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Most Ads Suck Book Excerpt – Chapter 1

Here is Chapter One of my new book MOST ADS SUCK (But Yours Won’t). You can pre-order the book here.

(If you didn’t read the Foreword already, you can find it here.)

(Cover Art not final)

Chapter 1 – Most Ads Suck

“Every customer is the right customer. What you’re looking for is the right moment.” – Roy H. Williams

You’re in a room with friends, a plate of nachos in your hands. It’s the first Sunday in February. It’s a Super Bowl Party. Everyone is glued to the TV. Groans and high-fives and laughter fill the air. Some of your friends are second-guessing every move, every decision they see on the screen. Everyone is cheering for their favorite, even making excuses when it doesn’t go so well.

Then the game comes back on and you head to the bathroom and back to the kitchen to refill your nacho plate.

Once a year you watch the ads. One night out of three hundred and sixty-five you don’t fast forward or change the channel or—in many cases even care about the actual programming, just the ads in between.

You remember the good ones from years past. You remember how a few years ago the Budweiser Armed Forces in Airport commercial made you feel when everyone started clapping slowly, then faster until the whole airport was standing and applauding the soldiers walking through. You remember the kid looking you in the eyes and telling you he wanted to work in middle management even though you can’t recall which employment service did that ad and which one had the monkeys in the office.

You also remember groaning at some of the really bad ones, wondering how in the world that ad got approved for production, let alone a multi-million-dollar TV slot. You wish your own business was like one of these big companies with millions of dollars to waste on advertising knowing that in two weeks no one would remember and you would still have tens of millions to spend on the boring, crap ads everyone runs the rest of the year.

Why is that? Why, you wonder, do all these companies spend so much time, money and creativity on their Super Bowl ads only to run them once a year and leave you with the same tired sales-pitchy stuff the rest of the year? While you’re at it, you wonder why so many companies spend so much time, money and creativity only to miss the mark by a wide margin. Puppymonkeybaby? Really, Mountain Dew? That’s the best you could come up with?

Your friends tell you they’ve switched to satellite radio. Too many ads on regular radio, they say. Other friends tell you the greatest invention is the DVR or Netflix or Hulu. Don’t have to suffer through so many ads, they say. They do have a point. You seem to recall some study about how you are bombarded with over 5,000 advertising messages a day. You’re not sure if that number is right, but you do know that everywhere you turn there is another promotional message staring at you. Heck, every sub-segment of the Super Bowl was “brought to you by …” some auto/food/beer/insurance/drug company.

Maybe there are too many ads.

But there you are on the first Sunday in February, ignoring the brought-to-you-by announcements and even the game itself, and instead comparing notes with your friends on which ads were the funniest, the most moving, the most memorable.

Suddenly it dawns on you. The real problem with advertising isn’t that there are too many ads. The real problem is that most ads suck. If they were more creative or funny like the ones you saw tonight, you’d pay attention. If they were entertaining, you wouldn’t be switching channels. If they touched your heart, you might actually take action.

You think you’ve figured it out. You think you’ve figured out what famed retailer John Wanamaker couldn’t when he famously said, “Half of my ad budget is wasted. The problem is I don’t know which half.” It’s the half with the lousy, looks-like-everyone-else, boring, stupid ads.

You want to shout it from the rooftop. You’ve solved the advertising equation. The first half, at least.

You start thinking how fun it would be to meet with the advertising executives of every major company out there and tell them to quit spending all their money on Super Bowl ads and instead spend that money to make the rest of their ads better.

Then you wonder. “Wait, do I have it all wrong? Is it really that simple? That these multi-billion-dollar companies with their multi-million-dollar advertising budgets and their multi-million-dollar advertising firms with all their fancy metrics just don’t get it?”

Yes, you do have it right. Yes, you instinctively understand what many ad agencies and major national corporations don’t. You get it because you’re the consumer. You know what works on you and what doesn’t. You know what gets you to tune in and tune out.

You’re also smart enough to realize that some ads just aren’t speaking to you. You still appreciate clever writing, creative copy, and smart messages. If they’re entertaining enough, you’ll tolerate ads written for someone other than you. But your internal filter shuts everything down as soon as it looks, sounds, or smells like the plethora of phony, deceiving, too-good-to-be-true ads out there.

