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Dumb Advertising Moves to Avoid Want to make an effective ad? Don't make these common mistakes.

This article was excerpted from MadScam.

There are several recommendations I make here that apply equally to all forms of advertising. And even though our focus is advertising for small to medium companies, most of these no-nos apply to all businesses, irrespective of size.

  • Borrowed interest. Avoid trying to associate yourself with things that have no relevance to what you do. If you're in the roofing business, talk about roofing, show roofing, and explain how you're the world's unmatched authority on roofing. Don't show pictures of animals and babies. I don't care what you've read in other books, animals and babies might get people's attention, but unless they're in the market for one, these cute and cuddly objects won't help you make a sale. Don't talk about your ancestors, where you grew up, or where you went to school-unless you graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the National Roofing Academy. Stick to what you're best at-roofing.
  • Event sales. Refrain from jumping on this bandwagon. Even if it is the 1,200th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Blognovia, this event has no relevance to the fact that for the next week you are having a four-for-two sale on hubcaps. Far better to simply spell out the great savings customers can get while making their '65 Valiant look like it just came out of the showroom. Far too much local retail advertising, including that from our favorite villains, the car dealerships, falls into this trap. If you're going to have a sale, have a sale. What's the point of having a Presidents' Day Sale when every other retailer is having a Presidents' Day Sale on exactly the same Presidents' Day?

    And even when it's not used as an excuse for a sale, try to avoid falling into the trap of running the same advertising and promotional themes everyone else is running because they woke up one morning and found they were seven days away from St. Valentine's Day. The worst example of this is when the Olympics roll around every four years and everyone starts running ads with inane headlines such as "Blogs Electric is going for the gold" or "At VideoRama we're raising the bar to new heights." Remember, it's all about standing out, not blending in.
  • Ego trips. Don't put yourself in the advertising. You think you're great. Your family thinks you're great. Even you're employees think you're great. (Would they tell you otherwise, even if they thought you were an imbecile?) But guess what? Your prospective customers don't know you from a hole in the wall, and your smiling face isn't going to convince them you have the best stuff within 100 miles. Any time I see a CEO or company president in an ad, I can smell the desperation oozing out of the page. Either the person pictured in the ad is suffering from a bad case of egomania or the ad agency has reached the stage were the client has turned down the last dozen campaigns and out of desperation they come up with the what-the-heck-do-we-do-now chestnut, "Hey CJ, why don't we feature you in the ad? Kinda serious, but approachable, on the factory floor, or walking on a beach looking out to sea, the visionary thing, maybe in a black turtleneck, very Steve Jobs-ish. Waddya think, CJ?" Don't ever go there. It never works. Smart CEOs save themselves for PR. Look at The Donald of Trump and Branson of Virgin; they're everywhere, except in their own ads.
  • Different media, different ads. Don't run ads that bear no relationship to each other in different kinds of media. As I've said earlier, if a concept is good because it's based on an original idea, it should work in all kinds of media. Your core advertising message need only change if your business changes. Yes, you can certainly fine tune your advertising and messaging, but only to improve it. Don't change for the sake of change. No one sees your advertising as much as you do. Give your prospective customers the chance to see and be affected by it.
  • Advertise everywhere. Make your ad budget work harder for you by specifically creating ads that work in a limited selection of media. (I've dealt with media options in the previous chapter.) Find out which of the various media options have the most readership with your target groups, then put all your money in those. If you have a limited budget (who doesn't?), you can't afford to waste your money in generalist publications. Find the ones that appeal to the specific niche who will be the prime market for what you have to offer. Then create your ad content to suit.
  • Overdoing the ads. Do not create too many ads. Use your money to create a few really good ads. Invest in superior art work. Take the time to write (or have written for you) intelligent, pithy copy that people will take pleasure in reading. Make it interesting and informative. Write it so the reader will want to know more and will make the effort to do so by going to your web site, returning a prepaid reply card, calling a phone number, or even coming round to your place of business.

Only create ads you're proud of. Don't be satisfied to say to yourself, "Yeah, they may look like crap, but they sell a ton of stuff." Life's too short not to be proud of what you do. Create ads that look great--and sell a ton of stuff..

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