How to Switch Your Advertising From Garbage to Gold

Adverts generally fit into one of these categories:

• Institutional or Image advertisements (I call this garbage)
• Direct-response advertisements (I call this gold, if used correctly it’s worth more than gold.)

What Are Institutional Advertisements?

Institutional or image advertisements make up 90% of most publications. These adverts generally emphasise the business name in big letters across the top. They provide a list of the products and services that they sell. Occasionally they’ll provide prices on a product and often they will have an image or a photo. The address and phone number are usually at the bottom.

This is just a generalized version, there are many different layouts. Basically this form of ad is passive and does not persuade the reader to buy. In essence it just says “this is me, this is what I do and this is how to contact me”.

Most small businesses use this format because they don’t know any different. They have been led to believe that this is the ‘right’ way to advertise. This form of advertising focuses on the business, not the customer, selling is only a by-product.

Graphic designers and advertising sales representatives love these ads. They are fast and easy to create and their performance can’t be measured.

Although I call these types of ads garbage, they do have their place in the advertising world. Institutional ads are fine for the big corporations with their multi-million dollar advertising budgets.

Institutional advertising is very good at ‘image’ creation. The problem with these advertisements is although they can be good at ‘selling’ a corporate image – they aren’t good at selling products and services.

What Are Direct Response Advertisements?

Direct response advertising originated through mail-order companies. Mail-order companies basically can only survive if their ads generate orders – they have to get it right or lose money. Because of all the measuring and testing carried out by these companies over the last century, the results generated have proved without doubt what works in direct response advertising.

In relation to institutionalized ads, readers respond to direct-response ads in significantly greater numbers. Institutionalized ads require the prospect to be actively looking for your product in order to generate an inquiry, whereas direct response advertising makes them act regardless if they are actively looking for the product or not.

One of the things that make direct response advertising so effective is that each component of the ad is tested. This allows things to be changed and altered to see the best response; nothing is included unless it proves to increase responses.

Direct response advertising has proven itself to be an effective method throughout businesses in all countries. The fundamentals of direct response are adaptable to any type of business in any type of media. Even though I primarily focus on print marketing, these concepts can be carried over to the web, television or radio too.

If it’s not already obvious, here’s the difference.

Institutionalized Vs Direct Response

It’s not rocket science to work out which of these ads are going to pull more sales, but most people are oblivious to the fact that they even use institutionalized ads. They don’t know that there’s an alternative.

With institutional ads, you just say who you are, what you do and how to get in touch. There is nothing special or unique about your ad. If you’re lucky the reader sees your ad, but they see it as a just another business advertisement. They are just like every other institutionalized ad – which essentially only says “This is my business, this is what I sell and this is how to get in contact with me”

With direct-response ads, you are actually advertising a specific offer, with a straight forward, compelling and detailed message that answers the reader’s favorite question “what’s in it for me?” A direct response advert not only attracts the reader to the offer, it actually motivates the reader to order now or to fill in the coupon or give you a call. This is what is often referred to as a “call to action”. You actually ask your prospect what to do.

Direct Response Breakdown

An effective direct response ad can be broken down into two main parts:

• The Offer
• The Composition

In order for an ad to succeed, it must be solid in both these areas.

If you have an amazing offer and a weak composition – very few people will notice, let alone read your ad and learn about the great offer. Alternatively, an ad that is composed according to the successful principles of direct response marketing, but only has an average offer will get read, but the readers won’t have sufficient reason to respond because of your weak offer.

You need to have an advertisement with a good offer. It needs to have value to the reader. As long as the ad is composed using the following components, you will see amazing response rates.
There is a step by step sequence that has been proven to work time and time again for the past 100 years:

• You make a specific promise and/or offer
• You present your features and benefits
• You prove that you can deliver using social proof
• You remove risk using a guarantee
• You appeal to their emotions
• And you ask for an action.

That is essentially all there is to it. These response-generating, money-making strategies have proved themselves to be more efficient than any other method of advertising. When you apply these strategies to your ads, you will notice a dramatic increase in responses.

The beauty is that you do not have to spend a cent more on advertising. All you’ll do it use your current budget and change your current institutionalized ads into direct response ads. You’ll see an amazing change in the effectiveness of your advertising.

Advertising As a Career Option

Making career choices is not easy. One is overwhelmed by the variety of options available and intrigued about knowing one’s own abilities. Like everyone, I have always wanted to be a lot of things in life, but one has to start with one thing at a time. I took the Commerce stream as I never had the aptitude for Science, and Humanities was a stream too trivial for me. It proved to be a good decision as I did well in class 12th and got the opportunity to continue my education in the area. In college, I explored the various options that my course, B. Com. Honours has, and finally decided to specialize in Marketing in my final year.

