Diary of an Ad Man

Advertising Theory


What Is Advertising?

As I recall the story…

in about 1910 Albert Lasker put the word out on the street that he wanted to know the exact definition of advertising. Lasker was the head of the largest advertising agency in the world at that time. The way ad agencies got their start was way back in the late 1800’s… a few guys bought up huge blocks of blank magazine and newspaper pages at steep discounts… then they would go out and sell the pages to businesses at full price and keep the change. One thing led to another and before long they were creating the ads for the business owners, who then bought the page.

Over the course of many years, various marketers keep track of what worked in advertising and what did not. They did this mostly by coupon orders. If advertising “A” brought in more cash orders than advertising “B”… then they would take note. Many factors were considered. Price points. ($9.97 seemed to work better than $9.95, etc.) Offers. (Buy one, get one free- seemed to work better than 50% off) etc.

Before all of these elements were tracked and codified… Mr. Lasker was still puzzled as to a clear definition of advertising. So the search was on.

In the 1800’s the guys who knew the most about advertising were the various companies that sold patent medicines by mail. Dr. Shoope’s patent medicine was a HUGE marketer at the time. His two leading copywriters were John E. Kennedy and Claude Hopkins.

Kennedy was looking for a new job and had heard that Mr. Lasker was looking for the definition of advertising. Kennedy showed up one day and sent a note up to Mr. Lasker’s office.

“I know the definition of advertising. I know that you don’t know. If you would like to know, meet me at the bar downstairs.” read the note.

After a few beers, here’s what Kennedy said to Lasker: “Advertising is salesmanship in print.” Today, we would have to say that advertising is salesmanship multiplied by media. Why? Because you can use everything from billboards to web sites. But if you ignore that advertising is salesmanship you’re in big trouble.

Below you’ll find my notes on the various elements you must use in your advertising to move your advertising from the “expense” side of the ledger to the “asset” side of the ledger. After all, if you have a salesman who does not sell, you don’t lose too much. But if you have an ad that does not sell, you stand to lose a lot.


Use a HEADLINE: Get the prospect’s attention FAST.

Far too many ads and web sites don’t use a headline. This is a waste. Why? Because the reader wants to know what he’s getting into. His time is valuable. If he really is interested in say… a trip to Florida… he will be more excited to read a message entitled: SPEND 3 DAYS AND TWO NIGHTS IN MIAMI NOW FOR ONLY $199.

FIVE RULES ABOUT HEADLINES:

1.

Mention the prospect and his interests.
Use the words YOU or YOUR in your headline. “How You Can…” “Protect Your Family With This New…” If you’re not going to use the word YOU, you can certainly IMPLY it. “Aching Back?” Etc.

2.

Promise big benefits. (Sizzle?)
There is a difference between a “feature” of your product or service and a “benefit” to using your product. Every Lexus or BMW has a coat of paint. No one buys a coat of paint. But they do buy “styling”… “beauty”… “luxury”… “Pride of ownership”, etc.

3.

Use NEWS to the point.
The whole world is glued to the news. We buy newspapers and log into countless web sites to see what’s new. If there is something NEW about your product or service, people what to hear. Use the words “ANNOUNCING” or “FINALLY”. Many smart marketers make their ads or web sites look and feel like a new article. “DATELINE: FLORIDA” ETC.

4.

Provoke curiosity. (If you can do it pertinently.)
This is a tough one. The best ad I know of that used curiosity pertinently was Sackhiem’s ad DO YOU MAKE THESE MISTAKES IN ENGLISH. Many people read the ad because they were curious to see if THEY were making mistakes. In the 1910’s or 20’s the master marketer Claude Hopkins was trying to sell a butter substitute made of pig fat. He masterfully had the WORLD’S LARGEST CAKE made and took the cake on tour city by city. The crowds to see the world’s largest cake were so huge city cops were always called in to control the crowds. This was long before TV and American Idol. When the crowds filed by to see the cake, they saw a little sign on the cake “This Cake Was Made With CottoSweet- Not Butter.” (CottoSweet or CottoLean was the butter substitute.) The cake was a curiosity. They sold a lot of that butter substitute.

5.

Mention your product(s) in a favorable light.
Here is an Ogilvy headline that uses this idea: AT 60 MILES AN HOUR THE LOUDEST NOISE IN OUR NEW ROLLS ROYCE IS THE ELECTRIC CLOCK. As I recall the story of that ad, it only ran twice in a magazine. But Ford Motor company spent a years worth of advertising money shouting that their car was quieter than a Rolls Royce.

AROUSE INTEREST AND CREATE DESIRE.

6.

Immediately enlarge on the promise of the headline.
If your headline does it’s job of capturing the attention of the right kind of people (prospects) you had better keep whetting their appetite by enlarging on the promise.

7.

Tell your story in the first paragraph.
You might not get them into the 14th paragraph… so do your job as fast as you can.

