Thoughts about Winning at Advertising

Here are my current mantras to get good advertising. We need to always constantly improve to be ahead of the competition. Constantly get rid of stuffs that do not work, and constantly bring in stuffs that DO work. Here are the 3 mantras for good advertising:

1) Accept full responsibility, don’t give excuses when things go wrong. Try lots of ideas for advertising, and be responsible for those that go wrong, as it helps you in going back to the right path.

2) Find out what’s good about your product, and exaggerate the benefits. Creative agencies like to use this. If your horse can jump over a small ditch, show on TV how your horse can jump over a canyon. Humorous, exaggerated, and likely to generate high recall for benefits.

3) Come up with taglines for your brands before you start an ad campaign. A tagline summarizes everything about the concept, so it helps to get you aligned throughout the campaign process.

Advertising that Brings in the Money

Part 1: Get Attention through Good Headlines. Here are five points that you should take note of when you craft your headlines.
What will product do for the consumers?
Don’t talk about yourself, talk about your customers all the time and their desires.
Be clear and specific on benefits. Don’t hide benefits behind clever words that give vague information on your benefits.
Don’t waste time on general statements, such as ‘We all need to eat fruits to be healthy’. EVERYBODY knows that already, and you just wasted space in your ad.
Evoke interest and curiosity.

5 fundamentals of a good headline are to get attention, give advantage, prove advantage, persuade consumers to buy, and finally ask for action.
Rewards of good headlines: convey concisely how they can save, gain and achieve something through your product, OR avoid undesirable conditions and prevent loss (more powerful). Loss prevention is more powerful than the motivation to gain something.

Be specific on details when you talk about time, dollars and ways your product works.
Words in successful headlines are how, here’s, which, who, where, when, what, why (specifics). Use paradox, colloqualism and unusual words (curiosity) to attract attention.
Use you, your, yourself. This attracts people to read your ad.
A negative approach can work, e.g. ‘Is your face affected by acne?’
Product makes other people think more of you, and admire you.
New is stronger than nostalgia, as newness means better.
Layout: Make it different, too simple, or very unusual, i.e. make it different from others to stand out.

Part 2: Show your benefits

People want to know what will your product do for them.
Think from manufacturer’s product understanding and consumers’ desire viewpoint.
6 motivational desires: better health/appearance, more comfort/money, greater popularity/social advancement, pride of accomplishment/business growth, old age security, increased enjoyment/leisure.
Down to earth thinking like the masses will increase your appeal to more people.
People who are more wealthy usually need even more facts and persuasion, and need basic human motivations. So write for the masses.
Good 1st paragraph: follow through with headline’s idea, short, can start with question, reward for reading promise in the headline.

Part 3: Give credibility to your claims and benefits

Give lots of proof throughout ad.
Proof needed because consumers are more skeptical, and consumers need facts to justify purchase.
Emotions to evoke desire, facts to give excuse and reason to buy. Persuade both the heart and the head.
Types of proofs that can be used are 1) Manufacturing: Company reputation, quality of materials, patents, 2) performance: achievement, testimonials from authority figures, popularity, demonstration, 3) others’ testimonies, awards, 4) guarantee, samples.
Testimonials should retain the colloqualism of the consumer, and use full name, photo. Don’t rephrase too much.
Understatement can carry more believability.
Dramatize the facts, e.g. used by swimming coaches who is under the sun all 7 days of the week.
Technicalities should translate into relevance for the consumers.

Part 4: Persuade them to buy

Sum up benefits, and help consumer to visualize how the product can help fulfill his desires, and how to get it easily. It appears just before call for action.
Can be negative, i.e. what prospect will lose by not buying.
It acts as a verbal sampling through words in copy. Paint in their mind a picture of what they will experience when they use your product.
Use a more intense, emotional, and urgent style of writing.

Part 5: Call for Action
You can ask them to 1) Go to stores. 2) Ask him to check his current products, 3) ask him to request for a sample, or give a limited time offer.
Give very liberal guarantees. Give until it hurts.
Always get them to do something, not nothing.

Advertising and the Mind

Emotions is the root to the success of an advertising campaign. Your ads need to generated positive emotions from readers, and they will reward your ads with attention, and possibly even purchase your advertised products.