I chose Marketing as it combined my interests in Commerce and creativity. Marketing in itself is a diverse branch of commerce. Advertising, Public Relations, Marketing Management and Brand Management are only a few of its various branches. After some well spent hours in research and introspection, I finally arrived at the conclusion that I want to further my knowledge in Advertising.

Advertising really intrigued me. I have always had an eye for good advertisements but never thought of it as a career option. Now when I read thick, illustrated books on advertising history, I was convinced it would be my profession for life.

Advertising is nothing but art. It creatively projects the immediate beliefs and practices of people of a time. For example, Indian advertisements today present a nuclear family, technology oriented youth and working wives, which is true to the nature of present Indian society. Also, since the purpose of advertising is to promote and sell a product, it persuades people by presenting situations and themes relevant to their lifestyles. In this, it presents the immediate culture of society. If archaeologists of the future would want to know the culture of 21st century India, they would have to look at its ads! These aspects of advertising made me understand an advertiser’s responsibility towards society to project its culture without distortion.

Now the question was- what does it take to be an advertiser? I believe, to make good ads, one has to be a student of human nature. One should be able to connect with people, because advertising is more about people than products. One should be observant of lives and the needs of people to create effective communication. Another requirement would be creativity. All of us are creative at one level or the other. People who are serious about advertising should make a conscious effort towards enhancing their creativity. If you like photography, then pick up a camera and try taking some interesting pictures. Or if you like to write, then write on some interesting topics. Such activities would bring out your latent creative potential.

Advertising is multi-faceted. Print and media are not the only methods of advertising. Outdoor advertising, online advertising and direct marketing are its various challenging new methods today. One can slowly explore the various mediums by researching on the internet or simply observing advertisements all around.

An MBA would certainly enhance one’s prospects in this area but one needs to choose the institute and course carefully. Not many institutes in India provide a specialization in advertising. MICA, Ahmedabad is the best institute to launch one’s career in advertising. Symbiosis, Pune and Narsee Monjee, Mumbai are two other renowned institutes which provide comprehensive education in advertising. However, all major management institutes in the UK, the US and Australia have advertising in MBA curriculum.

Advertising is an interesting career option for a Commerce student as it is not about making accounts or balance sheets. Advertising requires originality, creativity and a mind open to new ideas. Advertising would be worth a thought for someone who wants to make an unconventional career choice.

Business Suicide Strategy #6 – Using ‘Institutional’ Advertising

I would say 99% of people still use ‘Institutional Advertising’ which is advertising that doesn’t ask for a direct and instant response. It is characterized by ads that have the following characteristics:

1) The company name as the headline at the top of the ad…
2) Very little copy on the ad…
3) A list of products or services provided by the company…
4) Lots of white space…
5) Lovely pictures or images with no direct relationship to the product or service sold…and
6) No incentive to call now…

Pick up your Yellow Pages Directory and go to any page. You’ll see the this type of ad all over the place in almost any category. I urge you strongly to stop advertising like this right away.

C But let me tell you – the image itself does not generate sales! And when you consider the fact that people really don’t care about a business, or what the business sells -image or institutional advertising is a complete waste of money. Always remember this…

People don’t buy products or services – they buy the result. They buy ‘what’s in it for me?’ They buy a solution to their problem(s). It’s true that institutional or image advertising can help build ‘brand awareness’. And that’s okay for large corporations such as Cola-Cola. They have multimillion dollar advertising budgets (having said that, these companies would prosper even more if they used direct response advertising.)

When you compare ads particularly in the special advertising sections, the ads are very similar in cost and tend to feature a list of services offered by the business with no action items referred to as a ‘call to action’. A well written ad should make you money. It is an ad that gives enough information to elicit an immediate response, either to send in the coupon, pick up the phone and call for the information or any step that moves the buyer closer to purchasing from the advertiser.

You must spend at least 60-75% of your time writing a catchy headline which will immediately grab the customer’s eye and peek their curiosity to continue to read. You have seconds to grab their attention. For example an ad beginning with…. “They Laughed When I Put The Tri-Creaser On My Folding Machine, But When They Saw The Results…” The reader is immediately intrigued to read the rest of the story.

Most businesses or entrepreneurs fall into two advertising categories…brand building or direct response ads. Brand building advertising doesn’t work well for small businesses because either the business chooses the wrong publication(s) (i.e. the target market was wrong) or typically the business can’t keep advertising long term because of cost. Advertising should generate sales almost immediately (direct response) not in the hope that sometime in the future someone who wants the product or service you offer remembers the ad and decides to buy from you?

Powerful direct response ads can transform your business literally overnight even in this economy. The response rate is so significant that it can occur often instantaneous with tested ‘calls to action’ and good copy. Each ad must be accountable, measurable and tracked to ensure that the ad is running at a profit! I guarantee you as soon as you start writing direct response ads you’ll increase your responses and sales many times over. And your profits will skyrocket! You’ll not only save money but make much more by following this advice!