I’m staring at the ocean waves courtesy of the Gulf of Mexico today. In my absence, my best friend and tag-team partner, Ryan Patrick, has 13 things to get off his chest… also, in addition to being the best dadgum copywriter I know, Ryan also hosts an extraordinary podcast about M*A*S*H with cast member Jeff Maxwell. It’s called M*A*S*H Matters, and you should check it out today. Be well, Tim.
Today is Friday the 13th.
Did you feel a chill run down your back?
Triskaidekaphobia affects over 20 million Americans. The fear of all things thirteen is why you most elevators go from the 12th to the 14th floor. It’s why homes with thirteen in the address are harder for real estate agents to sell. It even wreaks havoc in the wizarding world.
Look, your customers are already on edge today… so please don’t make this day worse by making them listen to your bad ads.
Friday the 13th, at most, only happens three times a year.
But bad advertising causes suffering every day.
So, here are 13 (gasp) ways to make your ads less scaaaaaary.
Replace the Clichés
Clichés are overused, overworked, hackneyed, predictable, unoriginal, and uninspired phrases that we’ve heard approximately 2.4 zillion times.
Sure, “Lowest Prices,” “Best Selection,” and “Conveniently Located” can be effective… if you’re still living in 1962.
Today, these exhausted expressions are filler for advertisers who:
· Don’t have anything important to say, or…
· Are too lazy or unwilling to say anything different.
Fun fact: If I ever build a time machine, I’m going back and throat-punching the first ad writer responsible for writing “For All Your _____ Needs.”
If you find yourself saddled with a crummy piece of copywriting, locate the clichés and brainstorm new ways to say the same old things. Get your staff involved. Let them take ownership of the messaging.
The more specific, the better. Specifics are more believable than generalities.
One Thing at a Time
Putting too much information in an ad is like cramming fifty pounds of potatoes in a ten-pound bag. It leads to copy that’s cluttered, convoluted, and plain crappy. Nobody wants to listen to it. Few have the patience to read it. And it may only garner a few accidental clicks.
So, if you have seven different things to say, don’t jam all seven into one morbidly obese advertisement. Instead, commit to a campaign of seven different marketing messages, with each focusing on one… and only one… of the seven ideas.
Here’s a short list of things that drive me bug-nuts crazy:
- Movie talkers.
- Jennifer Nettles singing, well anything.
- Ads that run past their deadline.
We shouldn’t hear about your “Summer Savings” after September 21st… or a heartfelt “Happy Thanksgiving” on December 4th.
A restaurant in my town left “Happy Holidays” on their outdoor sign… until February 21st.
Outdated ads make you sound lazy. If you’re letting old ads play for your restaurant, it makes me question the freshness of your food.
If your offer ends on September 30th, your ad ends on September 30th.
Ditch the Disclaimer
Whenever I hear a zippy-lipped announcer dash through a disclaimer at the end of an ad, I wonder what they’re trying to hide. The faster they babble, the bigger the blow.
Drawn-out disclaimers, annoying asterisks,and prolonged paragraphs of fine print may keep your message compliant with bureaucratic bylaws and regulations, but they’ll also make your customers think they’re about to jump through a American-Ninja-Warrior-obstacle-course of hoops.
You may not be trying to hide anything… but it sure sounds like you are.
It’s Not About You
Don’t you love people who only talk about themselves?
Then why are you doing in your ads?
If you’re using your valuable advertising dollars to boast about the greatness of your selection, the competitiveness of your pricing, and the friendliness and knowledgeableness of your staff… well, congratulations, you’ve turned in to That Guy.
Instead, tell me how you’ll take care of me. Show me how you’ll save me time, headaches, and/or money.
If you reeeeeally want me to care about you… talk about me.
Answer Questions Your Customers Are Asking
If customers ask how much you charge, tell them about your trained and certified staff.
When clients contact you to schedule an appointment, boast about your fast, friendly service.
If people inquire about store hours, brag about your 25 years in business.
Sounds crazy, right? But most ads answer questions nobody is asking.
If you want to truly stand out, it doesn’t take loud music, sound effects, or wacky jokes. Simply answer the questions they’re already asking in their mind.
Do you know what questions your customers are asking? Find out.
