Why Advertising Doesn’t Work

The world has changed and you should, too.

Frank McKinley
Mar 10 · 5 min read
Photo by Paweł Czerwiński on Unsplash

The world has changed radically since I was a kid.

And it’s never going back.

Every day after school back in the 1970s, I watched TV. I loved the shows, but honestly, I could care less about the commercials.

They did provide one benefit, though.

I was able to go to the bathroom without missing a minute of the action.

That’s what made movies awesome. They front-loaded all the commercials, so once the film started rolling, there would be no interruptions.

That meant you better go to the bathroom beforehand or you’d pay for it later after you drink that 20 gallon Coke from the concession stand. And of course, you will. The salty, buttery tub of popcorn makes you as thirsty as a barren desert.

Commercials being interruptions is nothing new. That’s why TV was free to watch. Honestly, I think TV was created so advertisers would have another stage to showcase their products.

Now, commercials are everywhere. In your apps. On your social media feeds. In your Internet radio.

Commercials even litter my favorite blog posts.

What’s a reader to do? Come to Medium?

It’s easy to buy ads.

Any platform (except this one) will sell you ad space.

Boost this post.

Just look at how many more people you can reach. Instead of 300 you can reach 3,000. And it’s as cheap as a nice dinner at your favorite sit down restaurant. I mean, c’mon, who can’t afford that?

What they don’t guarantee is that anyone in that larger crowd will care. That part is up to you.

One argument is that if you just use free social media, the platform will limit your reach. The only way around that is to find some people who are so excited about what you have to say that they tell everyone they know. The hope is that among that person’s tribe there are other “sneezers” who will spread your message like some people spread cold viruses.

Suppose you do buy ads. What happens if you run out of money before your product makes a ton of money (or any at all)?

Do you give up?

Try something else?

When your resources are spent and you still have bills, you need a different kind of leverage.

Jump onto a bigger stage.

Commercials are noise.

Since they’re omnipresent now, we tune them out to maintain our sanity.

I haven’t answered a telemarketing call in over 20 years. I don’t even have a home phone anymore. Long distance rates are irrelevant now, and I don’t want to talk about aluminum siding or life insurance while I’m eating dinner with my family.

And don’t even get me started about email.

If buying interruptions isn’t working, what can you do?

Get on the show instead of the breaks.

People still read blog posts. They listen to podcasts. And they watch videos.

Can you find a show that is looking for guests? Do you have some news that their audience is dying to hear? Will you write something that solves a problem?

If you can get on a popular stage, you can potentially reach thousands of people with your message.

And you can do it for FREE.

The only thing it will cost you is time and some preparation.

No money? No problem.

Now let’s look at how you can make the most of such an opportunity.

Grab attention with your pitch.

If you want to write for your favorite website, it’s not hard to learn what they want.

What you want doesn’t matter until it aligns with what your host wants.

There is some noise you’ll have to sift through to get noticed, though. Chances are these hosts are getting tons of requests to come on their shows or write for their blogs.

You stand out by being remarkable.

That sounds great, right? But what does it mean, really?

Here’s something you may not see anywhere else.

The other day I wrote a short piece on why you should have a sense of humor. There are a host of health benefits, of course. And that’s great. But one question stared me straight in the eye as I prepared to write this.

What makes something funny?

What is it that makes people laugh almost on command?

I found the answer in just one word.


Something is incongruous when it just doesn’t fit. Like the talking Gecko on the Geico commercial. Or those talking animals on Looney Tunes. Or watching someone wear winter clothes in July.

You can’t help but notice something that violates everything you expect.

Here are a couple of examples from my own catalog here on Medium.

Experts tell you that you should write every single day without fail. If you don’t, you should feel like a fraud. In fact, you’re probably not even a real writer if you don’t put some words on paper.

Here’s my response to that:

Writing gurus tell you that every first draft you write will suck. The problem is, it’s not true. Sometimes you can pen something great on the first try. This kind of advice keeps a lot of writers from writing anything, so I responded with this:

An excellent way to grab a blogger or podcast host’s attention is to challenge the status quo. For every no, there is a yes. For every can’t, there is a can. You may have to experiment for a while to find it. So get used to peeling onions to find the truth no one is talking about or wants to see.

Solve an unsolvable problem that has plagued your tribe for far too long.

Offer a different way of looking at things that will create a breakthrough.

We need you to do this.


Throw your limitations to the wind.

Money is only one form of leverage.

If you don’t have it yet, don’t give up.

You do have determination at your disposal, and you can use it whenever you want.

Will you?

Make your own leverage. Create your own buzz. Do it by appealing to what your people are hungry for. Answer their burning questions. Feed their deepest desires. Help them fulfill their dreams.

Do that, and you can have all the attention you could ever want.

And you won’t have to spend a cent to interrupt people.


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Frank McKinley

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Featured on NBC News. Creative Coach on a mission to turn Striving Writers into Thriving Writers. Over 30k books sold. http://eepurl.com/cA56nH


Discover the best up and coming writers. You'll say you knew them when.