Advertising By the Numbers
Let's take a look at four important numbers in advertising.

One: The best ads make one point. The point can be made in several different ways, but the bottom line is that an ad should make only one point.

A lot of advertisers think they can multiply their impact by putting numerous selling points in every ad. Unfortunately, that doesn't work. Years ago, I heard that one of the most important advertising formulas is E=0. Everything equals nothing. When an ad tries to say everything to everybody, the end result is zero impact. That's especially true in today's over-communicated society. To break through the clutter, keep it simple.

Two: There are two types of advertising - image and response. Image advertising is intended to strengthen a brand in a general sense and give consumers a good feeling about the advertiser. For example, you'll find the "good hands people" at Allstate. Wrangler sells "Real. Comfortable. Jeans." And John Deere says, "Nothing runs like a Deere."

On the other hand, response advertising's objective is to motivate consumers to take some specific action. Save 25 percent on sunglasses this weekend. Better hurry - only three townhomes left. Buy one pizza, get one free.

While image advertising has a longer success curve, response advertising is designed to make cash registers ring right away. Too few advertisers realize the difference. They believe that all they have to do is announce they're open for business, and consumers will flock to their door.

Ad sales people should help clients set realistic expectations. Ideally, a campaign should include image-building and response tactics.

Three: The headline is the most important part of an ad. Because numerous studies reveal that only about 20 percent of people who read a headline will read the rest of the copy, the headline should tell readers right up front what the ad is about. If a headline is loaded with puffery ("fantastic savings," "unbelievable quality," etc.) or doesn't provide helpful information, it won't move the needle.

There are three types of effective headlines - benefit, news and curiosity. Benefit headlines promise an immediate payoff ("Save 50 percent on new carpet"). News headlines emphasize something newsworthy ("Introducing the daily flight to London"). And curiosity headlines ask a question or make an unusual statement ("Which of these two houses has the lower heating bill?) Because some curiosity headlines are more extreme than others, a case could be made for a separate category - surprise headlines ("If your parachute doesn't open, the second jump is free").

Four: A typical print ad has four elements - headline, illustration, body copy and logo. The headline should let page-turners know what they'll learn by reading more. The illustration should have a direct relation to the headline. The body copy should expand on the theme which is introduced in the headline. And the logo - the most prominent logo, if there's more than one - should identify the advertiser most closely associated with the message.

Better advertising? It's as easy as one, two, three, four.

(c) Copyright 2012 by John Foust. All rights reserved. John Foust has conducted training programs for thousands of newspaper advertising professionals. Many ad departments are using his training videos to save time and get quick results from in-house training. E-mail for information: jfoust@mindspring.com


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