Finally revealed: Which half of your advertising works!

By evoke
May 27, 2011

There is an old adage in advertising that goes “I know half of my advertising works. I just don’t know which half.”

To determine which half works and which doesn’t, we first need to understand that advertising works on two levels. Just the noise of being present in the marketplace with advertising accomplishes something for you, no matter what you are saying, and then the impact of your message adds to that accomplishment.

This means that if you are advertising – even with a weak message – you are getting a benefit. As Woody Allen famously said, “90% of winning is just showing up!”. But there is no special art or science to just showing up so you can’t really make a mistake with this half of your advertising. Just show up and your advertising will almost always help drive awareness and sales…to a degree.

So it is the other half of your advertising that you need to examine carefully if you suspect only half of it is working. As consumers or brand stewards, when we see advertising that we intuitively know is wrong, we might say something like “that’s a crappy ad”. If you drill down to what the person is really saying, it is usually “that ad doesn’t jive with what I know that product, service, brand or company to be”. There is a misalignment between the DNA of the brand and how it is communicating, and that causes confusion with potential buyers.

The bad news is there is a misalignment that is causing half of your advertising to underperform. The good news is the “crappy ads” are not usually a sign of a bad agency, but of a brand that doesn’t know what it is at its core. So the symptom, which is a tactical execution (crappy ads), is an arrow pointing directly and tangibly at the solution, the strategic issue of determining the DNA of the brand, product, service or company.

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