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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

(SALES) Advertising Doesn't Sell


The purpose of advertising is to sell products.

No, the purpose of advertising is to build name awareness.

No, the purpose of advertising is to generate traffic!

Last week I had the honor of participating in the South Carolina Broadcasters Association Annual Convention, a gathering of the best television and radio salespeople in South Carolina. I shared a tool we call the Why Advertise checklist. This is a simple tool that helps you identify the goals, desires, and expectations of prospects when creating an advertising strategy for them.

The Why Advertise checklist is the culmination of more than 30 years of broadcast sales experience and input from hundreds of thousands of advertisers; a list of 32 reasons advertisers have shared when discussing why they would want/need to advertise.

We broke into group discussion to "role play" the process of taking a prospect through the list and asking questions for further understanding. It was fun to witness the lively discussion, the sharing of opinions and the questions being posed.

And then it happened. I asked, "What?s the most important item on the Why Advertise checklist?" This group -- with varying experience from, six months to 40 years of selling skill development -- couldn't agree on the single most important purpose of advertising. How can this be in a room filled with professional advertising salespeople?

If you search Amazon, you?ll find 71,558 books on the subject of advertising. An impressive array of experts and authors share their knowledge. The thought-provoking questions are:

Is it science?
Is it art?
Is it measurable?
Is it qualitative?
Is it quantitative?
Is it psychology?
Is it manipulation?

Finding consistent answers to these questions proves difficult. Advertising is all of those things.

To understand the how and why to advertise, it's critical to determine the purpose. Even with expert opinions, it is difficult to find consensus. (That's probably why there are 32 reasons on the Why Advertise checklist).

I believe if you take away all the fluff, pontification, and theoretical discussion and boil it down to one simple concept, the purpose of advertising is: To be known before you are needed. There are a lot of sub-layers and statements that can spin from that, but at the very core, in all its simplicity, the purpose of advertising is to make a product or service known before it's needed. Logically, you have no chance of buying a product or service if you don't know it exists.

People respond to needs, not ads.

I think that's worth repeating, People respond to needs, not ads. We call the discovery of these needs "triggering events." Something happens that causes you to need a particular product or service.

You have a car accident. Suddenly you need car repair, towing services, medical attention. You weren't "shopping" for any of those as you were driving along, but then the triggering event happened, and suddenly you had a need.

The magic and power of advertising is instantly recognizable once a need has been discovered. When you discover a need, you search the "card file" in your mind of potential products or vendors that can meet those needs. Consistent, long-term advertising puts those names in your mental contact list.You rarely even know they are there, until you have a need.

The flow of buying looks like this:

Discover a Need  (triggering event)
Evaluate Options (review your mental card file of what you know)
Resolve Doubts (compare options based on what you know about them)
Buy (make your selection)

Sadly, many times I have set myself up for failure by allowing clients to believe the job of advertising was to sell. It's not. The job of advertising is to make products and services known before they are needed, so when consumers are in the "evaluate options" phase of the buying cycle, your client has a "chance" at earning their business.

Advertising can make the connection, but the client has to make the sale. If you don't clarify that, and set the expectations properly, you're likely to hear these words at some point in your career: "I tried advertising once, and it didn't work." 

The question I posed to the SCBA members was actually a trick question. In the exercise of the Why Advertise checklist, the most important reason on the list is the one the client selects. That's the reason most important to them. When they make their selection from the list, it gives you an opportunity to ask questions to clarify their needs, wants, and desires. It allows you to set expectations about what advertising can and cannot do for them. Teaching your clients the purpose of advertising, how to advertise, and what to expect when they advertise is an advanced consulting skill that can set you apart as an expert.

If you'd like a copy of the Why Advertise checklist, just send me an email and I'll gladly provide it. You might disagree with my belief that the fundamental purpose of advertising is to help products and services become known before they are needed. If so, I love a good spirited debate, and there is plenty of space in the comments section for us to have some fun.

Jeff Schmidt is EVP and partner at Sparque, Inc. At Sparque. You can reach Jeff at

Twitter: @JeffreyASchmidt

(2/4/2015 3:53:02 PM)
I s'pose, Jeff, it could be pointed out that unless the advertiser's deal/offer is so spectacular as to instantly move bodies to the store, the most effective form the ads could take would be those that support your premise.

As an aside: Every agency that produced spots for the Superbowl were ALL on the same page - mostly processed emotionalism and light on the content. Brilliant. Magic.

Now, if only radio would catch up.

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