When Ads Aren’t Advertising

Not an adSome advertising isn’t advertising at all. It just takes advertising space and usually precious advertising dollars to achieve a different company purpose.

Consider these examples where ad space is used to:

  • Announce a new professional or service employee
  • Announce lists of employees with long service
  • Thank sponsors or volunteers for a particular event
  • Promote a preferred charitable endeavor

Each is a legitimate use of space or time, but should not come out of an advertising budget. They are not effectively advertising the business, but fulfilling a different role.

But, you might argue, “Announcing a new employee such as a famed doctor or hair dresser is advertising how our business has captured a great new talent and it will drive traffic to our business from those who follow this person.”  True to a degree, but it’s also likely true that the talent came with a “book” of their own and have already emailed and called regulars to announce their new location. More often, this type of ad is used as an ego-soother, just to make the new employee happy, and even might have been part of a negotiated package to bring them to a business from a competitor.

The same could be said of the next two bullets.  The ads are goodwill to employees, volunteers and sponsors.  A personal thank you note or gift may have worked as well and even been less expensive.

The last bullet is a charitable donation not an ad spend.  It’s a legitimate way to help a cause or organization gain recognition that it cannot afford on its own.  In this case, the ad should be written to promote something about the charity so that the ad works hardest for the cause being promoted. Then the ad is an ad, but not for the business paying the bill. For that business, the charge should be seen on the books as a valued, and likely non-deductible charitable donation unless the donation is given to the charity directly to purchase the ad space on their own. Many charities welcome and desire this type of donation over cash, because it improves their own effectiveness to  raise donations, or encourage volunteers from others.

Dollars for these types of ads should, ideally, come out of marketing budgets, HR budgets, or community service budgets for larger companies. For smaller companies, they should also be allocated to a non-advertising line to be accounted for accordingly and not skew the company’s review of its own ad effectiveness at year’s end.

Last, but not least is image advertising. Large companies know not to look for an ROI in dollars with image advertising because it’s not the purpose of the ads.  Instead, they might measure awareness effectiveness. The lesson in this is that not all ads are equal. Don’t judge them all the same way or look for the same metrics in reviewing their effectiveness as each serves a distinctly different purpose.

 The Walk-Away:  Advertising is a serious and not inexpensive endeavor. If using advertising space for reasons other than directly advertising a business, don’t allocate the dollars from your advertising budget.  Spend them from lines that allow you to see what you did during the year in an honest way, and allow you to measure true advertising results accurately.

How to Multiply Ad Effectiveness

multi-legsIn an new booklet called What Business Are You In?, media consultants Paul Kurnit and Steve Lance give a quick 50-page overview of what most businesses need to know to start a sensible marketing plan. Many businesses ask “what media should I be in?” The answer on page 29 states:

“Your communication plan should identify the vehicles and platforms that will best connect with your consumer… How can you best reach your consumer multiple times in multiple ways at multiple times of day that will inspire multiple sales opportunities and occasions?”

In case you missed it, the key word is “multiple.”  In advertising this is frequently called “Frequency,” and is often overlooked by small- and medium-sized businesses.

Ad studies show that consumers need to be “touched” several times to integrate a message into their psyches.  One quarter-page ad run four times is more powerful than one full-page ad, because of frequency. This is not to denigrate full-page ads.  Size does matter, and one full-page ad run four times is more powerful than both a quarter-page ad run four times, or a full-page ad run one time.

This is not just a print formula. It’s an ad formula. For instance, one 30-second spot on radio is more likely to not only be heard, but remembered if it’s run multiple times either over a day, week, or month. It’s the reason you’ll sometimes hear one 30-second ad run twice in the same minute.  We know people hear without listening, listen without retaining, and only retain after a message breaks through to their brains after multiple repeats. As our mothers long suspected, things really do go in one ear and out the other. The goal of effective advertising is to get the message stuck in a brain before it exits out the other ear.

When considering an ad campaign, frequency can’t be discussed frequently enough. It’s what makes one message into multiple messages and multiplies the effectiveness of any ad campaign. Even famous Superbowl TV commercials don’t run once. They just get their debut at the Superbowl and then, if they don’t bomb with the public, are the start of a usually much longer campaign.

