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What Makes Advertising Successful?

July 26, 2009

Sometimes I marvel at what makes successful advertising. In my local publications, the display advertising can range from beautifully written and designed to downright amateurish. The bottom line remains: Does it bring in business?

 There are many factors which feed into an ad’s success: the offer, timing, location on the page, size, visual design…. There is an insurance company ad I always remember for one thing: the guy in the photograph is bug-eyed. I always surprised that he doesn’t replace the photo when I see a new issue. But maybe his new customers come to him simply because they remember the somewhat goofy photo no matter what. Then there’s the highly simplistic ad I see week after week with the German shepherd photo – which has nothing at all to do with animals or pet care.

The one thing these ads have in common with the more professionally-prepared ads is their consistency. They show up. They’re always there. I can expect them. I can trust the business will be there. And that, in a nutshell, is ninety-nine percent of the game––showing up.

Sometimes I hear disappointment from someone that they didn’t get more business from a print ad. What did they expect if they didn’t run it more than once…or twice…or three times? The viewing public is fickle and skeptical. Some marketing experts will say you have to run your print ad in the same publication a minimum of seven times before you can expect new business to come in off the ad. I think that’s too broad a statement. Will your ad be remembered by someone after one viewing? Three? Or not for at least a dozen viewings? Everyone’s mnemonic sensibilities are different. There is no magic number.

What I do know is that it is the exception––not the rule––that you get a phone call off just one or two or three runs of an ad. And with internet advertising and social media picking up steam at a fast pace, the success of traditional advertising mediums is diminishing just as quickly.

The same thing goes for direct mail. Whether or not you send out a postcard, a letter in an envelope, or a self-mailer piece to a hundred or a thousand recipients, the chances of getting a one percent return on your investment is very slim indeed. Now repeat that process at least three times in a relatively short time period – once a week or once a month depending upon your strategy.

The single most important factor in your advertising strategy is thinking through the whole campaign. One print ad run does not make a successful campaign. If you saw an ad once and then it disappeared, what would you remember? Would you remember anything at all? Probably not. At best, it will look like you gave up or it was a mistake to run the ad because you didn’t reappear c-o-n-s-i-s-t-e-n-t-l-y.

It’s not the offer. It’s not the artwork. And it’s not the size. It’s showing up. Being there every time – whether you look really good or a bit goofy. Show your customer base that you’re there—time and time again.

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