You’re about to start making a list of the worst offenders, the ones whose offices you’ll visit first to tell them about your new revelation, when it dawns on you. You know what they shouldn’t be doing. But if they ask you how to make their ads more interesting and memorable and effective, you don’t know where to start.

Hmmm …

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Thank you for those who have already supported the campaign to get this book printed. There are some amazing perks available for those of you who wish to contribute including one perk where I will create two ads for you (no matter what platform you are using). 

Most Ads Suck Book Excerpt – Foreword

I promised you some excerpts from my new book MOST ADS SUCK (But Yours Won’t). Like all good books, the best place to start is the beginning. Here is the Foreword …

(Cover Art Not Final)

Foreword

Who will use this book? Anyone who writes content to persuade including web content, ad copy, magazine articles, emails and newsletters, and even speeches. If you write to persuade, you’ll find this book relevant and useful. If you write to connect, you’ll find this book relevant and useful. If you write to spark change, you’ll find this book relevant and useful.

The character who leads you through this book is you. You’re like me in your curiosity and desire to learn—that’s why you’re reading this book in the first place. You lead yourself through the first eight chapters discovering new ideas and revelations as you go. I will take over in Chapter 9 to show you by example how the principles you learn in this book apply to all different types of businesses, including yours.

You will still need to bring a few tools to the table to make this book work best for you. Most importantly, you have to know your Core Values. For the purpose of this book, you will have the values of Freedom, Curiosity, Diligence, and Education. You will use your own Curiosity to explore the concepts of how to make your advertising more effective. You will use Diligence to do the research you need to give yourself the tools (Education) to write your own content in your own words. That will give you the Freedom to succeed in your business without being led blindly down fruitless paths to more boring, useless, ineffective advertising. My own Core Values are Having Fun, Helping Others, Education, and Nostalgia. See if you can spot them throughout this book.

I first presented this information at the Jackson Retail Success Academy™ back in 2011. Fourteen frying pans later, it is an audience favorite because the applications are endless. You will find yourself using the principles in this book for far more than advertising. You’ll see the influence of this book in all of your writings, presentations, sales calls, and trainings. In fact, I have a ten-minute TED-style talk centered around how Chapter 4 applies to all levels of communication. (I’m still waiting on a true TED or TEDx event to call.)

I want you to share this book. I expect you to dog-ear some pages, underline some passages, write your own notes in the margins. I also expect you to pass this book along to your friends in a similar position as you (or preferably, buy them a copy of their own). I expect you to take exceptions to different principles based on your own experiences. That’s why I call them principles instead of rules. (And also because you’re the kind of person who hates the word “rules” and would immediately try to find ways to break them.)

I especially expect or even encourage you to find fault with many of the sample ads in the back of the book. That’s okay. As Roy H. Williams taught me many years ago, an advertisement is like a magnet. Its ability to attract is in exact proportion to its ability to repel. If you feel any emotion at all towards the ad samples, I will have done my job. If you really don’t like them, I challenge you to write better ones. Send them to me. I would love to read them.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS You can pre-order a copy of this book by supporting my Indiegogo.com Campaign. (The more pre-orders and support I get, the faster this book gets into your hands.) Stay tuned for Chapter 1 tomorrow …

Using My Super Powers

My boys and I saw Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 earlier this evening. We are Marvel Studios junkies. Even the bad ones were good enough for us. I’ve always been fascinated by super heroes, especially their powers and how they use them. I am firm believer that we all have super powers within us. Maybe not the ability to fly or super-human strength or making fire shoot from our eyes. But we have talents that, when harnessed properly, become amazing powers.

I have learned that one of my powers is the ability to take complex subjects and make them understandable.

Independent retailers have to master a number of skills to be successful.

  • You have to be good with your Products – knowing your products inside and out, knowing how to relate to customers, knowing which products to sell and how to sell them.
  • You have to be good at Marketing & Advertising – knowing how to get the word out to people that you are the place to shop.
  • You have to be good at Financials – knowing how to manage your cash flow, maintaining profit margin, keeping expenses in alignment with sales.
  • If you’re a large enough store you have to be good with People – knowing how to hire, train, and manage a quality team.