 The Walk-Away:  A step is not a walk. One ad is not a campaign. To get anywhere in advertising, make sure your ads aren’t just one step forward, but a true walk toward getting you the results you want.

How Does Social Media Make Money for You?

trust-agentsSmall- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are increasingly asking how they can create a presence on Facebook and other social media sites. But they should also be asking how that presence will make them money. If Facebook or any other type of media doesn’t help you make money, it simply isn’t working correctly for you. It doesn’t necessarily mean the media is wrong, but it likely means you’re not using the media correctly. This is as true of newspaper and TV advertising as it is of Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr.

I recently attended a webinar by Chris Brogan, a well-known and respected modern media guru and author of the 2010 best-selling book Trust Agents – Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation and Earn Trust. More recently, he’s published the book The Impact Equation subtitled “Are you making things happen, or just making noise?” With 112,464 Google+ followers and 7,062 Facebook likes, you’d think Brogan would be a raving social media fanatic. But, in a recent talk sponsored by Market Wire, an online PR distribution service, Brogan stated, “My bank gives me no loans based on Facebook likes.” And therein lies a huge story.

In an earlier post, Shannon Miranda wrote about Mike Blinder  author of Survival Selling Even in The Toughest Times. Blinder has been known to say most small business websites and Facebook pages are tantamount to having a billboard in a basement. Their digital presence doesn’t work for two key reasons: First because no one sees their page, and secondly because no one would want to. Many SMBs are crazed to get a Facebook page, fearful they may be missing out on some important and cheap social media marketing tool and may get left behind. But even if  you have 7,000 fans like Brogan does, how can it be monetized so a bank loan officer cares when you come a calling? More importantly, how does a small business use Facebook and all the other social media platforms to drive business and create revenue?

It’s worth studying Brogan. If you go on his website, Facebook site, or Google+, you’ll see he’s dedicated to educating people about his areas of expertise. Then, he makes sure his most loyal followers are aware of his offerings and get the best deals on things that he sells from speaking engagements to book sales to online courses. That revenue is what he  shows to his banker for mortgage financing and other financial ventures.

How does this apply to you? 

Let’s pretend you’re a local jeweler and have a Facebook site. Are you merely posting coupons for jewelry or creating posts that hype ongoing sales? Or, instead, are you teaching people about gold and diamonds and new jewelry designers? Can you occasionally post a coupon? Sure, but most SMBs only post sales notices and very few help educate the public, or position themselves as experts in their field.

What’s the better question? “How can I position my business as the go-to resource in my area of expertise for my  community of motivated clients?” Facebook and Google+ will likely be part of the answer, but only a part.

The Walk-away:  The key to business marketing is not more marketing, or even more social media marketing. It’s knowing the right question to ask and then getting it answered both for your own positioning and to drive the right customers to walk in your door.

Real Estate Study Shows What Advertising Works

In real estate advertising, a recent study shows that print and digital ads are a powerful combination. Seeking to determine effects of both print and digital advertising on effectively selling a home, the study found:

Homes for sale that are advertised in both print and online are 20% more likely to be sold than those that use just one medium.

Furthermore, the study showed that “properties that used a combination of both print and online advertising had lower discount levels and spent less time on the market.” The study, considered the first of its kind,  was conducted by News Limited, the majority owner owelcome matf Australia’s website realestate.com.au,  to determine what marketing worked in moving more than a half million properties within a 12 month period.

Previously, realtors swapped information on what they thought worked or didn’t in advertising campaigns, but the field was sorely lacking in valid statistical data. The industry in the U.S. is great at tracking metrics on homes for sale, homes listed, and prices achieved, but has a lack of information on what fosters the sale. The Australian study starts to shed light on advertising effectiveness that can be insightful not only for American realtors, but other small to medium-sized retail operations in the U.S, namely:

  • Inventory that sells fast tends to not to have to be discounted.
  • Using a combination of print and digital advertising increases exposure for items you have to sell.
  • The added exposure can increase your advertising return by up to 20%.

