But Does It Sell Stuff?

By Thought Leaders Archives
Cover image for  article: But Does It Sell Stuff?

The advertising industry is obsessed with selfie awards.  The volume and depth of awards for advertisements is overwhelming and hilarious.  On one list in a trade pub of the The Best Ads of 2018 there was a description of each ad and why it earned a spot on the list.  More than one description said something like this: “… stunning imagery, fantastic even though sales went down during the period that this ad was running.”  What?  Ads are supposed to sell stuff.  I recently asked official advertising industry types if there are awards for ads that sell stuff.  They were confused by the question and mumbled something like, “There is a direct marketing results award, but…”  They weren’t really sure.

The best book we had in Advertising 201, Newhouse School, Syracuse University was titled Which Ad Sold Best?  It showed two ads for the same product and then revealed which ad sold best, step-by-step, and why it did so!

To prove my point, I searched for the book on Amazon and other sites and discovered that it doesn’t exist anymore!  Is my memory playing tricks on me?  Did I make it up?

Let’s hope not.  It’s a necessary, essential book.

Here are key takeaways from it that I can remember:

  1. Put the word “you” or “new” in the headline.
  2. What is the benefit to the customer?  Repeat benefit three times.
  3. Picture or video should demonstrate the product benefit.
  4. Ask for the order.
  5. Be very careful with the imagery of food.

The book never mentioned awards.  The author was determined to keep us focused on “selling stuff.”

Although QVC and HSN win no creative awards, they do sell more product than all Federated department stores combined.

When sitting in on ad agency meetings, in rooms filled with awards and plaques, never once have I heard, “Will this move product off the shelf?"

Instead I hear the ad agency execs saying things like:

  1. Which gym do you go to?
  2. Where did you get that sweater?
  3. Who made this coffee? Is it decaf?
  4. Where do you store your bike?”

The rooms are always beautiful, well air-conditioned and celebrate muted colors.

But the customer is in New Jersey!  When programming radio stations, I always take the on-air talent and execs to rest stops on the Jersey Turnpike.  That’s where all ad agency creative meetings should be held.

Don’t focus group the target consumer, dine with them!

It’s easy to fix.  Instead of fees paid to agencies for their award-winning work, pay commission to the agencies exclusively on “cases sold."

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