Those are the main legs of the retail business – Products, Marketing, Financials, and People.

I used to say I was good at three, just don’t ask me about Financials. Then the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association (ASTRA) asked me to do something unthinkable. They asked me to write a book about the financials of a toy store called “Financials Made Easy.”

They said if anyone could do it, I could. I told them if they changed the title to “Financials You Can Understand” (because no one could make it “easy”) then I was their guy.

In four months I learned and understood more about Financials than I ever thought possible. The book is one of my favorite writing projects because I had to take a topic I barely understood myself and translate it into the language of non-accountants everywhere. (My accountant friends who helped proof-read the book for errors were amazed as much as I was at how well it turned out.)

The book is proprietary property of ASTRA. You have to join ASTRA to get a copy. But the knowledge I gained in the process helped me tremendously at Toy House and also in my teachings through Jackson Retail Success Academy™ and PhilsForum. Later that year I did my first workshop on the topic. One of the attendees said her accountant had been trying to teach her this stuff for years, but this was the first time it finally made sense.

I have now presented several times on the topics of Retail Math, my least favorite and least experienced topic. I’ll be doing both a beginner and an expert breakout session on elements of the book at the upcoming ASTRA Academy in June.

I tell you this because I want you to understand the reasoning behind writing the book Most Ads Suck. Unlike Financials, I love Marketing & Advertising. I took over that element of Toy House in 1995 and began experimenting, trying different things to see what worked. I began studying advertising and reading different authors who spoke on advertising.

My radio sales rep Linda McDougall gave me Roy H. Williams’ first book The Wizard of Ads. I was hooked immediately. I ordered the other two books in his trilogy the very next day. I also became a huge fan of Seth Godin and joined his now defunct website triiibes based on his book Tribes where I met people as passionate about marketing and advertising as I was. I started using stuff I learned from Roy and Seth and Malcolm Gladwell and Gary Vaynerchuk and Daniel H. Pink and Guy Kawasaki and others.

Not everything I learned worked for me. I had to mix and distill and tweak and measure and test. But when it did work, it was magical.

I wrote this ad in a few minutes one Sunday afternoon in July 2008 …

I couldn’t believe it. They were taking customers into the men’s bathroom. Yes, my staff was taking men and women, young and old, into our men’s bathroom. And they were coming out laughing, smiling, oh yeah, and buying, too. I guess when you have a product this good, you just have to show it off however… and wherever… you can. The men’s bathroom… Gotta love it!  Toy House in downtown Jackson. We’re here to make you smile.

I didn’t ever think about not running it. It told a story. It made you laugh (emotion). It grabbed your interest. Yeah, it mentioned the men’s bathroom, but not in a bad or seedy way. Yeah, it never mentioned the product (if you remember the previous blog, you know that feelings are more important than facts.) Yeah, it went viral big time.

The ad ran in August 2008. Two times a day, Monday through Friday, for four weeks. That’s it.

The first day it aired, the DJ started talking about it live on air, wondering what was going on in our men’s bathroom. The second day, all the DJ’s on all the related stations were talking about it – including one of the stations that wasn’t even running the ad! By day three even the local TV talk show host was speculating on that ad. All fall my staff and I would get asked at the grocery store or the gas station about what was going on in the men’s bathroom. In March 2009 one customer stopped in and asked me because, “All we talked about at the adult table at Christmas Dinner was was going on in your men’s bathroom.” And she lived two hours away!

When people are talking about your ads weeks and months after they aired, you made memorable ads. When people are asking you about your ads even when you’re not in your store, your business is at the top of their minds. When people talk to their friends and family about your ads, you know you made an impact.

That ad wasn’t a lucky accident. It was years of study and testing. It was years of trial and error. It was millions of dollars spent learning what moves the needle and what doesn’t.

The book Most Ads Suck (But Yours Won’t) is me using my super powers to take something as complex and nuanced as Advertising, that I have spent twenty years studying and actively doing, and make it understandable. This is me at my best helping you become your best. I am asking for your support to help launch this book.