8.

Emphasize one basic idea.
You cannot sell more than one thing at a time. Unless you’re that store in the little town of Nacusp, Canada that sells goldfish AND computers. Even if you’re a catalog, you must have ONE basic idea. A computer catalog should not sell gold fish.

9.

Clearly tell the BENEFITS (Sizzle?) the prospect will gain.
Don’t… Don’t… Don’t… leave it up to the reader to instantly see the benefits he/she will get. Tell them. Tell them plainly. Then, enlarge on the benefits. Most people need a bunch of reason rattling around in their head to make a buying decision. Why? Because they know that sooner or later someone at the office is going to ask them WHY they bought that item. They will need to justify the purchase to themselves and to others. It’s part of life.

1O.

Present the selling points to deliver those benefits. (Present the steak that makes the sizzle believable.)
Credibility and belief are heavy concepts in the advertising universe. If they don’t BELIEVE you… you won’t get the sale. In the 1930’s the Marx Brothers set up a table in downtown New York and tried to give away $5 bills. No one would take the money. They felt there must be strings attached. The promise of benefits sounds hollow without PROOF as to HOW the benefits can and will be delivered. If you’re selling PURE water… that wet stuff had better come from 3,000 foot deep wells… or distilled using glass distillers… or whatever.

11.

Show that your product(s) is easy, economical, and agreeable to use.
Remember, it’s not just your product or service that you’re selling. You’ve got to sell them on just how easy it is to buy and use. It’s not just an investment of money you’re asking for. You’re asking them to commit to time and energy to buy from you and use your product. Do you have convenient parking? Will I have to buy a new computer to use your software? Do I have to build a bigger garage to park a new Hummer in it? A buying decision sometimes includes many factors that are not readily apparent.

12.

Use sex and prestige appeals if you can.
One could argue that almost everything we do has the sex drive behind it. The clothes we wear… the cars we drive… the books we have on our shelf (does anyone have books anymore?) all are because of the image it projects. Diet? – Sex appeal. Pointy-toed shoes? – Sex appeal. Corner office? – Sex appeal. Tony Robbins’ self-confidence tapes? – Sex appeal. Since the early days of man, we get it that if we don’t procreate (sex appeal) there is no future. Our genetic line… will end if we don’t have sex appeal. However, if you’re selling TAX SOFTWARE… you’re out of luck.

13.

Use negative inferences. (That is, to show ills avoided by purchasing your product.)
This idea has real power. There are two major motivational directions people move into. They either move TOWARD pleasure or they move AWAY from pain. Most marketers could use both directions in their marketing. For example: Buy my product and you will increase your income. If you don’t you’ll continue in your frustrating miserable existence with that nagging feeling that you really should have bought it sooner.

DISTINGUISH YOUR OFFER

14.

Favorable comparison with others.
If there is a leader in the field, it might help you to ride on their coattails. Remember the Ford mention above… they were comparing themselves with Rolls Royce.

15.

Make points of contrast and superiority.
Remember, don’t leave it up to your prospect to see the distinctions. Point it out. Prove it.

16.

Use “Only” and exclusive features.
If you’re selling Fords in an average size city, you’ve got 5 or 10 other Ford dealers to compete with. Yes, you are limited to some degree on what you can say about Fords… but your dealership is different right? Is it open till 10 P.M.? Do you offer 3 week trade-in guarantee? Will you double the trade-in value? Find “only” and exclusive features.

17.

Make exceptional claims you can support.
Quite often, you can’t make exceptional claims. Why? Because all or most of your competitors are offering the same thing. But, most of your competitors are NOT making those claims. If you make the claim and can support it… they will look like they are being a copy-cat if they imitate your claims.

18.

Compliment the prospect if you can.
Attention Homeowners… or… Attention Smart Homeowners. PICK ONE. Everyone feels they are smarter, wiser, better, than the average Joe. In fact, if you flatter your buyer, you get more buyers. Imagine that. If you’re selling diet pills, you don’t say to your prospect, “You dumb fat bastard… buy this.” But you know that don’t you?

CREATE CONVICTION

19.

Present the main idea of your selling message three times.
There is something powerful about an idea being presented THREE times from three different angles. Even jokes are often told in a trilogy sequence. When you present your idea three times, the reader has more of a chance to OWN the idea and soon feel like it’s his idea to buy such a good product or service.

20.

Tell of your product’s popularity… who uses and likes it.
Most of us are terribly afraid of making the wrong decision. So, if everyone is buying this product, it must be good. No one goes into an empty restaurant. It must be empty for a reason. Auctioneers are famous for planting buyers in the audience to get the bidding going. Even my beloved ex-wife… who often tried to tell me that SHE would never fall for the “gimmicks” I use in marketing… suddenly wanted to buy a house that others were making an offer on. Before those offers came in, she couldn’t be bothered with that house.

