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Closing in on Effective Advertising

Get out all the ads you ran last year. Go ahead. Tear them out of your magazines or newspapers (if you’re lucky enough to have proof sheets, so much the better). Tear out your competitor’s ads too—as many as you can get your hands on. Next, fold the company names, addresses and logos out of view. If the company names are in the headlines block them off with paper and tape.

Now tape them up to the wall, putting yours on top, your competitors’ below. Now back off, at least five feet. We’re going to gradually close in on the most effective ad in the group (hopefully one of yours). The “Eye Test” View First, and this is very important, don’t read any of them. Instead give them a quick, visual once over—what I call the “Eye Test.

” Do your ads stand out? Or do they dissolve into the mush of sameness? Remember, your audience will see your ad, not in a vacuum but with dozens of competitive ads in the same or similar magazines or newspapers. If your ads stand out, you’re ahead by a length. Step in, Feel the Image Now move in a little closer to your ads. Close enough to get the feel or image they project Like a new salesperson who walks through the door, the first thing people react to is the overall image he or she projects. It’s the same with advertising. The colors, the design, the typeface should be consistent with the image of your company. A tennis shoe salesperson can wear a referee shirt and a whistle around his or her neck, a medical sales rep can’t. If your ads are in sync with the image of your company, you’re a step closer to your audience—and a sale. Are You Projecting a Consistent Look? Next comes an equally important aspect: consistency. All your ads should project the same image.

No, they don’t have to have the same visual or the same headline. They should, however, look like they all come from the same company. After all, this image is your “familiar face” in the crowd. It’s also something you worked very hard to create. And it’s uniquely yours, no one else’s. Just like a good salesperson who finally got in the door to make that first sale. You wouldn’t dream of switching salespeople after that. If your ads look like they came from several different companies, your audience might assume your product does. If your ads pass this test, effective advertising is within your reach. Which is exactly where you need to be for the next step.

Arm’s Length for Positioning An arm’s length away from your favorite campaign of ads. The object of this test is to see how well you’ve positioned yourself. Yes, you can now read your ads, but not for details. How you position yourself should be fairly evident by the time you finish the first paragraph. Positioning is basically how your audience perceives your product, service or company. For example, businessmen, engineers and students all need computers, yet each has a different idea of what computers can do for them. Advertise a computer to a businessman and you might do better to position it a management or accounting tool. Students might respond better to an ad showing computers as a writing and study aid. And engineers would be better persuaded to buy a computer if you positioned it as a design or research tool. In each case, the products are the same but the positioning generates the unique appeal for any given market.

And the greater the appeal, the greater the sales. If you’ve done your research, your positioning should bring the reader a little closer to your ad and your product. Move in to One Ad We’re now going to concentrate on one ad. So pick your favorite one and move in close enough to read it in comfort. The headline and visual should answer the question “what’s in it for me.” If it doesn’t do that quickly and effectively, your audience may gloss over it without ever bothering to read it. Some of the best salesmen in the world start their pitch with a direct customer benefit—even before they introduce the product. They’ve learned that customers want to know right off what the product can do for them—the big benefit. If your product’s benefit is buried in the body and your main visual is an un-involving product shot or a photo of earth floating in space, your ad won’t go the distance.


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