Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Say It, Don't Spray It!

Why is it that so many advertisers feel the need to cram every single message they have into one ad? I'm sure someone told these businesses that with their limited advertising dollars, it's best to use the shotgun approach, put all their selling points out there, and see what people respond to.

Uh, not a great idea. Really, I would not give you a bum steer here. Keep your ad copy simple. If you cannot afford to run more than one ad for something, resist the temptation to squish every sales point into the piece. Save it for your website where you can break down your message into distinct pages.

These best approach is to really hone your message, cough up the money to run enough ad insertions or radio or TV spots to drive home what you are trying to say. You can say it in many different ways - that's the beauty of an ad campaign. But you simply cannot sell your audience on more than a point or two within one piece of (well-written) communication. No one will know what you are really trying to say if you spray them with too many messages. Especially in this age of over-communication, media barrages, too many emails, etc., now more than ever, simplicity is golden.

In a print ad, the headline and leave-behind line, coupled with a strong visual, are what will grab readers' attention. These need to be short and to the point and speak to your readers' needs or, as some marketers put it, their pain points (in other words, how are you solving their problem). If you are a financial services firm that specializes in a niche investment product, and cater to a certain segment of the investing population, you have to distill your message to the one thing these potential clients need to know; don't waste their time with lots of ancillary information that has nothing to do with "here is this great product you need to know about ... and here's why." The ad copy can provide more detail but the headline and leave-behind line really need to sum up why the audience needs to contact you for more information or to open an account.

The challenge is greater in radio, where people are not leisurely reading, stopping to rip out an ad or jot down a phone number. They are driving, or listening while working, and might not have the chance to stop everything to fully grasp your vital statistics. As "the theater of the mind," radio spots must paint a clear picture of what you are selling in a very different way. The spots must be uncluttered in order to grab attention, maintain attention, and eventually lead to the desired result. Screaming announcers, too many sound effects, boring announcer reads, too much rambling copy ... these all invite tuning out, not tuning in. Keep the message simple and clear, make it fun if that's appropriate, and give a clear call to action. As with any kind of media buy, the spots need to not only be well written but also be well placed (buy the right programs, time slots, frequency) to make an impact.

It's not always easy to key in on just one message but if you think about the ad campaigns that are not only memorable but also effective, you'll find a common element among them: one clear message conveyed in different ways, across different media perhaps or over the course of many years. You can only effectively sell one quality at a time through your advertising copy: quality, social responsibility, saves money, saves time, builds wealth, nurtures problem students, pamper yourself or others, feeds the soul/spirit/belly, adventure, fun, family (and on and on).  Working with a professional copywriter or a marketing expert can help you figure out what you need to communicate and help you avoid spraying your target audience with too much extraneous information.