From the March 1998 issue of Entrepreneur

What's with these ads, anyway? You know the ones. The Sprite commercials that say, "Trust your taste buds, not commercials." The Miller Lite ads that poke fun at "our creative genius, Dick." Or those Levi's ads that, well, don't act like ads at all.

Dubbed "anti-advertising," the trend is hot--but does it work? "If your goal is to catch people's attention, it works," says Michael Kamins, associate professor of marketing at the University of Southern California's Marshall School of Business in Los Angeles. "But if your goal is to sell, it's not going to work."

Matthew McAllister, associate professor of com-munication studies at Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg, says anti-ads' strength is in creating an image. As such, they work best for products aimed at the image-conscious youth market and for products with little difference between brands.

Thinking about trying anti-advertising? Proceed with caution. Although it can work for smaller businesses, McAllister warns that results may not justify the expense. "You need to try outrageous, untested techniques, and that's costly," he says.

Dave Lakhani, owner of Direct Hit Marketing in Boise, Idaho, is blunt: "There's no good reason for a small company ever to engage in this type of advertising." Lakhani, whose full-service marketing, PR and advertising agency handles small clients, elaborates: "[Anti-ads] only further the bottom line if a company has an enormous budget to do them on a consistent basis."


Karen Axelton is managing editor of Business Start-Ups magazine.

Read All About It

Do try these at home.

Looking for sales ideas that work? Check out The Competitive Advantage. Each month, this eight-page newsletter offers at least 50 practical ideas to help you sell better.

From The Briefings Publishing Group, The Competitive Advantage features quick, easy-to-read sales tips from leading business magazines, books and journals, and top sales experts. "We focus on practical tips rather than theory," explains managing editor Deirdre Hackett. "These are action ideas."

Topics include building customer relationships, overcoming objections, and motivating and rewarding salespeople. You'll also find inspirational items, plus tips from real business owners.

Subscriptions cost $99 for one year, with discounts for multiple subscriptions. To receive a free issue, call (800) 888-2084 or visit http://www.combriefings.com

Great Gimmicks

You won't find these recipes in Bon Appetit.

A spoonful of sugar not only helps the medicine go down--it also helps profits go up. Just ask Harold and Kenneth Kramm (l. to r.), father-and-son proprietors of Center Pharmacy in Washington, DC. Six years ago, when Kenneth's young daughter refused to swallow some bitter medicine, the pair figured out how to formulate it in flavors like bubble gum, root beer and butterscotch.

The result? A resounding "Yum." After asking local pediatricians if their patients would be interested in flavored medicines, the Kramms developed more than 100 flavors. Today, they benefit from the three-dollar flavoring charge and the 60 to 70 additional customers the service attracts each day to their store. Kenneth says some parents drive up to 40 miles to buy the child-friendly concoctions.

So successful were the partners that two years ago, they developed a spin-off business, Flavorx Inc., that sells flavorings to some 400 pharmacists and 15 hospitals nationwide. Kenneth, who has a background in marketing, also develops customized ads for each participating store. "A lot of pharmacists don't know how to advertise," he explains. "This helps them compete against the big chains."

David DeVido, owner of Briargrove Pharmacy in Houston, took the idea one step further: As well as flavored kids' medicines, he creates flavored medicines for animals. "Fish and chicken for cats, beef for dogs," DeVido says. It's the cat's meow.

Contact Sources

Briargrove Pharmacy, 6435 San Felipe, Houston, TX 77057, (713) 783-5704

The Competitive Advantage, 1101 King St., #110, Alexandria, VA 22314

Direct Hit Marketing, 6632 Hummel, Boise, ID 83709, (208) 368-7979

Flavorx Inc./Center Pharmacy, (800) 884-5771, fax: (202) 363-4312