• Monday, October 20th, 2008

Communications can be a challenge

You’ve heard it a 1,000 times over, you must advertise to keep your business afloat.  For many businesses though, effective communication with consumers is one of their biggest challenges.  You must try to think like your customer, put yourself in their shoes. That’s not always an easy task.  Often advertisers are so caught up in the copy, the design, the music and the ‘call to action,’ that they forget to consider the surroundings and circumstances under which the ad will be seen consumers often end up seeing advertising which probably cost more money to create that it brings in.  Not all mistakes are so big that they jump out at you, little ones happen too – but they can damage your image just as easily.  Whether you are a do-it-yourselfer or a big agency it can be easy to over-look mistakes when you are so closely involved in a project.    Larger advertisers may have the time, money and resources to do A/B testing or focus groups.  It’s my opinion though, that because humans like to make others happy the people being watched and/or tested will inherently try to figure out what the tester wants and give it to them.  Testing, if possible, is an important and useful tool – just use the data you acquire carefully.  Lastly, I strongly urge you to have someone without a vested interest in your advertisement, and who has never seen any version of it, look at it to make sure that it gives the intended message and does not make you look like a jack-ass.  I hate to tie this back to lawyers, but much of what they quote is based on what a “reasonable person” would do.  Put your ads to the same test – what would a reasonable person see, think and feel when they experience your ad?  I offer a few samples I think should have a “reasonable person” test.

Make up my mind – is golf a distraction or not?

One of the TV spots I cannot help but rant about when I see it is for Viagra.  It opens with a couple sitting on opposite ends of a very large couch.  He’s watching TV, she’s reading magazines.  The man gets a devilish grin on his face as the announcer says to “get rid of the distractions.”  Right on cue the couple takes turns tossing their “distractions” out the windows – TV remote, magazines, golf club.   They waltz happily to the stairs and disappear from view (No doubt for a rousing game of twister) as the disclaimers scroll by along with an invite to see also their printed ad elsewhere.

So what’s my rant?  First – it’s a TV ad, if TV is a distraction to be removed, how will I see the ads for other products they want to sell me?  Second, and my favorite; he tossed out golf clubs and she tossed out a pile of magazines….distractions.  However, the end of the spot asks us to see their ad in GOLF MAGAZINE.  Um, hello?  Are they distractions or not?  I think the real problem is that big-ass couch.  Try some snuggling on that thing once in a while why don’t ya.

What’s that (whoosh) sign say?  Never mind.

Roadside advertisements make me crazy, I know that the billboard companies hire talented designers and copy writers – but who checks to see if the ad will work on the road as we whiz by at 70 MPH?  I’m sure that when the PDF proof is verified on screen, it looks great.  But what about the proper scale for how far away the viewer will be?  When I taught in the Navy we were told that then when we write on the board, text should be one inch high for every 10 feet of distance to the student.  There must be a similar ratio for billboards.  Can the billboard pass a 5 second test?  If not, start over.

Print does not have to be “traditional”

If you are running print ads you can normally use more creative content since there isn’t the time urgency that there is with broadcast or roadside media.  You should still make sure that you use the 5 second test on your ads to verify the main point is properly conveyed.  Your call to action becomes critically important.  It must be strong enough for somebody flipping pages as they sit in a waiting room or library to remember your ad when they get home.  However, it must also be subtle enough to not outright irritate them.   Be sure to take advantage of the fact that nearly everyone is online now – include a web address where the reader can get more info.  Offer something free, info packet, pens, coupons – people will sign up to get almost anything if it’s free and that will be bring you closer to your potential customers.  If your web host can do it, use a unique URL for each ad so you can measure its success.  I’ve already explained why mobile-enabled web sites are important, so if you can, make sure yours is.

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One Response

  1. 1
    Matt Hanson  //

    Good writing. Keep up the good work. I just added your RSS feed my Google News Reader..

    Matt Hanson