When Good Ads Fail


by Roy H. Williams

You ran an inspired series of wonderful ads.

And got nothing in return.

What?

Like so many Sir Galahads on the quest for the Holy Grail, businesspeople continue to search with near-religious ardor for "the perfect ad campaign." And many, when they have found it, learn that it's not enough.

One of the greatest myths in marketing is the belief that advertising, by itself, is able to drive steady traffic into a business. This perception is supremely evident when a businessperson looks at an ad professional and says, "My only problem is traffic. If I had more traffic I'd sell more customers. Traffic is your department. Bring me customers. Now."

What makes good ads fail?

1. Too Little Repetition.

If your ad doesn't make an irresistible, limited-time offer, you're going to have to run it often enough for customers to first become aware of it, and then to become familiar with it. Next, you've got to wait for them to need what you sell. And the longer the product-purchase* cycle, the longer you may have to wait. (*Restaurants will see results more quickly than carpet stores because we eat more often than we replace our carpet.) Ads that make an irresistible, limited-time offer may work like magic, but the longer you run them; the less well they work. Until they finally quit working altogether. So what do you do then?

2. Deeply Entrenched Competitors.

No matter how good your ad campaign, it may not be enough to take customers away from a competitor who's doing a good job of meeting their needs. Many businesspeople have failed simply because they picked the wrong towns in which to open their businesses. Eighty miles away, the same efforts may have made them kings and queens of all they surveyed; but in the towns they chose, they got squashed like bugs. When you see a mountain that's being guarded by a giant who never sleeps, it might make sense to pick another mountain on which to plant your flag.

3. Failing to Deliver.

Face it. Directly or indirectly, every ad is a promise to the customer. And the more powerful the ad, the bigger the promise implied. How many disappointed customers does it take before the whole town has heard that you don't deliver what you promise? For your ad campaign to work in the long run, you must deliver to your customer exactly the experience that was promised in your ads.

4. Lack of Interest.

As unbelievable as this may sound, not every business is commercially viable. Sometimes, regardless of how wonderful its advertising, a business is simply answering a question that no one was asking. In these instances, the failure wasn't in the ads, but in the business model.

Are you avoiding these four mistakes?

Industry News
Research
Results
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Like so many Sir Galahads on the quest for the Holy Grail, businesspeople continue to search with near-religious ardor for "the perfect ad campaign." And many, when they have found it, learn that it's not enough. One of the greatest myths in marketing is the belief that advertising, by itself, is able to drive steady traffic into a business. This perception is supremely evident when a businessperson looks at an ad professional and says, "My only problem is traffic. If I had more traffic I'd sell more customers. Traffic is your department. Bring me customers. Now." What makes good ads fail?
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