21.

Give bona fide testimonials… and authority’s approval.
Many people go to Barnes and Noble… grab a book and flip it to the back cover to see who else likes this book. They look for names they trust. Also make sure the testimonials are interesting. Lame testimonials could hurt your marketing.

22.

Give assurances and proof of your offer… build confidence.
Putting a limit on your offer might add credibility to this idea.

23.

Guarantee if you can.
Typically the longer, stronger your guarantee, the more sales you get. A one-year guarantee does not bring more returns and refund requests. A 30-day guarantee is better than no guarantee. I have a client who offered a DOUBLE YOUR MONEY BACK ON THE SPOT guarantee and his sales went up 217%.

24.

Make your offer vitally valid… be congruous.
Having a 3 day sale is one thing… but having a SALE due to rain damage or IRS tax liens offers more of a story appeal and is easier to believe and therefore get more action from buyers. WHY is your offer, your offer?

25.

Convey the value of your product or service… definitely, positively.
Again, don’t leave it up to them to figure it out. Lead them by the hand show them line by line, step by step… that your offer has the value you say it does. Maybe a column of numbers showing the total savings IF they buy your idea… will help.

GO FOR ACTION NOW.

26.

Give the reader good reasons and excuses for buying NOW.
If you’re selling high-ticket items… inflation alone is a good reason to… ACT NOW. Hording all that money under your bed is like lighting a slow, smoldering fire to your money. Every year it’s purchasing power disappears flicker by flicker. Surely you can find some other reasons to get them to ACT NOW.

27.

Make choosing easy… stress ONE item above others you may sell.
If you’re selling three different colors of the same product, tell them which one is the most popular. Help them focus on one buying decision. If you leave it up to them to weed through all the choices, you will lose sales.

28.

Tell how, when, and where to get it.
By now they want it… why can’t you move them to the next step by telling them what to do next. “Here’s what you must do.” is a phrase you could use.

29.

Name prices and terms… make it easy to buy or order.
Some marketers are afraid to mention prices in their ad or web site. Here are two reasons why you should name your prices and terms.
First- You are wasting their time if you don’t mention price. If you make them call and talk to a salesman, you’ll lose sales. If you don’t tell them the price, they will tend to think it cost more than it actually does. Why? Because when we have NO INFORMATION, we tend to assume the worst.
Second, if you do have a high price, you SHOULD SAY SO and BRAG on it. Most businesses don’t charge enough for their products and services. If you raise your price, it will naturally trigger something in your brain that you had better justify this price and you will naturally be a better marketer. You’re goal should be to make double-digit year-end profits after all expenses are paid, including owners salary. If you throw in your salary as part of the profits you’re deceiving yourself regarding your profits. From 10% to 25% year-end profits is a reasonable goal. Most business owners scrape by on 3% profits. That sucks. If you’re afraid to raise your prices, get a job at the post office.

30.

Consider a coupon… or direct offer.
The point here is to track your efforts. If you don’t offer coupons, a direct offer tells you whether your ad is working or not. If you run an ad that brings you 100 phone calls and 10 buyers… that’s one thing. If you make a different offer to find out that for the same advertising expense you’re now getting 200 phone calls and 37 buyers… you’ve more than doubled your sales and profits without doubling your ad budget. Your cost of advertising is one thing. Your cost per lead and cost per sale is a different thing. Coupons and direct offers not only help you keep track of what works, it also tends to bring in more buyers. Why? Because prospects clip the coupon late Wednesday nite and call you on Thursday morning. Or, they note the direct offer and respond better then if your offer is vague.

31.

Sell NOW as the time… make a bid for business and action.
If you take the time and trouble to get their emotions all worked up to say YES… get them to act now. Tomorrow the kids will be screaming, the doorbell ringing, and many other things will cloud their mind. NOW is the time to act.

If you follow these ideas… several things will happen all at once. Your sales will increase. When your sales increase, your competitors’ sales will decease. Your advertising cost will actually decrease. Why? Because you’ll be measuring cost per lead and cost per sale. Let’s say you’re spending $10,000 for a full page ad in a mid-size town newspaper. Your increase response makes your media cost smaller for the same amount of buyers coming into the store.

What is advertising? Advertising is salesmanship multiplied by media. Just because someone can design a so-called web site with flash and fancy graphics doesn’t mean jack when it comes to actually convincing people to part with their hard earned cash.

For that it takes an “Ad Man”
And this is part of my “Diary.”

Linwood Austin
© 2008 Linwood Austin

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1 Comment »

  1. After reading this information it really changed my view on what advertising is and how it works. As I was reading it I noticed myself writing down notes of how I could apply some of the points to a new website I’m developing.

    WELL WORTH THE TIME IT TOOK TO READ IT

    Comment by Eric — July 11, 2008 @ 9:08 pm


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