My super power is to make it understandable. I’m counting on your super power to make it happen now.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS The principles in this book don’t just work for radio ads. The principles apply to billboards, print ads, television, direct mail, email, social media, pitches to investors, political speeches, and anywhere else where you need to persuade someone. If you haven’t yet pre-ordered the book through my Indiegogo campaign, there are plenty of links above.

The Power of Storytelling

“Phil, the Marshall Community still talks about your presentation on advertising.” That’s the message I received late last night from Scott Fleming, the head of Marshall Area Economic Development Authority. Scott hired me to do the presentation based on my new book Most Ads Suck. I did the presentation a week ago and he is still receiving positive feedback. He’s going to help me promote this presentation to other groups like his.

Phil presenting for Marshall Area Economic Development Authority

One of my favorite parts about doing this presentation is the stories I get to tell. I told the story of a jeweler in rural Washington. I told the story of a couple of my trips to Wizard Academy. I told the story of the copywriter and the frying pans. I told the story of how I made Sheila cry on her birthday (Shelia and I laughed about that story last night at a high school band concert her daughter and my son were in.) I told the story of my first Christmas Eve working at Toy House at the age of fourteen and how I should have known then that I was destined to make people happy. I told the story of my boys plummeting to certain death in the fastest, ugliest sled ever created. I told the story of how customers used to approach me at the grocery store to ask what was going on in the men’s bathroom at Toy House.

Not only do stories make presentations more powerful and memorable, stories do the same for your advertising and your business. In fact, one of the six principles outlined in my book and on stage is Tell a Story. Stories fire up the brain differently than simple facts and figures.

Here is what other people are saying about stories …

Jonathan Gottschall, author of The Storytelling Animal: How Stories Make Us Human, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt tells you, “Stories powerfully hook and hold human attention because, at a brain level, whatever is happening in a story is happening to us and not just them.” (10-16-2013, www.fastcocreate.com)

Rachel Gillett says, “When we read a story, not only do the language parts of our brains light up, but any other part of the brain that we would use if we were actually experiencing what we’re reading about becomes activated as well.” (6-4-2014 www.fastcompany.com)

Pamela B. Rutledge, Ph.D., M.B.A. writing for Positively Media, “Stories are how we are wired. Stores take place in the imagination. To the human brain, imagined experiences are processed the same as real experiences. Stories create genuine emotions, presence (the sense of being somewhere), and behavioral responses.” (1-16-2011 www.psychologytoday.com)

Catrinel Bartolomeu says, “Unlike statistics, stories trigger emotions—actual physical and chemical changes in our body.” (11-10-16 www.contently.com)

Yes, stories change you physically and chemically. Stories happen in your brain as if you were in the story yourself. Stories are more powerful than data.

Start telling stories in your advertising and you will start seeing a different, better result.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Please help me get this book printed. Go to the Indiegogo Campaign and make a donation today. Not only will you get an autographed copy of the book, if you make a large enough donation you can get a live webinar, or even a half-day workshop at your place for you and your fellow business owners.

PPS Here is the meta of all metas. One of the companies featured in the Samples chapter of the book is a company that tells your story for you in the form of a magazine for you to use to advertise your business. In other words, a story about telling stories for advertising features advertising stories about a company that writes stories for advertising. That will make your head spin!

What Your Website Needs

You’re not going to do it yourself. You’re too busy. You have ordering and managing your inventory, hiring and training your staff, processing all the paperwork, creating and executing an advertising campaign, and all the other stuff like merchandising, selling, and even cleaning the bathroom on your to-do list. The last thing you want to do is learn how to build your own website.

I get that.

Instead you’re going to hire someone else, tell them what you want and trust their expertise to get it done. A good web designer will ask you a few questions, maybe even get you to write some of the content. A great web designer will dig a whole lot deeper.

Your website is the most important tool in your advertising and marketing toolbox. It is often the first contact someone has with your business. It sets the mood, creates the expectations, and tells people what you believe. It is the salesman who is working while you’re tucked safely between the sheets after a long day of unpacking boxes and putting out fires. It is the yellow pages of information that helps people find when you’re open, where you’re located, and what you offer. It is an expectation of today’s digital natives that you will have a mobile-ready website that answers all their questions.