The Walk-away: When creating your media plan to sell inventory, don’t just think of one medium. Print and digital are a strong combination. Because of their strong local reach, the print/digital combo should be the foundation of any local advertising program, with other medium added for effect.

Visibility and Traffic in Advertising

billboard_77386345What do business locations and advertising have in common? Both, if chosen and used carefully, bring the two elements of visibility and traffic to foster business growth. Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) generally have an easier time understanding the importance of location and visibility in choosing real estate than they do with choosing advertising, but the principles are the same.

A business that can’t easily be found loses traffic – both planned and serendipitous. If a trip to a business is planned, and it’s too hard to find the location, a consumer can simply give up. And if the location is not easily seen from main roads, a business can lose impulse traffic from those just passing by.

The same holds true for business advertising regardless of medium. For instance, outdoor bulletins on unlit billboards can’t be seen at night and the extra fee for billboards with lighting is likely worth the expense in added visibility for evening hours particularly during winter months. On TV, ads positioned at 2AM or even 2PM have far less visibility than ads positioned during prime time or news hours. In newspapers, ads positioned on key editorial pages and designed large enough to dominate share of space gain much higher visibility than ads that are smaller and stacked with other ads. There are different ad positions for higher visibility and targeted to specific audience based on your advertising objectives.

The key to ad visibility is clarity and not making a consumer choose between viewing your ad or someone else’s. It’s the reason that half billboards (where two advertisers each take one half of a billboard) are never recommended. Motorists barely have time to read one ad while speeding by at 60 mph, much less two.

The Walk-away: One key to advertising success is to insure that ad placement gives you a great location for consumers to see you and that the ad is positioned  in such a way as to be clearly visible without fighting with other ads for consumer attention.

The Power of Measured Media

mismatched shoesThere’s a reason advertising rates are radically different for different media partners. The short answer is: “Not all media are equal.” The longer answer lies in the term: Measured Media.

Measured media, by definition, is exactly what it says. But measurements vary widely. The first rule in paying for media is to make sure it’s measured. The second rule is to determine if the measurement is credible — done by a third party resource, or auditor. Media that is audited can prove through outside resources the claims they make on reach and demographics. Then, since you know what you’re paying for, the cost to affiliate with these legitimate outlets is also usually higher, but definitely more valuable.

It is true that there is no such thing as a free lunch and also true that cheap lunches can get you food poisoning. The same is true in advertising. Free media means it has no value. If someone is giving you a spot for free, you know they couldn’t sell the spot. If they could have, they would have. This is particularly true in broadcast with a set 24-hour cycle and a set amount of spots to offer.  Morning drive programs in radio, for instance, are very popular and filled with paid spots because of their proven reach. Discounted or free ads, as a result, rarely if ever run during morning drive time. Free spots are commonly run in the wee morning hours and on weekends when paying customers won’t pay for the radically reduced reach, listenership, or viewers.

With measured media, measurements vary by type of media. Outdoor billlboards use traffic numbers called DECs, or daily effective circulation, provided by the Traffic Audit Bureau. The numbers tell you how many cars are likely to pass a billboard, but not how many people actually see the ad. The measurements are credible and allow a buyer to value one billboard over another. News in print is measured by Scarborough, broadcast stations are measured by Nielson or Arbitron, and online sites are generally  measured either by  Comscore , Alexa or Google Analytics. These third party research agencies are reliable and stake their reputations on being unbiased, although they can’t always be used to measure one type of media against another.

Social media historically had no measurements except followers or likes, which did not measure anything but one-time popularity. As it gets more sophisticated, especially in terms of taking advertiser dollars, the Facebooks of the world are providing metrics, but unlike with other measured media, their measurements are their own. By definition, it makes the numbers worthy of some skepticism.

So if you’re considering a discount coupon on the back of a grocery receipt or a Facebook ad, know that you are getting what you pay for. In the first instance, you have no idea how many people actually see or care about your ad. You only know how many times it was printed out by the register. With Facebook, you get more refined demographic reach, but again have to rely on Facebook’s word, not a third-party provider, that you received the impressions you wanted. Neither are measured media, just media with a measurement. There’s a huge difference.

