Since 1979
The Top 12 Advertising Mistakes To Avoid

- Spending all your money on advertising but getting no results?
- Find out whether you’re guilty of committing one of these huge blunders
From Making Ads Work by Roy H. Williams

1.  The Desire for instant gratification

Most advertisers like to believe that advertising is like a bubble-gum machine.   You put your money in, turn the handle, and out come the results. 


The decision a person makes today is very rarely influenced by the ads she heard today, this week, or even this month.   You can attract the transactional customer that way, but the longer you keep doing what works immediately, the less well it will work.

It’s a law of the universe.   It’s true in agriculture, it’s true in physics, it’s true in chemistry and it’s true in advertising.  

Ask your Doctor how to feel good, and he’ll look you squarely in the eye and say “Eat right and exercise.”   Yet for every dollar spent on fitness clubs people spend nineteen dollars on cocaine.   The reason?   Two seconds after you snort cocaine you feel like Superman.   Two weeks of diet and exercise just makes you feel sore and hungry.

The desire for instant gratification is harmless enough if the only thing it leads you to do is to pay higher prices at a convenience store.   But heaven you if you demand instant gratification you’re your advertising!   The businessperson looking for a financial quick fix will soon discover the cocaine of advertising, 
a four letter magic chant:


Good advertising is painful at first because you don’t see immediate results.   The impatient business owner will usually snort a little ad cocaine and then get defensive about it: “How can this be bad for me?  I’ve never done better!” 

But just as the junkie never stops to consider how the drug is destroying his physical health, the business-owner never stops to consider how “SALE! SALE! SALE!” undermines his business health.   The first dose of ad cocaine makes him feel great.   So does the next and the next and the next- although it takes larger and larger doses to get the same effect.  Therefore, it is almost impossible to convince the addict he has a problem, even though he started with only “twenty percent off” and has now progressed to “half off.”   

Successful companies don’t spend their ad dollars training customers to wait for a sale.  

Price Promotions:

Summary of a report from the Research and Development Initiative

Does your organization spend a lot of resources on price promotions?   The latest price promotion report discusses the effects of price promotions on a product’s long term sales and profit potential.

In brief, price promotions:

1.  Do not attract new customers
2.  Do not lead to extra subsequent sales
3.  Do not affect repeat buying loyalty
4.  Do not reach many new customers

However, price promotions do produce up and down sales blips at a great cost. 

•       Ad Cocaine

Creating a short-term successful hype ad is simple

Here’s all you need
a)Intrusiveness.  You’ve got to get their attention
b)Offer.  Make it too good to pass up
c)Logic.  Add supporting evidence to make doubters believe
d)Urgency.  There’s got to be a time limit
e)Frequency.  Lots and lots of frequency

Leave out any of these ingredients, and you’re dead in the water

The trouble is with Ad Cocaine the advertiser becomes instantly addicted, but the law of the universe says “Anything that works quickly will work less well the longer you keep doing it.   The magic always fades.   Sadly, like all addicts, these advertisers resist taking a long-term view, and they continue to measure success on an extremely short-term horizon.   

Mitigating cocaine’s danger

Have you shouted “Sale” so often that customers now ask your salespeople “When will this go on sale?”   Do you find it more difficult to sell products that are not on sale?   Do you have a business cocaine habit you would like to kick, but worry about the financial withdrawal pains?  

You’d like to begin branding your name in the better customer’s long-term (chemical) memory instead of depending on a series of short-term (electrical memory) promotions targeted to the switchable for reasons-of-price-alone customer.  But you’re afraid to quit the short-term gimmicks because you’re worried that you won’t be able to survive the chickening out period between seedtime and harvest, right?   
Another thing that worries you is how long it’s been since you met anyone willing to pay full price.   Down deep, you worry that all customers are coupon clipping, grave robbing, bargain hunting predators who will never agree to buy from you unless they are convinced they’re getting “the deal of a lifetime.”

 Bottom line:  You have a history of attracting customers for reasons of price alone.   So how can you now begin attracting better customers without losing the coupon-clipping grave robbers too soon?

Answer:  Use a visual recall cue in a non-intrusive (silent) memory medium.   Run a newspaper ad with a large picture of what’s “on sale”!  But with your company’s name buried in the fine print.   The only people who will know it is your company having a sale will be those looking for your product.  

 The newspaper’s lack of intrusiveness, its principal weakness in long-term branding, now lets you advertise your Hurry! Hurry!   Once in a lifetime sale “anonymously.”  

