On Advertising

Seeing advertisements is like getting a friend request on Facebook. It’s going to happen to you. In some instances you’d love to be friends, and in others you hate it. The reason why you hate advertising more than love it today is because most people are doing it wrong.

The average American will be exposed to about 5,000 advertisements in one day. Thanks to mobile phones, people don’t even have to get out of bed in the morning to see an advertisement. But merely being exposed to advertisements really isn’t the problem. I would argue that most people don’t mind being sold to if they understand why that particular product, service or message is important and if they enjoy the process along the way.

One of my favorite examples of this is an Apple commercial that ran in 1997 known as “Crazy Ones.” The commercial produced by advertising agency, Chiat\Day, truthfully said exactly what people wanted to hear and had a powerful enough message that college kids hang up posters with the words of the commercial in their dorm rooms.

The advertisement succeeded because it hit the right people with the right message. Because of this, the advertisement is still around today with as much force as ever, Apple thrives, and people absolutely love it.

So how can all advertising be like Apple’s “Crazy One” campaign? There are four main components that contribute: the message, the medium, the timing and the frequency.

The Message
Keep it simple

Two of the best known campaigns worldwide are the Nike “Just Do It” campaign and the “Got Milk?” campaign. Two to three words is all it takes for the world to know about your product or brand. Simplify.

Speak the truth

Let your advertising highlight the truthful advantage about the product you’re selling. If the product you’re marketing is a healthy kids cereal, don’t advertise it as “the best tasting cereal that kids will love.” Put yourself in the customer’s shoes; No one likes to be lied to.

Make it relatable

People want to relate with other people, experience life and have fun. If done right, every advertisement should be something that evokes human emotions, says “I understand you” to the target customer and allows them to experience life in a different, unique way.

Have fun creating art

Advertising is a portion of the art business. People can recognize good art from bad art, and you can only really create good art if you’re having fun with it. So have fun with the product, the brand, and the people you work to create great art.

The Medium

Choosing the medium (digital, print, TV, radio, etc.) and the brand with which you advertise can make the difference. First, think about the optimal way for your potential customers to experience your product or service. (ex. If you’re advertising for a brand like Ferrari, TV or digital video is a more effective medium than radio.)

Then, think about where your audience is looking for advice about products like yours. (i.e. If you’re a brand like Victoria’s Secret, (i.e. I would be 20x more likely to buy a cute bra advertised in Cosmo magazine than The Food Network magazine).

And lastly, think about the brand of the media company who you advertise with. There are subtile implications about your own brand and your customers by choosing between Cosmopolitan and Glamour.

The Timing

There are two types of timing you need to consider with advertising: the timing when you launch a campaign and the timing when your ads run.

When thinking about the campaign, factor in the other cultural events that are occuring around the same time as the campaign launch. Will your campaign get over run by the other cultural events happening? Or will it be something that complements those events (i.e. ice bucket challenges)? Or will it dominate those events (i.e. Apple “Think Different” campaign)?

When thinking about timing of the individual ads, make sure that your best ads are playing or displaying when people are around to see/hear them. This is why people pay so much for advertising during the SuperBowl as opposed to 3am on a Tuesday morning.

The Frequency

Bombarding people with your campaign 24/7/365 is not a good thing (even I would get tired of the “Crazy Ones” campaign if I saw it all day, everyday). There is a difference between dominating and creating buzz (like Venmo did in NYC) and overstaying your welcome. Advertise enough that your brand is noticed, but not so much that your brand looses its novelty.

Ending Note: A/B testing in advertising is underrated. Test your messages on digital with a smaller budget. Revise and/or kill the messages/ads that don’t work before investing the money to create huge national campaigns on more concrete mediums. Only scale what people love.