Ways to Screw Up an Ad Campaign
AdLab Media Communications
Cohen is an ad man and, in keeping with his trade, kicked off his “workshop”
with a statement that, while a tad hyperbolic, got to the point:
“Most smaller businesses in America today are committing advertising
suicide. The rest are playing a dangerous game of Russian roulette,
but it doesn’t have to be that way. We’re here today because
we want to put an end to that and we can and we will.”
The title may have promised attendees new and exciting ways to botch
their advertising attempts, but, not surprisingly, the goal was the
opposite. At the crux of Cohen’s speech were the 10 biggest advertising
mistakes most businesses make and, more importantly, what can be done
to remedy the situation.
No. 1: Hire your brother-in-law as marketing director,
or your spouse.
“No matter how large or small your company is, your accountant
can stop the money from hemorrhaging
or losing money, but the marketing director is responsible for how much
money you actually bring into the company.
“One of the consistent themes of this workshop is to elevate that
marketing function within your organization. Make it important because
that person is truly responsible for how much money you will ultimately
In short, get someone who knows what they’re doing.
“The process begins with market research, determining who buys
the product, where they buy, how they
buy, how they shop, what they like, what they don’t like. We don’t
need any more Edsels.”
No. 2: Hire the biggest ad agency in town when you’re
the smallest advertiser in town. Obviously, the size of the firm matters
less than whether their strategy fits with a business’ goals but,
above all else, “Don’t try this at home.”
“So, how do you select somebody? First, review results, not awards.
You want to know if they can make you more money by handling the campaign
than you would have made on your own. ... Do they already have industry
experience? Have they already worked in the concert business?
“Ask for a proposal. If they put so much of the budget into producing
a campaign that there isn’t enough left over to expose the campaign
in your marketplace, it may not be a good fit.”
Cohen also recommends seeking protection against the same firm working
with your competitors, thus preventing trade secrets from being compromised.
“In addition to that, as always, ask for references.”
No. 3: Do what you’ve always done and you’ll
get what you’ve always gotten. “Times change, neighborhoods
change, travel patterns change.
“The only thing you can count on today is change and you should
anticipate change. Attend all the community meetings, town meetings,
city meetings, planning board meetings. Find out who’s coming
into the community before the fact and what impact that’s going
to have on your business. Remember, your competition is changing.”
No. 4: Handle everything yourself ... and you’ll
be out of business.
“Trust the pros. The trick is for you to be running your business
– that’s the one thing you know the best.
“If you’re spending all your time making up ads or talking
to ad sales people, you are not dealing with your customers and that’s
where you’re needed. Remember to delegate to a talented subordinate.”
No. 5: Anything is better than nothing.
“Today, just putting your name out there is simply not enough.
No matter what anybody tells you, advertising
is first a science and second an art.
“You’ve got to make everybody accountable for results. You
should and can expect justification for plans that come to you, whether
it’s a media or a creative plan.”
Cohen expanded on the two primary sides of an ad campaign, breaking
it down into media (the time and space in which an ad appears) and creative
(the message of the ad). Media is measured by its reach and frequency,
while a campaign with a successful creative side should produce brand
awareness and brand preference.
No. 6: I don’t, so nobody does.
“You and your customers may not have the same habits, especially
if you’re from different generations.
My advice to you is break the mirror. Stop looking at yourself and start
looking at your customers. Find out what they do. Ask for the research
or do your own.”
No. 7: I tried it once and it didn’t work.
“It may have been the timing, it may have been the message, it
may have been the placement. Until you go back and revisit it, you won’t
know whether that medium can work for you or not.”
No. 8: Why bother? I can’t outspend the competition
“The trick here is to advertise smarter, not more.”
Cohen suggested advertisers find a medium the competition isn’t
using and exploit it, be it billboards or cable television. Also, advertisers
should create a perception of better value than competitors, though
that doesn’t necessarily mean lower prices.
“Better value doesn’t mean discounting; it means what you
can add that your customers perceive has value even if it doesn’t
cost you a lot of money. What are they going to remember you for?”
Of course, the primary goal is to create ads that are more memorable
and attention-grabbing than the competition.
No. 9: Who needs it? I’m the leader, hands down.
“Does McDonald’s ever stop promoting? No, of course not.
Category leaders keep their lead. Category leaders never stop promoting.
That’s how they keep their leads.”
No. 10: I’m doing just fine.
Everyone can improve the efficiency of their ad campaigns and therefore
generate more revenue, he said, and who doesn’t want more money?
Cohen suggested setting up a special phone number that only appears
in the ad; monitoring those calls can give a sense of how many people
the ad has reached. Or simply ask new customers where they heard about
the promotion. Information like zip codes and demographic data can reveal
if the ad is reaching new audiences.
“No single indicator will tell you by itself whether your ad is
working. There’s no fool-proof method. However, if you use as
many of these measuring devices as possible, you will begin to get a
feel for whether your advertising is working or not.”
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