The period of 1 week after seeing your ad has the greatest impact on purchase. So maximize reach for 1 week, not frequency. So as Erwin Ephron recommended, take the number of ads you can buy in a period, and air them with the same time duration between ads. Quite a nice and organized approach, don’t you think so? Another way is to make the ads appear frequently in the beginning, and then double the duration between ads as time progresses.

The more links between your new message and what the consumers know, the better the linkage. Link your message to things that are familiar to your target audience.

Do not assume that your target audience understands your ads as well as you do. Do tests on them.

A 15s ad will have 30% less spontaneous recall compared to a 30s ad, and also 13% less aided recall. Yes, it is not 50%, as longer ads have diminishing returns. But longer ads do increase recall.

The controversy comes in ads with long copies. Apparently they are weaker in generating emotional impacts, and reduces recall and recognition. My take is long copies are more persuasive, but you will need really interested consumers to read them. Long copies also turn away uninterested consumers far faster than a more visual and emotional ad.

For online ads, bigger sizes and more movements grab more attention.

Cost of advertising = reach x frequency x structural attention factors x creative impact

John Philip Jones concluded that effective ads are likeable, visual rather than verbal, and say something important and meaningful about the brand. Consumers like ads that are out of the ordinary, clear, relevant, entertaining and empathizes with them.

To better relate ad attention to sales, use same elements in ad on your products and in in-store displays. This helps to trigger memory linkage between ad message, product and displays. Put the brand logo in the first screen of TV ad as well, as some people will just switch off their mind when they see a seen before familiar ad. Be clear in ads, and use only 1 advertisement per period of time.

Use prime time for TV copies to get good reach. If you only sponsor a certain program, you may cause viewing fatigue among a small group of consumers, with high frequency.

Advertising Strategies of the 21st Century

The 21st century sees a different landscape for advertising, both for agencies and clients. Let’s take a look at some of the strategies that can be used effectively.

There is the theory of ‘disruption’. This is a technique that forces a brand out of its marketing comfort zone. It’s about breaking the rules. With a clutter of new brands coming into the stores, you need to stand out, and one of the ways is to break all the rules of the category. One example is the ‘Method’ household care brand, which doubles as a household decoration with its range of artistic bottles.

Next, is more accountability of online medium. Clients only have to pay for those who actually saw or clicked on their ads. They no longer have to pay for unsold magazines, or ads that did not even reach consumers eyes. This also eliminates tricks from some media channels that inflate their ratings to get higher pricing in advertisement.

There will be more integration between creative, media, research and production people. Clients now are expected to co-ordinate among all these different functions, but in the future, there will be one stop shops that tightly integrates research, creative, media and production. No longer will messages get lost in translation between the various functions.

New forms of communication will dominate such as word of mouth and viral marketing. I read my papers online, and ignore the banner ads. I don’t watch TV, but watches DVD of movies that are free of advertising. I ignore banner ads when I surf the internet. I drive, so I miss out all those advertising in train stations. So how do you reach a consumer like me? In the future, social network marketing, video game marketing and viral marketing will take over the world.

Advertising on demand. I need advertising when I want to make good choices. That’s when advertising becomes relevant to me. Hence, there may exist networks to collate and aggregate advertising and reviews on each product category.

Why Some Advertising Fails

Why do some advertising fail to increase sales or brand equity strength? There can be many reasons why an advertising campaign fails.

Here’s my take on it. You need to test the advertising campaign and its effect on sales. Test, and study the results. Research among consumers who have seen your ads. Ask them for their feedback. Research on how many people has seen your ads, and how many times. There may be some assumptions we made about our ads that turned out to be false.

The best thing we can get out of a bad advertising campaign is learning what’s wrong with it. Of course, this is provided the other elements such as distribution, service quality, resources, and the right media were employed. Out of the whole macro picture, we can derive some learnings from them. And then we can console ourselves that at least we know better what to do the next time.

Advertising Taglines

How to come up with good advertising taglines? Try referring to good past ads, and see if some of the headlines can be used as good taglines.

Or use a very compelling fact or benefit of your product, and use it as a tagline.

Never ever use taglines that sound cool, but with not much meaning, nor offer a compelling persuasion to buy your product.

