Is YOUR ad agency doing this to you?

When David Ogilvy, one of the greatest advertising masters of all time implored, “Don’t tell me you like the ad … tell me you want to buy the product!” … he absolutely nailed it.

What Ogilvy was saying loud and clear, is that advertising isn’t about being creative, or about winning industry awards for ad agencies, or about being funny. Advertising is the serious business of generating sales and profits for the organisation it represents.

Now, of course that doesn’t mean a great ad can’t be funny, or clever. There are many examples of funny clever ads that have both won awards and sales. But they are a rarity. And typically, they are the result of a lot of serious market research and analytical analysis of the target demographic.

Sadly, many ad agencies don’t get it. They trade on ‘clever’ and ‘funny’. And sadly, they DO win awards within their peers, while the client is sitting with no phones ringing with orders, no enquiries coming in, and no sales to show for it.

Have a look at these small teaser ads. (I’ve changed the company name for obvious reasons.) Now, I suspect that if you saw these ads in the media, you might give a chuckle. You wouldn’t laugh though if it were YOU paying that ‘clever’ copywriter to indulge themselves in showing off their prowess at playing with words. Clever ads RARELY work.

Can you imagine ANYONE going into their local supplier (of course, the ads don’t TELL you where to go, you’d have to guess!), and asking for this product as a result of these ads? In fact, when you consider it, the market they’re probably intended to appeal to would tend to be offended by these ads. They may actually LOSE sales for the company.

Well, YOU be the judge …

Now if you THOUGHT those were good ads, I can understand why. You see, we’ve been brainwashed by the ‘arty’ creative types in the ad agency world that that is what advertising had to be! Again, I make the qualification that, on rare occasions, you’ll get a clever TV commercial or magazine ad that absolutely rips up the record books on producing sales. But they tend to be the result of research and not some misguided copywriters fantasy of what they think works.

What if YOUR business rested on your choice out of these two ads?

I’ve had a LOT of fun with the following two ads over the years at my seminars. I put these two ads up on the screen and ask the audience of business owners to pick the one that they believe will be the winner in the sales generating stakes. (Before you read on, pick YOUR winner. No cheating!):

These ads are reproduced from John Caples’ classic, “Tested Advertising Methods”. He explains that these two ads were ‘split run tested’. That means, they ran in the same paper, on the same page, on the same day. How? There are multiple print presses used in printing up a newspaper, so printing press ‘A’ can have ad ‘A’, and press ‘B’ can have ad ‘B’ … then when they’re ‘shuffled’ as they come out the other end to be bundled up and sent off for distribution, they offer the PERFECT split run test!

So, which one did you choose as the winning ad? If you chose ‘Popular Secretary Caught Red Handed’, you’ve got a LOT of company. Consistently over 90% of my seminar attendees vote for this ad. But if you thought you’d picked the winning ad, you would be seriously disappointed. ‘Hundreds Changing to Fragrant Frostilla’ outpulled it by 89%!

People ask me WHY did this ad pull better. The real answer is, ‘Who cares, it DID!’.

Seriously though, it is a powerful lesson in effective marketing. It tells you that the ad YOU may like, or even love, may well be costing you dearly in lost sales. You owe it to yourself to TEST your message. You owe it to yourself to measure the responses to all your marketing collateral.

And if you use an ad agency, you owe it to yourself to have them demonstrate to you their track record in producing SALES generating advertising. If an ad agency reels backwards at the suggestion that their creative work should be MEASURED, and that you want to track the number and quality of responses to the ads they produce, maybe you need to be talking to a new ad agency.

As with ALL your marketing, you want RESULTS, not just someone’s idea of funny or clever ads. To make sure you’re getting ads that produce results, get ‘How to Write and Design your OWN Marketing Collateral’. It is your simple guide to creating solid effective ads that PAY. And sales letters. And brochures. And website copy. You may not win too many ad agency industry awards, but the sound of the cash registers ringing in your ears will make up for it!

Chris Newton