Advertising Advertising

Look, I believe in advertising, especially since I’ve toiled in the industry as a copywriter for the past 15 years or so.

But I also believe some things should not be advertised.  While most products and services can benefit from incisive communication strategies coupled with compelling creative executions and targeted message dissemination; I believe those in the ad industry itself should not be advertising themselves.

In recent months, I’ve seen newspapers proclaiming that ‘print is the way to go’ and radio stations promising ‘increased sales’. And the fact that they are advertising in their own pages and airwaves seemed rather desperate.

Print Revenue Stats
The numbers don't lie. Ignore at your own peril...

Advertisers (or clients) will naturally go where there is a large audience. I think media owners should work on strengthening their audience base rather than proclaiming that their medium is a cure-all for communication conundrums.

It’s so obvious that the digital and social revolutions are giving traditional media – especially Print and Radio – stiff competition in terms of ad revenue. These traditional players must begin to realise that they cannot remain unchallenged and must improve on content and engagement, whilst embracing the future of communication.

It will take more than just advertising in-own-media to pry the ad Ringgits that are increasingly being channeled towards online advertising. And we all know that advertising a substandard product will only make it fail faster.

But then again, here are some interesting bits to chew on, based on a 2013 Global Survey of Trust in Advertising by Nielsen for Malaysia:

  • 72% of consumers in the country trust newspaper ads
  • Credibility of traditional advertising remains high compared to online paid media
  • Trust in digital ads such as online banners and social media hover at around 50%
  • Confidence in online advertising is swiftly growing, with ad spend forecast to touch US$34 billion in Asia Pacific by 2015
  • Word-of-mouth still remains the best form of advertising, at 86% trust level

So, while traditional advertising still plays a major role in ad campaigns and strategies, online advertising is fast catching up and cannot be ignored any longer.

Traditional media owners have realised this, hence the desperate attempt to advertise themselves. Only time will tell how long they can remain profitable while clutching to fading hopes.

And in case you didn’t notice, word-of-mouth is still and will always be advertising’s top performer. Maybe it’s wise to spark conversations rather than pour money down the media drain.

10 Tips for a Great Print Ad

1. Don’t do a print ad
Hardly anyone reads newspapers or magazines the days. Can you name 3 people you know who read them on a regular basis besides your parents or that frail, retired neighbour uncle?

I could end this post here, but there will come a time when you must do a print ad because your boss (still) thinks it’s a great idea. If that ever happens, then the following tips are for you:

2. Know your target
Wouldn’t it be nice if you got little details about someone you’re thinking about flirting with? It will help you customize your approach, your demeanour and what you say. Same thing with ads… you are courting business.

3. Don’t treat ad space like real estate
Real estate appreciates the more you build in an area. But the more stuff you cram into a print ad, its appeal depreciates. Leave some “breathing space” in your ad so your message is better absorbed. Readers will also appreciate the lack of clutter.

4. Make a pitch in 2 seconds
You only have a couple of seconds to convey the main message to your audience.  This can be usually achieved with a headline that promises a benefit or reward. If not, it’s flip-goodbye.

Mature dude reading a newspaper
If this guy somewhat represents your target market, then go for it!

5. “You”ize the copy
Notice how many times the word “you” or “your” is present in this post. It’s to make you feel as if I’m talking directly to you, and only you. Being personal is convincing.

6. A bigger logo means squat!
For the umpteenth time, a bigger logo doesn’t mean higher recognition. People will look for your logo if what you have to say in the ad appeals to them.

7. Stay single
Think about your favourite ad and what you liked most about it. Got it? Now think about what’s the second thing you liked about this ad? Anything? The human brain only remembers one thing, even when it’s from a great ad.  So focus your ad’s message on the one single most important thing you want your readers to recall.

8. Know the difference
Most people can’t differentiate between a feature and a benefit. For example 50% less fat is a feature, which could bring about the benefit of a slimmer you.  Got it?

9. Don’t try to be funny
Punchy, juicy, catchy, sexy and clever lines are great; if you are a stand-up comedian. But advertising is no funny business, so use clever or ‘creative’ lines sparingly or risk becoming a joke.

10. Clear call-to-act
You must tell your readers what you want them to do: be it call, walk-in, SMS or log-on to the website. A call to action is important because it can ultimately translate to sales.

Just so you know, I still stand by point No.1, unless you are talking to your parents and that frail, retired neighbour uncle.