The tagline often results from the strategy you have for the brand. Here are some tried and tested strategies used successful by different brands. Before and after using the product, advice (on category usage, enhancing life, e.g. how to take care of skin) and knowledge that you can impart to consumers (such as skincare ingredients). Use demonstrations, testimonials, heritage. Feature the owner of staff of the company. Position the product. Issue a challenge (game, dare), or compare with competitors (pepsi blind tasting contest). Reposition a perceived negativity of your brand (e.g. Avis). Show how your pricing is very attractive (Volkswagen). Be brutally honest (e.g. TCP antiseptic that tastes like bad medicine, but works).

What makes a good ad

“The advertising concept book” by Pete Barry gives a very good formula to create advertising. It is called SLIP IT. Smile (disarms defensiveness), laugh (same as smile), inform (new knowledge), provokes (emotional response), involves (connection, interaction), and think (makes you stop and think). Ultimately it is to convince and persuade the consumer to spend their money on your products or services.

Effective, creative advertising = impact (memorable, creative) + branding (sell product) + relevance (to target consumers).

Objectives of advertising need to be clear. Is it to grow market share or grow category? If the market share is high, then grow the category.

Is it to gain trial or get existing users to use more of the product? Again, high market share means you have to get existing users to use your products more.

Do you have a strong USP, or you just want to promote your brand name?

Use logical arguments for USP. For branding, go for something fun like mnemonics.

Always understand your target consumers as much as possible. Demographics include age, occupation and income. Understand behaviours and beliefs towards the category and product. Understand their lifestyle (what they do for leisure).

Write a good creative brief for the advertising agency. It should include the following elements: product/category/competitors, objectives, media to be used, target consumers, benefit, reason to believe, tone, and mandatories (what beliefs of consumers to change, focus, logo, call back mechanisms).

Basic components of a good print ad are: visual, headline, subhead, copy, logo, tagline.

When you have a long term advertising campaign, have the same strategy, campaign idea, tagline, proposition, tone, art direction and branding. The only things that should change are the visuals and headlines.

Advertising Approvals

The approval for advertising should be done by just a small group of core people, preferably one from the art side, one from the copy side, and another from planning or consumer research side.

Too many approvers or cooks spoil the broth or advertising. In the art of decision making, the quality and efficiency of making it is better if the approval team has less people.

Optimize Media for Advertising

How do we break through the clutter in the media for advertisements? Try using celebrities. I have tried celebrities and non-celebrities over the years. Celebrities help to increase recall for the ads. People who identify with the celebrities will also be persuaded to buy your brand. Such as Britney Spears for Pepsi.

Production of television for the media that you have chosen should not exceed 10% of the total media budget. Tell the creative agency before hand how much you can spend. Try reducing the number of casts, which is often the part of the production with the highest costs. Reduce celebrities, special effects, sets or locations. Give ample time of at least 9 weeks, else product cost to rush advertising will often be higher.

Do the advertising well, cos’ good advertising can run for a longer time. It should have a good idea relevant to benefits, and can be translated across various medium type. Save money by creating fewer and better ads.

Be simple. Ensure that the consumers immediately know your product category and brand name in your advertising regardless of medium.

For headlines, do not use fonts of varying sizes. Headlines are the most read text, so ensure they are of similar sizes for easy readability. Copy size should be 10 or more, the smallest of which is 9.

For posters, use visuals that tell a story, or striking visuals. 3D visuals work well in catching attention. 7-8 words are the max you should include in posters. Use bold, solid colors, not faded colors. Fonts should be 10 to 12 inches in height. Include call back responses, such as websites.

Publicize your website in every offline advertising. Include FAQs from consumers in your website. Search engine advertising may be in its infancy, but worth getting a head start there.

For direct mail advertisements, indenting or highlighting your offer paragraph will get you higher responses.

Logic and Emotions

To create great advertising campaigns, you need great concepts. These concepts are obtained usually from consumer studies. The concepts refer to brand promises or claims that resonate well with the target audience, and good concepts are those that are most persuasive as advertisements. This is the logic portion.

The emotional portion comes from the brand personality. Look at the Hathaway shirt advertisement. The advertiser can just detail the luxurious cutting and materials. But no, instead he added a man with a blind patch over one eye. A mysterious man that exudes uniqueness and confidence, an integral part of the brand personality.