Chapter 2 – It’s the Message, Not the Media
“I’ve never met a business owner whose advertising failed because they were reaching the wrong people.” – Roy H. Williams
The game ended late. You got home later. Your spouse has already rolled over and gone to sleep. You can’t sleep. Your brain is still stuck on this Super Bowl-sized revelation. You’re ready to visit all the big corporations running lousy ads for your consumption. You’re ready to tell them their television and radio and billboard and even social media ads are driving you crazy, and most definitely not getting you to buy.
They’re boring. They all look the same. They make you run for the remote. They piss you off because they get in the way of the content you really want. They aren’t anything at all like the Super Bowl ads you saw earlier this evening.
It doesn’t matter which media you tune into. It’s all the same look-alike, sound-alike blather. You’ve heard something about the importance of mixing the media, but you realize these ads suck no matter what the platform.
Then it dawns on you. Another revelation. You scribble it down on the notepad you keep on your nightstand. This will be good when you visit their boardroom.
The message is more important than the media.
How many times have you heard pundits debate which media is best for advertisers? The young Millennials are all on their phones, so mobile is hot right now. A few years ago everyone said you had to be on Facebook. That’s where all the money is. Prior to that, everyone was building websites. Billboards, you read, reach more people per dollar than all the other media. Yet, right now, as you stop to think about it, the only billboards you can remember seeing in the last several weeks came from that posting online of “Twenty Billboards You’ll Never Believe Went Up.”
You start to laugh. “Am I really that immune to advertising?” No. You realize if someone put up a billboard worthy of being shared on the Internet, you would notice. But no one in your area comes close to that kind of creativity.
It isn’t just the big corporations. None of the local companies run anything memorable or shareworthy either. In fact, most of the local ads dominating your airwaves, digital landscape, or sides of the road look, sound, and act like the worst of all the big national corporation ads, but with lower production values. It is almost as if the local companies are just trying to see if they can make even less effective ads than everyone else.
The message from most of those companies is the same. “We don’t know what we’re doing but we saw a big company run an ad like this so we copied them.”
You know why they do it. You’ve been approached by the advertising salesperson from your local radio station. He shows up in a suit and tie and asks you the one question they all ask.
You’ve learned that it doesn’t matter what demographic you choose. He has a chart that shows you he reaches exactly your target market. He has diagrams of his coverage area. He has statistics to show how much those people spend in your market. He has graphs that show you where your money is going to go. He has spent a lifetime figuring out how to sell you on the fact he reaches the people you want to reach, but not a single moment on how to reach them in way that makes them want to act.
You recognize that every single advertising salesperson in every single media spent their entire pitch selling you that they had the right audience. Not one of them, however, worked with you on coming up with the right thing to say to that audience. Instead they sent over a canned advertisement with someone else’s voice that sounded like every other ad you’ve ever heard. Like sheep, they figured if everyone else was running ads like that, you should, too.
You chuckled once again remembering that ad that made you laugh the other day. It was your lunch hour and you were in the employee lounge where one of your staff had the local sports talk show on the radio. A woman came on and said, “Hey guys! Tired of hearing your wife complain about her bra not fitting?” That made you laugh out loud. Every married guy is tired of hearing that. You and your spouse had a good laugh that night talking about the bra company advertising on sports talk radio.
That woman had it right.
It isn’t the media. It is the message.
She wasn’t worried about reaching other women ages 35 to 65. She wasn’t thinking about the education level of her audience, or average household income. She wanted to talk to one of the biggest influencers in her target audience’s life about a real problem that affects a lot of people.
She knew something you are only beginning to understand. Not everyone makes a decision in a bubble or a vacuum. Women ages 35 to 65 know other women outside those ages. They interact with men, too. They hang out with people more educated than them and less educated than them. They have friends and family in both higher and lower income brackets.
All those demographics your advertising salesperson was trying to sell you meant nothing if you didn’t say the right thing. If you didn’t say something worth being heard, no demographic was going to hear it. If you didn’t show something eye-catching and interesting, no demographic was going to watch it. If you didn’t make your billboard memorable, no demographic was going to notice it. If you didn’t type something shareworthy on Facebook, even your own fans weren’t going to share it.
Now you really feel ready to tackle that boardroom. You have two revelations every advertiser needs to hear.
- Most Ads Suck
- The Message Is More Important Than the Media
If only you knew how to make ads less sucky. You decide to sleep on that thought.
PS Next up … Chapter 3 – Don’t Look or Sound Like an Ad