11 of 12 Causes of Advertising Failure: Great Production, Poor Copy

causes of advertising failure

A person’s attention span is below that of a goldfish. That’s right, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, the average attention span of a human has dropped from 12 seconds in 2008 to 8.25 seconds in 2015 — one second less than that of our golden gilled friend. According to the study, this is a result of “external stimulation,” like all those advertisements and social media content we’re exposed to, producing, and sharing on a daily basis. This makes us wonder…are you still paying attention?

It also makes us think…as marketers, we have VERY little time to attract and retain our audience’s attention. Which brings us to number 11 of our 12-part series dedicated to causes of advertising failure: great production, poor copy.

The Good, the Bad, and the Worthless

If you’re still with us, studies show that you’re part of the minority. That’s precisely why creating compelling copy for your advertisements is crucial. In any given radio ad, for example, you have between 10 and 60 seconds to sell your products or services. And while there’s no denying that great production adds value, if no one’s listening to what you have to say, all the fancy sound effects and voice overs are worthless.

Many business owners and marketers tend to focus more on the aesthetic elements of their advertisement instead of the functional elements. That makes for a lot of great looking and sounding ads with no actual sustenance to back them up.

And here’s another astounding statistic — we’re exposed to up to 5,000 ads a day. As a result, people don’t read, we’ve actually trained our brains to block out things that are of no value to us. We skim. We communicate in 140 characters or less, and as such, we require short, easily consumed content. So in a market where advertisements have emerged on the inside of pizza boxes, the back of bathroom stalls, and literally written out for us in the sky, how can you stand out from the clutter? The answer is simple: write excellent copy.

The Importance of Strong Copy

Writing great copy is both an art and a science. It’s often considered an art because it requires creativity, a sense of allure, and style — a certain aptitude, and special understanding. Mastering this allows you to create copy that’s not just practical and persuasive, but awe-inspiring, motivating, and breathtaking.

Many consider effective writing to also be a science because the results of which can be tested and measured — quantifiable data can be analyzed. The marketing industry was built on trial and error, improvements and breakthroughs, knowledge and predictability. Employing this science allows you to develop an idea and then test it. It’s how you know if your advertising is working!

With poor advertising copy, one (or both) of these factors are missing. With great copy, they’re both clearly present.

Appeal to Emotions

As adults, we like to consider ourselves as rational beings. But in all reality most of our decisions are based on emotion. Deep down, you know this to be true. That is why smart marketers have begun to tie in stories and emotional elements into their advertising. Take, for example, the Geico Gecko, or Jared from Subway. Adding a relatable element to an advertisement makes your brand more likeable, believable, and relatable.

To do this effectively, tell a story that can easily be your audience’s story. For example, PNC Bank nailed this on the head with their “Know You’re Saving For Special Moments” campaign. In this ad by agency Deutsch New York, we watch as a fantasy wedding unfolds just to find out that it is one a dad is imagining while watching his five-year-old daughter reading in her room. It ends with a strong call-to-action: “know you can save today, for what’s important tomorrow”.  Which leads us to our next point…

Persuasive Calls-To-Action

The PNC commercial depicts a fairytale wedding complete with singing hummingbirds, ballerinas, and of course, a prince charming. It soon becomes clear that this fantasy wedding is the dad’s vision of his five-year-old daughter’s dream wedding. While no one knows what she’ll really want for her future nuptials — the commercial proved what it set out to accomplish — whatever his princess wants, he’ll have the funds to cover it, thanks to PNC Bank.

“Know you can save today for what’s important tomorrow,” the commercial states. It’s a clear, and persuasive call-to-action. When writing a strong CTA, make sure you keep it simple for your audience, and you provide them with information for a clear next step.

Additionally, be specific as to how you want your audience to get a hold of you. Instead of throwing in your phone number, website, physical address, Twitter handles, etc..., give them one convenient way to reach you. And lastly, make sure your CTA is not vague. It needs to incite some urgency or an actionable response. For example, instead of “Contact Us,” which provides no urgency (when?) change your call-to-action to something a little more immediate like “Call Us Today!”

Start Strong

When you’re looking to break through all the advertising clutter to reach your core audience, nothing is more necessary than an attention-grabbing intro. Remember — goldfish. You only have 8.25 seconds before your audience is moving on so make sure that you’re actively engaging them. “The longer your copy can hold people, the more you will sell” said Victor Schwab, author of How to Write a Good Advertisement. “...and the more interesting your copy is, the longer you will hold them. If you can keep your reader interested, you’ll have a better chance of propelling him to action.”

The Takeaway

Writing great copy is the foundation of all advertising. If you can’t grab an audience with your message, what’s the point? If no one’s listening, you’ll have no one to educate, and subsequently, to sell to. When creating advertising copy and a call-to-action, remember these tips: copywriting is an art and a science, always appeal to emotions, create a simple and clear CTA, and grab audience’s attention with a powerful intro. Abiding by these “copywriting commandments” will ensure your marketing efforts won’t fall victim to this advertising failure.  

Be sure to check back next Monday when we reveal the 12th and final advertising failure! 

The 12 Causes of Advertising Failure courtesy of Roy H. Williams , author of The Wizard of Ads & Secret Formulas of the Wizard of Ads.

10 ways to make sure your radio creative doesn't fall flat


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