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Pick Up the Pieces

What to do when a good ad gets a bad response.

This story appears in the November 1998 issue of Business Start-Ups magazine.

While watching a rerun of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" the other night, I was reminded of an important business lesson. In this episode, the android officer Data suffers a loss of confidence after losing a game of Strategema (a fictional strategy game) which he believes he played perfectly, without mistakes. To get Data back on the bridge of the starship Enterprise, Captain Picard tells him, "Data, it is possible to make no mistakes and still lose."

If you've ever placed your own advertising, you know it's a lot like high-stakes Strategema. When a perfectly good ad fails, it's hard to know what went wrong. Let's assume you've produced a terrific print ad: A benefit-oriented headline draws the reader in; you've used an intriguing visual and motivational copy; your ad is readable, clear and has an effective call to action (a reason and means for readers to respond). But you run your perfectly good ad and absolutely nothing happens, or perhaps just a few responses trickle in.

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