Stop Trying to Please Everyone
When marketing your business, do you water down your message in an attempt to appease everyone? Or do you risk alienating certain sectors of the population to clearly and unashamedly convey your core beliefs to a specific audience?
What do you stand for? What do you stand against? What do you deliver to your customers based on what you stand for and what you stand against?
Broadcasting a message that tries to reach everybody ends up not heard by anybody.
You define who you are by what and who you choose to exclude.
Do you want to connect on a deeper level with customers who share the same values as you?
Or are you content with watered-down, homogenized marketing that says nothing and persuades no one?
Most ads aren’t written to persuade. They’re written not to offend.roy h. williams
Don’t Say the Same Things the Other Guys are Saying.
If you took your commercial and switched out your business name with the name of a competitor, would it be the same ad?
Here’s how to fix that.
- Analyze your competitor’s ads. Listen. Watch. Read. Record. Transcribe.
Look and listen for overused words, phrases, and themes.
- Compile a master list of your competition’s stale, unoriginal clichés.
- Don’t use them.
Avoid Fill-in-the-Blank Messaging
Hey! Look! I found a script online for a car dealer in Minnesota!
Hey! Look! I’m a car dealer in Utah!
Hey! Look! I can take their script, replace a few words and use their ad for myself!
This is fill-in-the-blank marketing. And there are advertising “agencies” selling fill-in-the-blank marketing services.
The advantages: It’s quick, easy, and anyone can do it.
The disadvantages: It’s quick, easy, and anyone can do it.
You’re not a car dealer in Minnesota.* Stop trying to sound like one.
*Unless you ARE a car dealer in Minnesota. Then you should TOTALLY sound like one.
Are you keeping your word? Do you do what your ads say you do?
If you’re gonna say it, you gotta play it. Or else, it’s liar-liar-pants-on-fire.
What about your team? Do you keep your employees in the loop of the offers and promises made in your marketing campaign?
If not, how will they ever know if they’re breaking them?
Friends Don’t Lie.eleven, stranger things
Landmarks > Addresses
Nobody knows where 1287A North Bishop Boulevard is.
But everyone knows you’re located across from the Dairy Queen.
Or next door to the car wash.
Or catty-corner to Big Jim’s Tackle, Mulch, and Marbles Emporium.
Give directions like you’re talking a friend.
“But… but… if I say their name, I’ll be giving them free advertising.”
Yes. Yes, you will.
Get over it.
You want them to find you, right?
If you’re a restaurant offering free delivery…
If you’re a home services shop with emergency service…
If you only do service over the phone…
By all means, include your phone number in your radio or TV ad! In fact, make the phone number the star of your commercial. Find a fun, unique, or downright bizarre way to say it.
But if you own a t-shirt shop…
A car wash…
A toy store…
Or Big Jim’s Tackle, Mulch, and Marbles Emporium…
Don’t waste one second of precious advertising time on a forgetful, irrelevant, and completely unnecessary phone number.
Read Your Script. Out Loud.
Have you ever written something that sounded one way in your head but altogether different when it translated into the spoken word?
That’s why it’s important to read your script aloud once you’ve written it. This gives you an auditory opportunity to catch and tweak awkward phrases, redundant words, typos, grammatical errors, clichés, and all the extraneous, stuffy fluff that I’ve already mentioned.
Find an audience. An employee. A friend. Your significant other. Make them listen.
Or duck into an empty room. (note: restrooms tend to offer good acoustics… especially public ones.
Read it. Out loud. Then fix whatever sounds wonky.
Hire a Writer
Look, we’re sure your store manager’s best friend’s brother’s sister-in-law is a fine, upstanding pillar of the community. And it’s lovely that she took a marketing class her second semester of college fourteen years ago. We appreciation her gumption and willingness to put her nine weeks (minus Spring Break) of experience to work for your company.
But please… PLEASE… don’t let her write your marketing messages.
It won’t end well. And it makes for an awkward conversation down the road.
Thanks for reading this far. I hope this helps to lift the curse of scary advertising from your company.
What’s that, you say? I listed fourteen tips instead of thirteen?
Well, as Dunder-Mifflin Regional Manager Michael Scott once said…
“I’m not superstitious… but I am a littlestitious.”