Thursday, October 28, 2010

Why We Hate Political Ads

With less than a week to go until election day, it is impossible to avoid the barrage of political advertising. It assaults us through our television sets and radio speakers, in our mailboxes, on our computer screens and over the telephone. And most of the messages we get are blatant “attack ads” that are misleading at best and can be downright vicious.

I hate them. You hate them. The politicians claim to hate them.

So why do attack ads continue to be the core of political advertising? I have several theories.

First, they work. Those voters who are savvy enough and involved enough in the political process can usually see right through the rhetoric and bombast. But, at the risk of sounding elitist, a large number of voters are not sophisticated enough to separate the wheat from the chaff. They register as “fact” the slams and slanders that pass for messaging. The polls reflect this, as numbers rise and fall with the waves of vile advertising.

(Don’t get me started on the pimping of the pollsters. Suffice it to say that Mark Twain was right when he said that “figures don’t lie, but liars figure.”)

Another reason attack ads remain important to candidates is that they are an easy way to avoid taking a real stand on issues. Instead of telling voters what they believe in and what they will do if elected, candidates can get away with focusing on how much worse it would be if their opponents were to win.

Attack ads are also easy to develop. Instead of crafting content that inspires the electorate, all the copywriter has to do is carefully cut and paste snippets of the opponent’s previous speeches until they paint a portrait that is sure to frighten voters to choose the “safe” candidate.

The political process, spurred by the media, has devolved into an ugly, mud-spattered wrestling match in which almost all candidates come out sullied. Don’t be taken in by this hucksterism. Take the time to dig deep and try to discover the core beliefs of the candidates on your ballot. Remember you’ll be stuck with the person you elect, at least until the next round of name calling and character assassination begins in a few years.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Ad Terms We Could Do Without

Advertising, like any industry, has its own unique lingo. Since advertising is a business based on creativity, it only stands to reason that our terms are sometimes quite imaginative. Here then, is a collection of the most common advertising phraseology, with a brief translation of each.

“Can you make the logo bigger?”
Roughly translated, this means “We have nothing of any importance or value to say in this ad.”

“They buried my ad.” This means “I know I spend barely enough on advertising to get a few drops of ink on the newsprint, but does that mean I can't expect to be on the front page?”

“We're the oldest/biggest/best. . .” In other words, “Our products are outdated, our pricing archaic and our customer base is rapidly being depleted by the grim reaper.”

“Service is our specialty.” What they're saying is, “You'll need our service because our products are totally unreliable.”

“It doesn't do anything for me.” Usually means, “I'm spending a fortune on this ad and I'm going to get my money's worth. Give me the Mona Lisa.”

“What we really need is some publicity.” This means “I don’t want to pay for my advertising.”

“Its just not us.”
Translated: “Where's the picture of me, my family and my factory?”

“Advertising just doesn’t work for us.” This indicates that the company once ran a two-inch classified ad in a free circulation supermarket newspaper on a Friday in 1993, before leaving for a three-week vacation.

Listen to yourself carefully the next time you are working with your ad agency. If you hear any of these phrases, stop and back away. Before the agency turns and runs.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Want people to be interested? Be interesting!

My clients pay me to communicate their messages in such a way as to cause individuals to respond. The first step in that process is to get people to take notice, an increasingly difficult task in our media-rich world.

Breaking through the clutter has been the marketer's assignment since the beginning of the profession. How we go about it continues to evolve.

The best advice I can give my clients is this: If you want people to be interested, you'd better be interesting.

A marketing message, no matter what the delivery method, must spark your interest, catch your eye and demand your attention. Boring does not cut it. Safe is a snooze. "Tried and true" equals "old and tired."

Turn the tables for a moment. What captures your attention? Which TV commercials do you like? What does it take to get you to turn up the radio volume in the car? How do you decide which items in the pile of today's mail get read and which get tossed? What is it about a website that gets you to go deeper than the home page?

Today you must engage the prospect immediately or lose him or her forever. Your message must be smart, memorable and resonate with something that is already "on the radar screen" of the potential customer. You can't force an idea into a closed mind, so you must find an opening that already exists.

The message must zero in on the self-interest of the individual or it will be ignored. Yet too many companies are too self-absorbed to do anything more than spout off about themselves and their own interests, which are seldom aligned with the customer's.

To be successful at attracting interest, you must succeed at being interesting. That means crafting a message that connects with the right prospects, delivered through the right channels, at the right time.