 Humans don’t see unless they are looking.  The only people to notice the visual recall cue, the photo of your product, will be those looking to buy your product.   But humans hear and retain information even when they are not listening, so above all DO NOT use TV, or radio ads to stimulate response to the newspaper ad.   Unless, of course, you want to train everyone who is not now in the market to wait for your next sale.

During this newspaper-advertised “sale” allow your broadcast ads to continue building long-term brand awareness in the minds of your not yet in the market majority.  

The downsides of this technique:
1.You can’t get away with it forever if you keep it up, and soon you’ll be right back where you started
2.Because you will be maintaining two separate ad campaigns, your advertising costs will be way out of line throughout the three to six month period of transition
3.It isn’t painless and easy- it’s painful and hard-because sometimes the newspaper ads don’t pull

But if you’re truly committed to taking your company in a new direction, you will survive this difficult transition period and emerge from it more profitable, with more consistent customer traffic patterns and more stability throughout your customer base.   (Good advertising is painful at first because you don’t see immediate results)

2.  Attempting to reach more people than the budget will allow

Advertising schedules should be proposed and considered according to their reach and frequency.   That’s how advertising works

Reach (the total number of people who will hear your message) & Frequency (the number of times they hear it)

Think about it this way:  Would you rather reach 100% of the people and convince them 10% of the way of them or reach 10% of the people and convince them all the way?   The advertising cost is the same

Most advertisers reach too many people with too little repetition.   If they would only reach fewer people with sufficient repetition.   How much repetition is sufficient?

The average message must be received by the identical individual 3 times in 7 night’s sleep.

If you can not afford sufficient repetition during prime time, buy off time.  Why?   Because sleep erases advertising.   Reach fewer people, but reach them more often.

How many people can I afford to reach?

There are two critical ratios here…
1.How many dollars do you have to spend?
2.What is the cost of advertising in your marketplace?

Am I willing to give you a rule of thumb?  Yes, but it is a dangerous rule of thumb

The average business owner who is focused, and has a long term plan, can reach a person for about 2 dollars, 3 times a week, 52 weeks a year.   Two dollars per person.

If you have a $40,000 ad budget, you can dominate about 20,000 people.   That’s whether you’re in a town of 40,000 or a town of 4 million.   You have 
about a 20,000 person ad budget.   Don’t try and reach 100,000 people

Most advertisers are reaching too many people with too little repetition.   As a result, the only people they’re reaching effectively are the people that just accidentally happen to be in the market for the product right now.   They don’t have enough repetition to build ongoing brand awareness

If you’re going to try to win the heart of the customer before they need what you sell, you have to reach them repetitiously and patiently wait for them to 
be in the market for what you sell

What is “word of mouth” advertising?  It is the result of somebody having been impressed deeply.   How are people impressed deeply?   You’re good at what you do and they actually experienced it-or-you said something very memorable-something that surprised the hell out of Broca.   Saliency is what neurologists call it- you probably know it better as Relevancy.   If the saliency or relevancy was high in the message, it was memorable.   And they heard
it enough times to go from short term electrical memory to long term or chemical memory.   But you still need the frequency because of sleep, the great eraser of advertising that must be defeated.

Successful advertising is the result of good writing and strong frequency

Are you buying too much reach and too little frequency with your ad budget?   Have you bought into the myth of “media mix”?   Are your ads underproducing due to fragmented placement and poor scheduling?

By simply rearranging your current media schedules, you could dramatically increase the effectiveness of your ad budget

3.  Assuming the business owner knows best

The business owner is uniquely unqualified to see his company or product objectively.   Too much product knowledge leads him to answer questions no one is asking.   He is on the inside looking out, trying to describe himself to a person on the outside looking in.   It’s hard to read the label when you’re inside the bottle

Sometime it helps to bring in an objective outsider to give you some perspective

4.  Unsubstantiated claims

Advertisers often claim to have what the customer wants, such as “highest quality at the lowest prices,” but fail to offer any evidence.   An unsubstantiated claim is nothing more than a cliché the prospect is tired of hearing.   You must prove what you say in every ad.   Do your ads give the prospect 
information?   Do they provide a new perspective?   If not, prepare to be disappointed with the results

5.  Improper use of passive media

Nonintrusive media, such as newspapers and yellow pages, tend to reach only buyers who are looking for the product.   They are poor at reaching prospects before the need arises, so they’re not much use for creating a predisposition toward your company.   The patient, consistent use of intrusive media, such as radio and TV, will win the hearts of relational customers long before they’re in the market for your product

6.  Creating ads instead of campaigns

It is foolish to believe a single ad can ever tell the entire story.   The most effective, persuasive and memorable ads are those most like a rhinoceros:  They make a single point powerfully.   An advertiser with 17 different things to say should commit to a campaign of at least 17 different ads, repeating each ad 
to stick in the prospect’s mind

7. Obedience to unwritten rules

For some insane reason, advertisers want their ads to look and sound like ads.   Why?