To help you find that great web designer (or maybe turn a good one into a great one), here are a few things you should know your website needs.

GOALS

Your website needs to have an overall goal, a purpose. Is it to drive traffic to your store or drive sales on your eCommerce pages? Those are totally different sites. You have to decide which one. Your goal has to be clear on every single page what you want people to do.

Speaking of every single page, each page should also have its own goal, or more importantly its own call to action. What do you want someone viewing this page to do? Click on a link to another page? Make that clear. Call the store? Make that clear. Buy a product? Make that clear. Go back to the Home page? Make that clear.

VALUES

Simon Sinek, in his famous TEDx talk said, “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. The goal is not to do business with everybody who needs what you have. The goal is to do business with people who believe what you believe.”

What do you believe? What are your values? Do you spell out those beliefs? Roy H. Williams is getting all of his clients to rewrite their About Us pages and spell out their beliefs. (Mine are spelled out here. The Toy House’s beliefs were spelled out here.)

You need to make your beliefs known. You need to let your Core Values shine through on every page. Your best customers will be those who share your values. Speak to your tribe. Let them know you are here.

YOUR CUSTOMER

Make it about your customer. Think about all the reasons why your customer would visit your site. Are you solving your customer’s needs? Are you answering her questions? Are you making her life better, easier, more fun, more convenient? Are you speaking directly to her? Imagine one customer in your head, your best customer. What does she look like? Talk like? Act like? Write all of your content directly at her and no one else. Speak to her in her language. Assuage her fears. Make her feel comfortable. Let her know that you understand her and you will make her life better. Make her the true star of your website.

Now go find a great web designer (or become one yourself – there is power in being able to tweak your content any time you want.)

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Yes, you can actually have eCommerce and drive-traffic-to-the-store on the same website. You just have to have different landing pages and different calls to action for the different ways those two different customers might search your site. It takes skill and an amazing web designer to pull it off. If you don’t have that (yet), choose one or the other and make it work.

 

How Will You Measure 2017?

The New Year is here. Your New Year’s Resolutions are gone. The inventory has been counted. The mail carrier is complaining about all the catalogs weighing down his bag. You’re trying to make sense of what just happened in 2016. (Or just trying to forget what happened in 2016.) 2017 is here whether you’re ready or not.

The only real question you need to answer right now is…

How will you measure 2017?

Will it be by growth in top line sales or bottom line profits? Will it be by management of cash flow or expenses? Will it be by the number of days you actually take off? Will it be by the number of human resource headaches you have (or don’t have)?  Will it be by “likes” and “shares” and “comments” on social media?

You get to choose. You have to choose. You have to decide where to put your limited energies and resources. If the bottom line is good, you work on cash flow. If the money is good all around, you work on HR. If the staff isn’t giving you any hassles, you work on PR and social media. If all of them need a hand, decide which one is most critical (hint: cash flow) and go there.

PICK A PROBLEM, SET A GOAL

The key is to determine what you want to measure and – most importantlyhow you’re going to measure it. It is that second part that gives you the  map to guide your decisions for the year.

Most businesses fail to set specific goals. They set vague ones like “grow profit”.  Then they forget all about those goals the very next morning as the day-to-day running of the business takes hold. But if you say “grow profit by $5,000” then you know you need to increase sales, decrease expenses, and/or increase profit margin. If you say, “grow profit by $5,000 through better control of expenses” you have an even clearer path.

The more specific your goal, the easier to plot the course. The more you make it known and talked about with your team, the more accountable you (and they) will be. The more you reward the team for reaching the milestones you set throughout the year, the more they will help you.

Roy H. Williams said it best, “What gets measured and rewarded, improves.”

The more specific you make your goal, the easier it is to draw a map that will get you there.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Once you’ve set your destination, do yourself a favor. Print it out and paste your goal somewhere in the back office area where you will see it daily. Tell your staff the goal and ask for their input on how to get there. Talk about your goal in every single meeting. Research new ways to reach your goal. Set up milestones to measure your progress. Hold yourself accountable to your goal. Reward yourself and your staff as you reach each milestone along the way.

