Friday, November 4, 2011

She who eats on the train doesn't drink in the sign.

         At every-other seat on BART, the rapid transit system in San Francisco, there's a gleaming metal sign: "No food or drink. Violators subject to fine." They must be making a fortune on fines, because it seems more and more people are bringing coffee, pastries, and sandwiches on board. Don't the passengers read? Don't they care?

         I have a hunch a lot of it has to do with reading. Have you ever pushed the door that's clearly marked "pull"? A lot of us do it all the time.

         The things I'm talking about, reading and believing and ultimately caring, are issues marketing and advertising run into every day. Just because we write an ad, make it look beautiful, and pay the $120,000 to put it in the magazine doesn't mean it will be read or believed, which has to do with relevance. If you don't have a lawn, you're not going to read a lawnmower ad. If your boyfriend or husband has been hinting about an electric shaver, you'll probably read every electric shaver ad between now and Christmas. Most things are somewhere in-between.

         Another part of the equation has to do with how interesting the ad is. You can't bore people into buying something, David Ogilvy said. If you don't have a striking visual, or a provocative headline, and a good promise, you can kiss your audience goodbye. A lot of ads can be interesting to the creative team ("We have to go to the islands to shoot this"), or the client (the product is his love object), but not to the customer (who needs a dress within her budget to go to the party tonight).

        And even if you get her attention and you've interested her in your product, she may still be skeptical. Will it be well made? Will it last for a while? Is it worth the money, even though it's inexpensive? Will my friends like it? Will it make me look the way I want?  It's your job to assure her.

        There are sayings in the advertising business that apply here. The first is K.I.S.S. --- keep it simple, stupid. A second is "It's better to be clear than cute".

        The most important is, "The world is about people, not products". Start with your customer's needs, not your own.

        Remember these sayings the next time you do an ad or commercial. Or keep pushing the door marked pull.


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