Advertising 101

February 26, 2014

Remember the Super Bowl commercial that featured a puppy making friends with a horse? It was one of my favorites. What about the one where the ‘80s characters were ransacking a store? I enjoyed that one as well. But just because I remember those ads doesn’t mean they were successful.

The puppy commercial was an advertisement for… hmmm… I don’t remember. The ‘80s characters’ commercial was an advertisement for Radio Shack. I contend the more successful commercial is the one where you retain the name of the advertiser. Of course I haven’t been to a Radio Shack since that commercial, but it illustrated to me that they know the market and they recognize how they’re perceived. I’m more likely to visit a Radio Shack now because they showed they’re current.

One of my favorite Super Bowl commercials from years past is the one featuring the magic fridge. It’s a Bud or Bud Light commercial. A more current ad features a camel walking around an office asking people what day it is. The answer: hump day. I laugh every time I see it. And I know it’s a commercial for Geico. Just now I asked a friend if he knew what the hump day camel commercial is for – he knew immediately it was Geico.

Another recent commercial shows a puppy growing up with a family, getting in and out of a car at different stages of his life. But I have no idea who the advertiser is or what they’re promoting – maybe it’s for dog food? Or for a car?

Obviously this is not a scientific study. I don’t have the ratings or numbers to back up my opinion. But after many years as a professional communicator, I find it interesting that so many advertisements fail to follow the basic tenet – it’s not a good ad if you don’t know who or what it’s promoting. This is true for all forms of promotion, whether you’re talking about brochures, flyers, web sites or advertisements.

Billboard advertising confounds me often times. Drivers only have a few seconds to glance at a billboard as they’re driving by, so why do some companies fill all the space on the sign with copy or pictures that no one could possibly take in all at once. Less is more. A catchy phrase is more likely to capture your attention, just like a clever headline.

Try a test with your friends next time you’re driving past billboards or watching TV. See how they respond to the ads, and then once the commercial is over or you’ve driven past the billboard, ask them who or what was advertised?

Each day we are bombarded with more and more information and advertising, but how much of it stands out or really captures your attention? Think about that the next time you’re putting together an ad. Make sure your company, product or service doesn’t get lost in the story or the cute characters. You want people to remember more than a cute dog or a funny saying. You want people to remember the cute dog and the advertiser. You want people to remember the funny saying and the advertiser. And you want people to buy the product or service. But that’s a post for another day…


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