The Walk-Away:  In advertising as in everything else in life, you get what you pay for. It ‘s the reason a Superbowl ad costs millions, Facebook ads are close to free and there are all levels of media costs in between. Make sure you’re buying media by what you need and not just by what it costs, or you could end up with a bargain that’s really no bargain at all.

Six Types of Ads for Effective Marketing

group legs 45363100How do you know if an ad works? If your only answer is “by sales,” then you’re missing the point of most advertising and are likely shorting yourself on the full marketing power ads can bring to your marketing mix. Here are 6 of the more common categories of ads and how they might work for you:

1. Image Ads – Used to make your brand top of mind for key audiences. By definition, these tend to be larger-sized ads, beautiful, well-designed with little writing but a big message, because they are geared to create an “image.” They are generally done by large brands, but should not be ignored by smaller retailers and brands. If possible, co-op dollars can be used to help promote image ads locally.

2. Traffic Drivers – Also frequently considered loss leader ads. These are used to get customers into a store enticed by a great bargain. The upselling and real potential sales come after the customer is at your site. Inserts and sales circulars are generally traffic driver ads.

3. Impulse Sales – Used to create demand for a product that may be unknown to a consumer. It’s a type of traffic driver, but unlike the loss leader can be for a high-end item such as the iPad mini or Google Nexus tablet during the holiday season. A key point of an impulse sale ad is “limited time” or “limited inventory.”  Mobile ads are generally impulse sale ads, but print and online display ads can create impulse as well.

4. Foundational Positioning Ads – These are used to differentiate you from the competition and introduce you to new customers. Grand Opening ads if done well can be positioning ads, creating a foundation for letting the consumer know who you are and why you are worth a try. These types of ads can and should be run in some periodic schedule so your value proposition is clear at all times. Portions of a foundational ad can be included in other ads, and frequently summarized are seen as tag lines, but a true foundational ad tends to be larger and provide proof of performance or positioning.

5. Good Neighbor Ads – In a sense, they are a type of foundational ad, but with a very specific purpose of proving your involvement and commitment to the community. They are distinctly separate from sales and can be sponsorship ads of charitable organizations, or “hats off” ads to local service providers. They only ring true if done outside of any disaster PR efforts. For instance, BP ads for the Gulf Coast are not Good Neighbor Ads. They are mia culpa ads used to regain some lost reputation. Good Neighbor ads are truly philanthropic and in line with a company’s mission or local commitment to a cause. They create affinity for like-minded consumers, but have no sales initiative.

6. Employee Motivational Ads – Many company’s say employees are their greatest asset, and way too few take out ads to let the world know how much they value their employees. These can include service award ads, welcome our new employee ads, honor our high service level employee ads. It’s hard to measure the goodwill they create, but they are usually framed and pinned to employee’s walls to show how much the external publicity is valued internally.

All ads, by definition, are Engagement Ads . They should make people want to be affiliated or involved with your brand, product or service to some degree or another. But, they are not all geared toward an instant or short-term sales.

The Walk-away: Ultimately every business needs sales to stay in business, but different ads serve different purposes. Each is a worthwhile investment if you are clear on your goals and are measuring results accordingly.

Put Benefits in Your Ad Headlines

Advertisers and marketers frequently make one huge blunder. They forget about benefits. They get so focused on WHAT they have to sell, they forget to tell consumers WHY they should buy. The Why’s can take many forms:

  • Why buy from you
  • Why the product/service will make life easier for them
  • Why now
  • Why something is different

In advertising, you don’t have to answer all “why’s” at one time. In fact, you shouldn’t. But, as a rule of thumb, every ad should address at least one “why” prominently somewhere in the ad, preferably the headline or in the lead.

This was highlighted recently in Scarborough research pulled for a local auto dealer. The data showed that the primary reasons consumers from Atlantic and Cape May counties bought a car from a dealer within the last year had less to do with model selections and price and more to do with service, warranty and a dealer’s reputation. For those who actually purchased cars within the last 12 months of the research, service indexed 265 while price/value indexed 100 and model selection surprisingly indexed 85. With 100 as the baseline, this means, that an adult in the market for new cars is 165% more likely to buy based on service and 15% less likely to buy based on model. Although price is a consideration, it doesn’t rate higher than a dealer’s reputation or concerns about  service and the warranty. Local consumers want cars that won’t cost them a fortune after they’ve driven off the lot!

