Thursday, June 23, 2011

What Are You Selling?

By Margie Church, Copywriter/Editor

Have you ever looked at an ad, and your eyes stalled on the page? If you took the time, you squinted and pondered. What are they selling? What's the point? The ad may have been such a visual mess you didn't know where to start, but you sure knew how to turn the page.

During my career in marketing communications, I've frequently started an ad or brochure with a succinct premise and watched it convolute into something quite muddy…for lack of a more polite term. Few of us work in a world where we make all the decisions, and few of us believe we actually have all the answers. Business doesn't work that way, and that egoistical position jeopardizes your sanity.

Run Amok?

I start each project with a creative brief that outlines at least the bare minimum of information. What's the objective? Who is the audience? What is the product or service being offered? Is there an incentive? What's the call to action? You'd be surprised how often that last tidbit is overlooked.

I've worked with clients who couldn't be bothered with answering even the most basic questions in detail. Can you guess the result?

It wasn't always bad.

It usually was, and I'll tell you why. 

These clients weren't putting the customer needs first. Instead, they were usually thinking about how much this darn ad was going to cost them and by gosh, they were going to get their money's worth. They got that, but their ROI stunk. And they blamed the creative agency. 

Instant Decisions

The average person will spend one-twentieth of a second looking at a product on a shelf. Billboards and large displays might get about six seconds—an eternity by comparison. Even the best written ad still requires that you send it with enough frequency to reach your audience. The formula remains, contact the same person three times within seven days. That's the magic number to create TOMA or top of mind awareness. Layering your message in different channels is the way to get the job done right. You also need regular frequency if you want long-term recall. 

The Internet and social media challenge us to say it clearly—fast. People have never been busier or better able to ignore you. How fast can you click your mouse? My point is proven.

Graphics should amplify pithy headlines that draw readers in, and then the first paragraph nails them. You know, newspapers have been using the formula for eons. What you want the member to know is in the first paragraph. That doesn't give you permission to write run-on sentences that could achieve Guinness Book of World Records status. It means the first paragraph should state clearly why you're reaching out to me today. This is how my product/service is going to improve your life, and here's how to get it. 

Simple, clean. Fall in love with white space. It's allowed, even encouraged. Save all the extras for the conversation you're going to have with your member when they call or stop by. 

Share your creative nightmare with us. We can all identify and learn. And probably laugh a little, too.