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Tools | How to create a terrible ad

People Cheering One of the exercises we do with our clients is to have them think about the worst way to run their business or promote themselves.  The answers are enlightening and often very humorous.  We then follow that with asking what would the exact opposite of each of those things to determine potential best practices.  By looking at things from a completely different perspective, it allows you to break out of your preconceived notions. So let’s use this exercise to see how we can improve your advertising.  If you were to create a truly terrible ad, what would you have to do?
  1. Try to be all things to all people.  Focus on trying to appeal to widest audience, like all adults 18+.  Make sure that it doesn’t offend anyone in that group, no matter how small.  The result will be a bland and uninteresting.  Barely even noticeable because it doesn’t spark any reaction.
  2. Cram as many messages as possible.  Incorporate as many different things to say in your ad as possible.  The more you try to say, the less people will be able to focus on anything.  It will all just be a blur.  And you will have successfully gotten them to remember nothing.
  3. Use amateur designers, writers, photographers, etc.  We’re talking your cousin’s nephew who has Microsoft Paint.  Nothing destroys your credibility faster than looking completely unprofessional.
  4. Be as fake and unrealistic as possible.  Use technical dialog that no ordinary person would say.  Show only happy smiling people in silly poses that no one would do.  People have become trained to spot insincerity and tend to avoid those who embody it.
  5. Use clichés; be unoriginal; do corny things.  Appeal to the lowest common denominator by treating the audience as idiots.   Show things that are always used in ads from your industry, so people will “get it.”  While pandering can be effective in reaching people, it can’t build loyalty.
So to continue the exercise, what would be the opposite of each of those steps?
  1. Focus on a core customer that has unique needs that you fulfill.  There is simply too much competition in the world today to simply be like everyone else.  The cure to that is to identify who your best kind of customer is and then figure out how to communicate and cater directly to them.
  2. 1 ad = 1 message.  There is simply too much communication out there.  People are constantly bombarded.  If you’re really lucky, people will be able to digest 1 clear message.  Try to do more and all they’ll hear is the adult-talk on Charlie Brown.
  3. Hire the best professionals your budget will allow.  There’s a reason why Tiffany’s and Nordstrom can charge more money for virtually the exact same product as another retailer.  They demonstrate quality and service in everything they do.  They have created brands people desire.  Quality is evident when you produce any kind of creative work.  Don’t skimp or your customers will skimp on you.
  4. Be real.  People respect authenticity.  It lowers their BS detector.  When you show how your product is actually used, when you show it’s real value and not a made-up fairy tale version, people believe it.  They may even be drawn to it, warts and all.
  5. Strive to be innovative, original, and forward-thinking.  It’s ok to be ahead of your audience.  When the iPhone came out, pretty much every focus group said that smartphone users wanted keyboards and a variety of pre-loaded applications (myself included).  When you strive to be different and lead the way, you tell your customers that you’re not a brand that follows, but one that should be followed.  Not a bad position to be in.