Home » Book Excerpt: Most Ads Suck – Chapter 8

Book Excerpt: Most Ads Suck – Chapter 8

Chapter 8 – Make Your Customer the Star

“Bad advertising is about you and your product. Good advertising is about your customer and their life.” – Roy H. Williams

After watching Simon Sinek, you start wandering all over the net. You read some of the quotes from Roy H. Williams. You pop over to Seth Godin’s blog and scroll down through a few posts. You head back to TED.com and watch a few more videos that catch your eye. One thought flickers in your mind. “What if every company, instead of writing an ad, had to write a one-minute TED presentation?” You chuckle at the thought. It would certainly make advertising more interesting. One big idea crunched down into 60-seconds.

As you’re surfing, you remember your discussion with your spouse at dinner about diamond rings. As if on cue, you see a story about De Beers and their iconic phrase, “A Diamond is Forever.” Frances Gerety wrote that line for De Beers as part of the ad agency N. W. Ayers back in 1947 and it transformed the engagement ring industry forever. In 1999 Advertising Age proclaimed it the “Slogan of the century.”

You start watching those “Shadow” ads De Beers ran in the 1990s and a wave of nostalgia washes over you. You remember those ads. The silhouettes and shadows against the wall with the iconic music in the background, all leading up to a crescendo showing a real diamond on a shadow hand and the iconic phrase “A Diamond is Forever.” No narration, only music and a few words on the screen. No actors either. Just shadows. You saw your mom and dad in those black & white ads. Heck, you saw yourself in those ads.

Saw. Yourself. You say it slowly. At dinner earlier you had to do everything you could to not talk about yourself. One of the Roy H. Williams quotes you read earlier said, “The most irresistible word in the English language is a three-letter word, and it doesn’t contain an X.” The word he was referring to was “you.”

You remember that exercise your web designer had you do when you were writing new content for your website. He had you take that content to a website where you ran it through a “We-We Calculator” to see how many times you used the words “you” or “your” versus talking about “we,” “us” or the company name. You immediately start searching for the calculator.

You find it under a new name: the Customer Focus Calculator created by best-selling authors and web-conversion geniuses Bryan and Jeffrey Eisenberg. The calculator works by simply typing in a web page URL and your company name and it tells you how much you focus on yourself and how much your content focuses on the customer. The ideal is that you should talk about the customer three to four times as much as you talk about yourself.

Make your customer the star. It works for web content. Why not for advertising? You immediately go back to the Forbes article you saw on the most iconic ad campaigns of all time (Jennifer Rooney, May 11, 2016 www.forbes.com) and you find these:

  • Apple – Think Different
  • American Express – Don’t Leave Home Without It
  • McDonald’s – You Deserve a Break Today
  • AT&T – Reach Out and Touch Someone
  • Budweiser – This Bud’s For You
  • Nike – Just Do It

Only a couple had the actual word you in them, but they all were directions for you. They were all about you doing something. They were customer-focused instead of product or company-focused.

A couple more recent commercials pop into your mind. Dove ran the “You’re More Beautiful Than You Think” campaign that literally made the customers the stars. And then there was that guy in the Old Spice commercial telling women to, “Look at your man.” These were great stories making only one emotional point about something they believed in that spoke directly to you.

You, you, you. It was and is always about you. You laugh at the thought once again. How simple. It was there when you wrote your content for your website. It should be there when you write your content for your email newsletters, your social media posts, and your advertising. You’re almost ready to call it another principle when something stops you dead in your tracks.

Not one single ad from your list of favorites at the Super Bowl made the customer the star. Not the Skittles ad, nor the Kia ad with Melissa McCarthy, nor even the Audi ad put you as the center of attention or asked you to do something.

You even checked some online lists of all-time favorite Super Bowl ads and none of them were customer-centric. Not Michael Jordan and Larry Bird playing H-O-R-S-E for McDonald’s. Not Mean Joe Greene drinking a Coke. Not the Cindy Crawford New Pepsi Can ad. Not even Wendy’s Where’s the Beef? was customer-centric.

You start to turn away from this thought but you can’t. You don’t want to give up on it quite yet. You’ve realized through this whole revelation that you’re no longer worried about talking to the big companies about their Super Bowl ads. This stuff is too good for them. If their ad agencies can’t figure this out for themselves, they shouldn’t be in the advertising business.

You’ve already decided this information is for you and your fellow small businesses, retailers, service agencies, and manufacturers who cannot afford Madison Avenue agencies and are forced to rely on scripts written by untrained salespeople. You are taking these lessons to your fellow entrepreneurs. You’re sharing these ideas with your local advertising media to help them create better stuff.

Your fellow small businesses can’t afford Michael and Larry or Cindy or Melissa or Beyoncé. Your fellow small businesses aren’t going to bombard the airwaves, overload the print media, and saturate the landscape with their messages. Your local businesses aren’t winning customers by browbeating the masses. They are winning customers one at a time. You look back at Jennifer Rooney’s article on the most iconic campaigns. They spoke directly to the customer. That’s good enough for you. You’re making the call.

Principle #6: Make Your Customer the Star

Going back to your first principle—don’t look or sound like an ad—you figure this last principle is one of the easiest ways to avoid the mistake of the first one. None of the other local businesses are making the customer the star. None of the usual fluff you see or hear, the kind that makes you turn the channel, is about “you.” Just this one step alone will make your advertising much more compelling and interesting.

Isn’t that the goal? At the end of the day, you’re trying to get people to pay attention and remember you so that when the time comes for your services, you will be the first name that pops into their heads. You will be the company they remember that shares their values and beliefs.

Making the ad about the customer gets their attention. Speaking to the heart gets them to feel. Telling a story gets them to remember. Speaking to the tribe gets them to act.

You look at your list one more time.


  • Most Ads Suck
  • The Message Is More Important Than the Media


  • Don’t Look or Sound Like an Ad
  • Make Only One Point
  • Tell a Story
  • Speak to the Heart
  • Speak to Your Tribe
  • Make Your Customer the Star

Two revelations and six principles to make your advertising more memorable and effective. You glance at your watch. 11:11pm. You crack a little smile and head to bed. Tomorrow you have a lot of writing to do if you’re really going to spread this to the world.

-Phil Wrzesinski

PS Next up is Chapter 9 – The Samples. I am going to break this up into three parts. We’ll be done Friday.

Chapter 1 – Most Ads Suck
Chapter 2 – It’s the Message, Not the Media
Chapter 3 – Don’t Look or Sound Like an Ad
Chapter 4 – Make Only One Point
Chapter 5 – Tell a Story
Chapter 6 – Speak to the Heart
Chapter 7 – Speak to Your Tribe

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