Knowing this information, now take a look at most auto ads in newspapers and other media outlets. Almost every ad hypes make, model and price. This works for national manufacturer ads as the big three want to entice you to look at their latest models, none of which they sell directly to consumers. But, if you’re a dealer, the data shows that your local ads should promote your service record, warranties and reputation. Sadly, there are few examples of these to show.

The Walk-away: If you can’t answer at least one “why” question in your ad copy, it’s time to ask yourself a different question: “Why are you spending your money on advertising?” If it’s to gain customers, then at least address the question why someone should buy from you versus a competitor. Pick a  “why” question and  address it in your ad copy! Make sure your ad answers that question clearly and prominently so the right customers drive to your door.

Media Planning Requires Data over Ego

Here are three key tips for creating an effective media plan that gets your ad message out to potential customers:

  1. Never assume you are the customer.
  2. Don’t buy media to reach customers for your company based on your own habits.
  3. Don’t buy media based on your family’s media habits, particularly your mother’s.

The first two tips were recently re-emphasized in a study presented by the Media Behavior Institute  (MBI) during Advertising Week. As reported in Media Daily News, it found that “media pros are much more likely to be heavy users of digital media – particularly mobile and social – and are much less likely to use traditional media such as TV and radio than average customers.”

Since media pros are frequently those making media buy recommendations to business owners, it’s important to always look at data when evaluating a media plan. Can you define your core demographic and geographic reach? Is the media buy based on reach numbers targeted to your potential customers where they live and work?

Unfortunately, entrepreneurs are more likely to shoot from the hip and buy media that is either inexpensive or matches their own viewing habits. It’s the key reason behind so many car dealers pitching themselves and their families on late night local TV.  It’s an ego buy, not necessarily an effective buy — hence tip 3. Just because your mother saw you, doesn’t mean a potential customer did, nor was necessarily motivated to buy.

When buying media keep in mind this quote from MBI’s executive director of marketing Mike Bloxham:

“We all view the world from our own eyes. If we find as a community that we are markedly different from the communities that we are trying to communicate with and engage for our brand clients, that is a real challenge.”

The only antidote is data. Ask for it from any media or ad agency representative and then make your media buy accordingly. The key is objectivity. Keep your ego and mother out of it and you’ll increase your chances for an effective decision.

The Walk-away:  As your mother used to say – Never judge another person until you’ve walked in his or her shoes. Advertising is the same. Write an ad from the customer’s point of view and place it based on the customer’s media habits not your own.

Why Great Advertising Can Be Grammatically Incorrect

“Advertising is the spoken word in print.”

This is one of 52 small ideas that make a big impact from “The Little Blue Book of Advertising.”

What it means is: Grammar is best reserved for college essays, and may not have a place in effective advertising. Don’t agree? Take a moment to try and …

Think Different.

Remember that effective tag line from the 1997 Apple campaign? If not, here’s the TV spot that is still studied today as a classic. It still serves to position Apple as the product for alternative thinkers. By all accounts it worked as effective advertising. And, it’s grammatically incorrect. To get an A on an English exam, the copywriter would have written it “think differently,” and it would not have resonated or had the ad impact it did.

Advertising is fundamentally meant to “speak to” an intended audience, which is why the spoken tone is considered more effective than the grammatically correct written word.

If you’re proofing an ad for either yourself or someone else, here’s a tip:

Don’t read it quietly.

Read.

It.

Aloud.

Does the ad sound right? This tip holds for print ads as much as for radio spots. In print, readers read the ad in their own voices in their heads. Make sure the ad sounds right and it will have a better chance of resonating with your intended customers. And, if need be, keep it grammatically incorrect.

The Walk-away: Even in print, ads are meant to be ‘spoken’. If your ad doesn’t resonate in a genuine voice in a reader’s head they will discount your message as disingenuous. People like to do business with people who either “sound” like them, sound as they aspire to be.

 

Post originally appeared on AdsWithLegs blog created for The Press of Atlantic City, October 2012.