PPS Not sure how to set your goals or need help with your map? Send me an email. As always, I’ll do whatever I can to help.

What You Have in Common with Disney

I spent last week at Walt Disney World. As with any theme park, there are always upgrades being done. But instead of just “pardon the dust” signs, Disney plastered their walls with Walt-isms. I snapped this picture of one while chasing my boys to the next ride…

“We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things… and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” -Walt Disney

Then Roy Williams, aka The Wizard of Ads, hit me with this Monday Morning Memo (if you haven’t subscribed to this free email yet, you are missing out big time!!).

To sum up Roy’s Memo… 93% of successful companies have been successful because of their ability to improvise and adapt. 

Keep moving forward.
Keep opening up new doors.
Keep doing new things.
Keep going down new paths.

It works for Disney. It works for 93% of all successful companies. It will work for you.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS I have many thoughts, stories and ideas from my trip that I will be sharing over the next few days. Forgive me if I gush too much. Walt is one of my heroes. You’ll definitely like the stories.

The Best Sweepstakes/Email for Small Businesses

You all know I’m a fan of Roy H. Williams, aka The Wizard of Ads. (Look down the right-hand column to see how many posts I’ve tagged him.)

You also know I have studied a number of Wizard of Ads Partners like Tim Miles and Jeff Sexton and follow a lot of their work.

You also know that I am a life-long learner always looking for more information to consume to be better at what I do. If you’re reading this blog, it is likely that you are, too.

That’s why I’m telling you to follow this link…

http://www.wizardacademy.org/giveaways/foundations-of-the-academy/

The link will take you to a Sweepstakes offer of over $3000 in materials from Roy and others associated with Wizard Academy.

Most importantly, it will sign you up for an email newsletter that will bring you amazing articles from a wide variety of Wizard Academy Alumni – Nobel prize winners, best-selling authors, NASA scientists (yes, true rocket scientists!), marketing wizards, and business owners just like you and me.

I hope you win. (The emails alone will make us all winners.)

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS I entered. I also get extra entries when I send people to enter, but I’m not sure if this blog will qualify to get me those extra entries (you can tell them Phil sent you). That’s okay. I’m more about getting you signed up for the email and all the goodies in it (I’ve already received one email and found tons of value). That’s the real value.

How to Write Like a Poet

Poets force you to see things differently.
Poets get you to feel things you weren’t already feeling.
Poets influence you with words.

Advertisers rarely make you crack open an eye.
Advertisers rarely make you feel anything but indifference.
Advertisers rarely use the right words.

Unless the advertiser writes like a poet.

A groan echoed through the terminal.  A gate change, and now another delay.  Grumbling, shaking heads slumped in their seats.  Then it appeared, a small white rabbit on a mother’s hand, and a two-year-old boy became unaware of the discontent surrounding him.  His laughter?  Contagious! …infecting smiles on travelers of all ages.  Smiles? In an airport? The power of puppets.  Your puppet smiles are waiting for you at Toy House in downtown Jackson.

But how do you learn to write like a poet?

Roy H. Williams told me that we write as well as we read. He told me to go get a poem-a-day book. If you want to write poetry, you have to read poetry.

I took his advice and got this book.

You should get one, too.

Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Read one poem a day. Read it two or three times. Read it out loud and try to figure out how it would sound in the author’s voice. You won’t need a whole year to see your own writing begin to improve.

Give Them Something to Talk About

Roy H. Williams told you that to get Word-of-Mouth you have to do one of three things…

  • Over-the-top Design
  • Over-the-top Customer Service
  • Over-the-top Generosity

This falls into that first category.

Huge kudos to Kristina Smith, who made all the signs (that’s her in the photo). Notice that we positioned this so that when you take a photo of your kid next to it, you get the big Toy House sign in the background.

-Phil Wrzesinski
www.PhilsForum.com

PS Roy says there are three, but I’ve discovered two more ways to get customers to talk about your business. Check out my free download Generating Word-of-Mouth.

PPS Yes, this is also a form of Branding. If you remember, two of our Core Values are Fun and Educational. Not only are the signs fun and interesting and whimsical, they also point in the right directions (almost) and they have miles on them.