TO MAKE ADS COMMUNICATE, TAILOR CREATIVITY TO MEET GOALS
In leafing through the trade and consumer press, I often wonder why there's such a vacuum of creativity and imagination when it comes to trade advertising. Based on personal experience, there can't be that many built-in blocks between clients and writers that discourage inventiveness and creativity.
To illustrate the point, simply pick up any trade, industrial or business publication. Most of the ads look like pages out of the firm's catalog. Generally, they are deadpan repeats of specific product features. Or worse yet, a listing of specifications. The models in the ads look like they belong in store windows, because they aren't believable. The products--well, they also show a lack of imagination shown head-on against a plain background.
In short, most of the ads you see in the trade and business press fail to really communicate. In contrast, however, forceful, exciting ad copy leaves little to chance. It controls and manipulates the reader, attracts his or her attention with a provocative headline and graphics. It leaves the reader with an idea that is easily retained.
Psychologists will tell you that much of what we communicate in normal face-to-face contact is nonverbal “words.” Some people place the nonverbal content of the message as high as 80 percent.
If you curtail non-verbal communications, the result is suspicion on the part of the recipient. A person who talks in monotone, without gestures and facial expressions implies that they don't want to tell you anything about themselves. On the other hand, we automatically relax and trust a person who expresses him or herself. We know what kind of a person they are. And, we are more likely to accept what they say.
Unfortunately, this seems to get lost when people are preparing advertising. Mired in product specifications and features, people forget that they are trying to talk to people. They get caught in the bind of the "either/or" principle.
Either they do a consumer-type ad that is gimmicky and clever, or they do a straightforward trade ad that simply gets the facts across.
Fortunately, we don't have to polarize our thinking. The best trade ads have interest, readability, and dramatic presentation just as the consumer ads. In addition, they have a concise and forceful presentation of the facts.
Let's examine the basic consumer advertising techniques and how trade advertising can effectively use them.
Probably the greatest concern is to get the public's attention. It's a real problem. Consumers (keep in mind, we're all consumers) get bombarded with thousands of advertising messages, so getting them to even notice the ad is a job.
To survive in the consumer field, ad people use different type, dig for unusual product features, and use creative means to make the point. The same can be done in a trade ad.
Use a warm, believable model with your product, rather than the product sitting in the middle of the desert. Next, use a headline that creates a feeling or mood about the company and product. Don't use the easy way out of shooting the product and a headline that says "Four Reasons Why XYZ is the Best You Can Buy."
Some time back, we were working on an ad campaign for a firm and we needed to illustrate the fact that similar equipment is often down a lot (out of commission), which meant the serviceperson was always around.
We found a man who looked the right age of the manager we wanted to illustrate. Then we instructed him to look tired, dejected, and exasperated at always seeing the serviceman around.
The results were outstanding. He immediately fell into the role.
He looked just like you and me. He was believable. You could empathize with his problems and his feelings.
After looking at the illustration and reading the headline, you automatically believed the copy because there was a strong identity with the model.
Not all trade products lend themselves to demonstrations, but many do. A good demonstration can do several things. It creates reader interest. It allows the reader to experience the product in action. And, if a pertinent example is used, it can demonstrate the capabilities of the product better than any listing of features ever could.
By relating the unfamiliar with the commonplace, the reader can see the difference. It gives the reader a real point of comparison.
There are lots reasons why selling ideas works better that selling features. People tend to remember better in associational patterns. One idea recalls another, until you have followed through the entire thought.
Then you have a better chance of getting the information in your ads recalled. This means finding a concept that links all of the salient copy points. Stick to your basic point, and bring in other features only if they add substance to the central idea.
If there are additional features you want to mention, put them at the end of the ad and as briefly as possible. Remember that an ad is not supposed to be a spec sheet. An ad is engineered to sell an idea and get the reader to write or call for more information. When they do, you can then burden them with a hundred pounds of specifications.
Leaf through one or two of your favorite trade publications looking only at the ads. You'll discover that most of them have one thing in common. Visually, they just sit there.
They are generally visual captions to the headline rather that powerful visuals in their own right. The trend in the best consumer advertising is toward using pictures that are good enough to draw attention all by themselves. They add dimension and believability to the facts.
By way of contrast, have you ever wondered what it would be like to take those stilted people in trade ads and put them in front of a paying audience? The audience would walk out!
People who write trade ads often treat the reader in the same manner...as though they were information-processing machines. Too bad. They are making a major mistake.
Readers are people. And their reading habits are subject to human, not machine-like responses.
People shy away from long sentences. The most interesting copy is well paced and reads like people talk. Use one-word sentences. Sentences without verbs.
One-line paragraphs snap the eye awake.
Good advertising copy feeds ideas to the reader in spoonfuls, not in large lumps that are hard to swallow and digest. Any ad or marketing manager who uses early style guides will sacrifice readability for correctness. This is not to condone poor grammar, but to avoid those correct sentences that sound unnatural to the ear.
The same rule applies to layouts.
There's the layout that lines up all the copy, has no windows, has everything balanced and squared off like some paintings. This kind of layout may please us aesthetically, but it doesn't draw us in.
The truth is, we are drawn to irregularity. We are more interested in the unresolved. We are susceptible to the same psychological devices in an ad that a salesman uses in making a good personal demonstration.
A creative message can have as much impact as current news. Since you can't always come up with new information about a product, create excitement by showing the reader an old product in a new way or a new product in a startling way.
A creative ad--one with surprise--can have the impact of three or four mundane ads. This should be attractive to the firm that doesn't have an unlimited budget, or the company that wants a lot of mileage from its ad dollars.
To avoid the pitfalls of trade-ad writers and managers, keep in touch with consumer and all types of advertising. Watch your reactions to ads, how you respond, and what you respond to. Become sensitive to yourself as a reader. The use the same communication devices and techniques that professional communicators use to motivate people.
Finally, throw away the term "industrial" or "trade advertising." We get so hung up on semantics that we forget that what we're really doing is communicating ideas from one person to another. The recipient is a consumer...it just so happens he's an engineering or industrial consumer.