the brand directly to a single benefit, as in “R-O-L-A-I-D-S spells RELIEF.” Leo Burnett preferred to create a character that expressed the product’s benefits or personality: the Green Giant, the Pillsbury Doughboy, the Marlboro cowboy, and several other mythical personalities. The Doyle, Dane & Bernbach agency favored developing a narrative story with episodes centered on a problem and its outcome: thus a Federal Express ad shows a person worried about receiving something at the promised time who is then reassured by using FedEx’s tracking system. The aim of advertising is not to state the facts about a product but to sell a solution or a dream. Address your advertising to the customers’ aspirations. This is what Ferrari, Tiffany, Gucci, and Ferragamo do. A Ferrari automobile delivers on three dreams: social recognition, freedom, and heroism. Remember Revlon founder Charles Revson’s remark: “In our factory, we make lipstick. In our advertising, we sell hope.”3 But the promise of dreams only makes people suspicious of advertising. They don’t believe that their selection of a particular car or perfume will make them any more attractive or interesting. Stephen Leacock, humorist and educator, took a cynical view of advertising: “Advertising may be described as the science of arresting the human intelligence long enough to get money from it.” Ads primarily create product awareness, sometimes product knowledge, less often product preference, and more rarely, product purchase. That’s why advertising cannot do the job alone. Sales promotion may be needed to trigger purchase. A salesperson might be needed to elaborate on the benefits and close the sale. What’s worse, many ads are not particularly creative. Most are not memorable. Take auto ads. The typical one shows a new car racing 100 miles an hour around mountain bends. But we don’t have mountains in Chicago. And 60 miles an hour is the speed limit. And furthermore I can’t remember which car the ad featured. Conclusion: Most ads are a waste of the companies’ money and my time. Most ad agencies blame the lack of creativity on the client. 2 Marketing Insights from A to Z Clients wisely ask their agencies to come up with three ads, from mild to wild. But then the client typically settles for the mild and safe one. Thus the client plays a role in killing good advertising. Companies should ask this question before using advertising: Would advertising create more satisfied clients than if our company spent the same money on making a better product, improving company service, or creating stronger brand experiences? I wish that companies would spend more money and time on designing an exceptional product, and less on trying to psychologically manipulate perceptions through expensive advertising campaigns. The better the product, the less that has to be spent advertising it. The best advertising is done by your satisfied customers. The stronger your customer loyalty, the less you have to spend on advertising. First, most of your customers will come back without you doing any advertising. Second, most customers, because of their high satisfaction, are doing the advertising for you. In addition, advertising often attracts deal-prone customers who will flit in and out in search of a bargain. There are legions of people who love advertising whether or not it works. And I don’t mean those who need a commercial to provide a bathroom break from the soap opera. My late friend and mentor, Dr. Steuart Henderson Britt, passionately believed in advertising. “Doing business without advertising is like winking at a girl in the dark. You know what you are doing, but nobody else does.” The advertising agency’s mantra is: “Early to bed, early to rise, work like hell, advertise.” But I still advise: Make good advertising, not bad advertising. David Ogilvy cautioned: “Never write an advertisement which you wouldn’t want your own family to read. You wouldn’t tell lies to your own wife. Don’t tell them to mine.”4 Ogilvy chided ad makers who seek awards, not sales: “The advertising business . . . is being pulled down by the people who Advertising 3 create it, who don’t know how to sell anything, who have never sold anything in their lives . . . who despise selling, whose mission in life is to be clever show-offs, and con clients into giving them money to display their originality and genius.”5 Those who love advertising can point to many cases where it worked brilliantly: Marlboro cigarettes, Absolut vodka, Volvo automobiles. It also worked in the following cases: • A company advertised for a security guard. The next day it was robbed. • If you think advertising doesn’t pay—we understand there are 25 mountains in Colorado higher than Pikes Peak. Can you name one? Those against too much reliance on advertising are fond of quoting John Wanamaker of department store fame: “I know that half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; but I can never find out which half.” How should you develop your advertising? You have to make decisions on the five Ms of advertising: mission, message, media, money, and measurement. The ad’s mission can be one of four: to inform, persuade, remind, or reinforce a purchase decision. With a new product, you want to inform and/or persuade. With an old product, like CocaCola, you want to remind. With some products just bought, you want to reassure the purchaser and reinforce the decision. The message must communicate the brand’s distinctive value in words and pictures. Any message should be tested with the target audience using a set of six questions (see box). The media must be chosen for their ability to reach the target market cost-effectively. Besides the classic media of newspapers, magazines, radio, television, and billboards, there is a flurry of new media, including e-mail, faxes, telemarketers, digital magazines, in-store advertising, and advertising now popping up in skyscraper elevators and bathrooms. Media selection is becoming a major challenge. A company works with the media department of the ad agency to define how much reach, frequency, and impact the ad campaign should achieve. Suppose you want your advertising campaign to deliver at least one exposure to 60 percent of the target market consisting of 1,000,000 people. This is 600,000 exposures. But you want the average person to see your ad three times during the campaign. That is 1,800,000 exposures. But it might take six exposures for the average person to notice your ad three times. Thus you need 3,600,000 exposures. And suppose you want to use a high-impact media vehicle costing $20 per 1,000 exposures. Then the campaign should cost $72,000 ($20 × 3,600,000/1,000). Notice that your company could use the same budget to reach more people with less frequency or to reach more people with lower-impact media vehicles. There are trade-offs among reach, frequency, and impact.

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