The biggest scam in business

“I know half the money I spend on advertising is wasted, but I can never find out which half.”John Wannamaker

Sometimes I wish I had gone into the advertising agency business rather than becoming a business growth strategist.

I can picture myself sitting in a very posh office, earning seven figures a year. I can also see myself being worshipped as an advertising genius for “brilliant and creative” work, winning a clutch of advertising awards.

And the best part of this dream job? Sitting comfortably, knowing that nobody will ever ask the question: “Do his adverts work?”

Unfortunately, I took the other road. Instead, I chose direct-response marketing and selling, where every project, presentation, and every cent generated by every advert and campaign that I create is carefully measured.

I don’t have the luxury of sacrificing proven sales-boosting techniques in the name of creativity. Every promotion I create must accomplish all the things that are necessary in order to make the sale.

Most of the ad campaigns created by major ad agencies are not measureable. This leads to some of the most wasteful and self-indulgent advertising ever produced. I believe that this is one of the biggest legal ‘scams’ perpetrated in the corporate world.

Evert night you can switch on your TV and see this type of advertising. Try this tonight – grab a writing pad and answer these questions after each TV advert that you view:

1. Did the advert make me crave this kind of product?

2. Did the ad explain all the reasons why this brand or product is the only one I should consider?

3. Did the advert provide me with powerful benefits of the product or service? 

3. Did the ad make me feel it’s urgent that I buy this product or service now — or at least soon?

4. Do I have everything I need to know to make the purchase?

I’ll eat my laptop if 5% of the adverts you see do all of the above.

Ask any sensible business owner “Why advertise?” – And he or she will say, “To sell more products.”

Ask most advertising creative people the same question and you’ll get very different answers. One will explain that their job is to promote the “brand”. The next one will say the goal is to enhance the “brand image”. Do you think most of them even care if they increase their clients’ sales and profits?

Two radically different objectives!

I frequently sit at group meetings with clients and ad agency people and hear a version of the most stupid statement in business “I think it’s too salesy”. Many advertising creative staff don’t give a sh#! about things as common as selling stuff.

Powerful and effective advertising is all about giving people a compelling reason to buy a product. And when you let very expensive off-the-mark “creativity” get in the way of making a sale, it’s not creative; it’s simply stupid. The primary reason to advertise is to intensify the consumer’s desire to buy your product, educate customers, increase sales and grow market share.

Every month, many millions of rands are wasted on advertising that simply does not sell. Make sure that this does not happen to your business. If your advertising results cannot be tested or measured, then don’t waste your money.

“There is just one justification for advertising: Sales! Sales! Sales!” – John W. Blake

John Lloyd is a business growth strategist, award-winning marketer, speaker, trainer, columnist and author of the book Smart Thinking for Crazy Times.     

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