8.  Late-week schedules

Advertisers justify their obsession with Thursday and Friday advertising by saying, “we need to reach the customer just before they go shopping.”   Why 
do these advertisers choose to compete for the customer’s attention each Thursday and Friday when they could have a nice, quiet chat all alone with her on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday?   

Memory is formed from images, but not of the images we have seen with our eyes.   Memory is formed from the images we have seen in the imagination.  For your ads to be effective, they must be recalled when the prospective customer has need of what you’ve advertised   Do you know how to make your 
ads memorable, or are you foolishly attempting to schedule your ads to the precise moment of the customer’s need?

Tell the customer WHY and wait for WHEN
Quit trying to predict his moment of need

9.  Over-Targetting

It’s a myth that you only need to get your message to the decision-makers.   In truth, decisions are seldom made in a vacuum

Each of you has a realm of association of approximately 250 coworkers, friends and family…people you play golf with..parents of children who play basketball or football with your kids…you go to church with them…you live in neighborhoods…you work with them…or they’re your blood relatives

Now if I could only afford to reach 10% of your community, and I needed to reach you, but you weren’t part of the 10% I was reaching, I wouldn’t worry about that.   Because I’ve still reached 25 of your best friends

I’m not going to target more people than I can afford to own.   I’m going to say something memorable…I’m going to say something persuasive…and pretty soon…

Many advertisers and media professionals grossly overestimate the importance of audience quality.   In reality, saying the wrong thing has killed far more ad campaigns than reaching the wrong person.   It is amazing how many people become “the right people” when you’re saying the right thing

The true secret of advertising success is to say the right thing to as many people as you can afford to reach over and over.   Word of moth advertising is
the result of having impressed someone, anyone, deeply

10.  Event driven marketing or expiration dated advertising

For each of our senses, the brain offers short-term and long-term memory.   Short-term memory is electrical.   Long-term memory is chemical.  

The objective of “branding” is to cause your product to be the one the customer thinks of first and feels best about when their moment of need arises.   Consequently, branding must be accomplished in the long-term memory.   No problem, it’s just a matter of repetition, right?   Wrong.   The brain, you see is a very smart organ.   It knows better than to transfer information into long-term memory when that information is flashing a “soon-to-expire” message in neon letters. 

This is for ads that make a “limited time offer.”  When an advertiser insists on trying to “whip people into action” with the urgency of a limited time offer,
they can be sure that their message will never make it into long-term memory.   At best, the message will stay in short-term memory only until the expiration date has passed and then it will be forever erased from the brain.  

Limited time offers, when they work, cause people to take action immediately.   The downside is that limited time offers don’t work better and better as 
time goes by.   In truth, they work worse and worse.   When an advertiser makes a limited time offer, the only thing that goes into long-term memory is “this advertiser makes limited-time offers.”   In essence, the advertiser is training the customer to ask, “When does this go on sale?”

Consequently, you cannot use a series of limited time offers as the foundation for a long-term branding campaign. 

A special event should be judged only by its ability to help you more clearly define your market position and substantiate your claims.   If 1% of the 
people who hear your ad for a special event choose to come, you will be in desperate need of a traffic cop and a bus to shuttle people from distant 
parking lots.   Yet your real investment will be in the 99% who did not come!   What did your ad say to them?

11.  Great production without great copy

Too many ads today are creative without being persuasive.   Slick, clever, funny creative and different are poor substitutes for informative, believable, memorable and persuasive

12.  Confusing response with results

The goal of advertising is to create a clear awareness of your company and its unique strength.   Unfortunately, most advertisers evaluate their ads by 
the comments they hear from the people around them.   The slickest, cleverest, funniest, most creative and most distinctive ads are the ones most likely 
to generate comments.   See the problem?   When we confuse response with results, we create attention-getting ads that say absolutely nothing

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