From the Mailbag. . .
Q: I own a small mail order jewellery company and really can’t afford to do anything other than small-space advertising. But my current ad is not getting results, and I wonder just how big a chance, advertisers like myself have in terms of getting noticed?
A: You raise a valid concern, visibility. Is your small ad getting noticed in the shadow of all the larger, more visible advertising that dominates? The answer is that, amid all the Goliaths, your David-sized ad can get attention. But you have to work harder at it than the guys who take up all the space.
They rule by girth; you respond with guile. They shout, you yodel. And that means, as I’ve said many times, you have to break the mold. When you create a piece of advertising that looks and reads like a lot of other ads, then you’ve produced, in effect, invisible advertising. That means the average reader, used to the intrusion of advertising, is unlikely to notice your ad as he or she browses through a publication.
It’s similar to how we zone out when commercials interrupt our TV viewing – unless they break the mold.
Think about your own reading and viewing habits and the percentage of ads you actually pay attention to. Ten percent? Twenty percent? Even those figures may be generous. But let’s be optimistic and say you actually read or watch 10 to 20 percent of the ads you’re exposed to. That means the remaining 80 to 90 percent are virtually invisible to you – a body of advertising effort representing a lot of blood, sweat and tears, not to mention money, all for naught. And frankly, these ads are not just produced by the inexperienced. A lot of polished and professionally produced ads for cars, banks, computers, food, clothing, electronic equipment, and many other products and services might as well have never been produced for the amount of attention they get.
Truly memorable and riveting advertising images have one thing in common: They break the mold. They look different. They sound different. They approach the reader in an unexpected way. But they’re not irrelevantly different. That’s a big distinction. You still need to appeal to the reader’s self-interest as the first order of business in any piece of advertising.
It’s how you address that requirement that matters most. The article in this month’s front page about the use of the testimonial is just one way to get the indifferent reader to cock his head and pay attention. There are innumerable other ways waiting in the wings (your subconscious) for you to bring out onstage.