Advertising Doesn't Work

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As a marketing professional the familiar phrase, ‘I tried advertising, but it just doesn’t work,’ can be heard multiple times each day.  Pick a medium, the naysayers will pick it apart.  Radio doesn’t work.  TV doesn’t work.  On-Hold advertising doesn’t work.  Neither do billboards, print ads, ad-words or words with friends. The theory is we are so inundated with advertising that it is no longer effective.

In researching this topic I came across an article in Business Week from several years ago that rang true to me. I believe it may strike a chord with you as you wrestle with how to reconcile the ‘advertising doesn’t work’ mantra when it comes to your business.

Here is my take on five reasons why your advertising doesn’t work. 

1.       Your Advertising is Egocentric

If your advertising is self-centered, people will think the same about your products or services. Focus on your customer and their needs rather than how great your company is (or how bad the competition is).  Then, share how you can meet those needs.

2.       Your Advertising is Boring

Really, boring.  Advertising that fails to educate, entertain, or engage will not work.  It doesn’t matter what medium you choose. If your ad is informational valium, your audience will fall asleep and your ad won’t work.  Advertise something interesting or entertaining and customers will respond with their time and attention.

3.       Your Advertising has A.D.D.

The best advertisement communicates one single idea. Your ad isn’t working because you are trying to share too many ideas at once.  The temptation is there to tell them all the wonderful things you do.  Resist having Attention Deficit Disorder of the advertising persuasion.  Focus is our friend when it comes to advertising.

4.       Your Advertising Needs More Time

One ad placed one time will do one thing:  Waste money. Any advertisement takes multiple contacts over a period of time for that message to register. Think of your own behavior. How many times did you have to see the ‘check engine’ light before you took your car to the shop.  Give your ad the frequency and the time necessary to be effective.

5.       Your Advertising is not the Problem

Maybe your challenge is customer service failures or your cost structure is not competitive. Any homeowner knows it’s easier to paint the wall rather than fix the foundation that caused the drywall to crack.  All the advertising in the world won’t overcome defective products or constant, negative customer service letdowns.

If these areas don’t apply to you and you still believe advertising doesn’t work, try this.  Place this advertisement message on your on-hold program of your phone system, ‘We are giving away a brand-new car to one of our lucky customers this Friday at Noon! You must be present to win.’  But be prepared for the results of this test.  You’d better have plenty of room for the crowd.

You know, just in case advertising works.

Tom McTee, Super-Genius

Tom McTee