Why Ads Are So Stupid.
Before I start my weekly rant, I owe you
all a huge apology for handing out a rotten link. You may recall that
last week, while talking about the Internet Consultant's Defense Kit (How
NOT To Get Stiffed), I referred you to additional tips on how to keep
your ass out of trouble with clients and customers, by suggesting you
Top Ten Ways of Saving Your Butt,
conveniently located one click away at the Frankel & Anderson web
Many of you did just that, and followed
up by notifying me of a nasty 404 when you clicked. Fear not, this week's
link really does work. I think. Hey, I'm human -- if you click me, do
I not bleed?
Okay, so much for the humility thing.
One of the most often asked questions
I get is, "Why are ads so stupid?" It's happens to be one of
my favorite questions, too, because it allows me to expose one of the
great mysteries that affects each and every one of us out here trying
to make a buck. And the answer is so simple that you won't believe it:
Ads are stupid because the people who
create them are, for the most part, really stupid. And the reason I wanted
to apprise you of this is so you won't repeat their goofs at your expense.
A big mistake that lots of people make
in business is looking to the big guys to see what they do, and then trying
to emulate them on a smaller scale. The reason that's a recipe for disaster
is that advertising is not about spending money -- it's about spending
what you have as efficiently as you can. But just because you have lots
of money doesn't mean you're spending it efficiently. On the contrary:
when you have mega-bucks, the chances for waste go sky high, mainly because
the pressure is off to spend wisely.
After all, spending at a rate of more
than a million bucks a day, will anyone at General Motors really notice
if those promotional mylar cheese straighteners actually moved an extra
Buick? I think not. But just think what would happen to your business
if somebody dropped an extra ten thousand on an ad that simply sat there
like a lox.
Boy, would there be yelling.
The fact is that the dynamics of advertising
are different for everyone, at every level, in every business. Even looking
across the street at your local competitor can be dangerous. I can't tell
you the number of clients who tell me they run radio spots here or banner
ads there because that's what their competition does. Oh yeah? Well what
made the competition such media mavens? How do you know that they didn't
follow someone else's misguided notions? Do they have more or less to
spend than you do?
When it comes to Stupid Advertising, remember
what your mother said and ask yourself, "If your competition jumped
off the Empire State Building, would YOU?" That's called Stupid Media.
Don't fall for it.
Don't fall for Stupid Creative, either.
You know the stuff I mean. Wacko images nobody understands but are too
afraid to admit to. These are usually created by Big Agency people with
pierced body parts and greasy pony tails. People who wear sunglasses in
dimly lit rooms. In short, morons who are far more concerned with selling
their screenplays than they are your products.
Good, effective creative advertising is
clear, not obtuse. Your prospects shouldn't have to wear a decoder rings
to decipher your advertising message. But if you were to follow the big
ad agencies' lead, you'd think the more mentally-challenged the campaign,
the more successful you'd be.
Wrong. It's just another advertising illusion.
And here's why:
Originally, the ad business was all about
media: it took a real skill to know where to place an ad, and more importantly,
where NOT to. That way, a client could spend his money more efficiently
reaching only the most likely prospects. Gradually, the industry began
to add value to their media buys by tailoring specific creative executions
to specific audiences.
In the late 1950's, the creative aspect
of advertising vaulted past media as the darling of marketing. Entire
brands were launched on sheer personality. Until the 1970's or so, marketing,
research, media and creative departments pretty much worked as a team,
which is why advertising rose to become such a powerful sector in our
economy. Account and research handed off marketing strategies to the creative
team, who figured out the most powerful way to execute that strategy.
But that was a generation ago. Almost
all of those people -- and their skills -- are gone. Today, you can walk
into any major ad agency and ask the creative team the marketing strategy
behind their clients' products; the most you'll get is a blank stare.
Yet these are the very dopes who are given license to direct the creative
executions of multi-million dollar advertising budgets.
NOW you can appreciate why big clients
HAVE to spend multi-million dollar ad budgets: when their agency's creative
product doesn't effectively deliver their marketing message, they have
to spend many millions more to drive their points home.
You want an example? Look at Chiat/Day's
campaign for Nissan. Won lots of awards -- from other advertising creative
types. Won death threats from Nissan dealers because it sank Nissan sales
in the toilet. And you know what Nissan spends on advertising every year?
More than ten times your net worth, day in and day out, every day of the
And that's just one example. The advertising
industry is rife with illusions. But just because the big boys do it doesn't
mean you should. The fact is that they're NOT as smart as you are; it's
just that when it comes to paying for mistakes, they can do it with a
company credit card.