12 Causes of Advertising Failure

– Roy Williams
The Wizard of Ads

The Desire for Instant Gratification

The ad that creates enough urgency to cause people to respond immediately is the ad most likely to be forgotten immediately once the offer expires.

Trying to reach more people  than the budget will allow

Too often the result of a media mix is too many people reached without enough repetition.

Will you reach 100% of the people and persuade them 10% of the way? Or will you reach 10% of the people and persuade them 100 percent of the way? The cost is the same.

Assuming the business owner knows best

The business owner is uniquely unqualified to see his company or product objectively. It’s hard to read the label when you’re inside the bottle.

Unsubstantiated Claims

Advertisers often claim to have what the customer wants, such as “highest quality at the lowest price,” but fail to offer any evidence.  You must prove what you say in every ad.  Do your ads give the prospect new information?

Improper use of passive media

Non-intrusive media, such as newspapers and yellow pages, only reach buyers who are actively looking for the product.  The patient, consistent use of intrusive media, such as radio, will win the heart of the customer before she’s in the market for the product.  Tell her Why; wait for When.

Creating ads instead of campaigns

An advertiser with seventeen  different things to say should commit to a campaign of at least seventeen different ads, repeating each ad enough to stick in the prospect’s mind.

Obedience to unwritten rules

For some insane reason, advertisers want their ads to look and sound like ads.  Why?

Late-week schedules

Advertisers justify their obsession with Thursday and Friday advertising by saying, “We need to reach the customer just before she goes shopping.”

Why do these advertisers choose to compete for the customer’s attention each Thursday and Friday when they could have a nice, quiet chat all alone with her on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday?

Overconfidence in qualitative targeting

Many advertisers and media professionals grossly over-estimate the importance of audience quality. In reality, saying the wrong thing has killed far more ad campaigns than reaching the wrong people.

It’s amazing how many people become “the right people” when you’re saying the right thing.

Event-driven marketing

A special event should be judged only by its ability to help you more clearly define your market position and substantiate your claims.

If one percent of the people who hear your ad for a special event choose to come, you will be in desperate need of a traffic cop and a bus to shuttle people from distant parking lots.

Your real investment will be in the 99 percent who did not come!  What did your ad say to them?

Great production without great copy

Too many ads today are creative without being persuasive. Slick, clever, funny, creative, and different are poor substitutes for informative, believable, memorable, and persuasive.

Confusing Response with Results

The goal of advertising is to create a clear awareness of your company and its unique selling proposition. Unfortunately, most advertisers evaluate their ads by the comments they hear from the people around them. 

When we mistake mere response for results, we create attention-getting ads that say absolutely nothing.