Ten Rules for More Effective Advertising
Law states that if a thing is done wrong often enough, it becomes
right, and as a result, volume becomes a defense to error. When
advertising fails to sway consumers, most advertisers follow Leahy's
Law by increasing the frequency of the advertising hoping that more of
what is not working will somehow work when consumers are subjected to
more of the same.
the following 10 simple rules to evaluate the advertising you
encounter. You may be disappointed, but don't be surprised when you
discover that most advertising fails to follow any of the
Does the ad tell a simple story, not just convey information?
A good story has a beginning where a
sympathetic character encounters a complicating situation, a middle
where the character confronts and attempts to resolve the situation,
and an end where the outcome is revealed. A good story does not
interpret or explain the action in the story for the audience. Instead,
a good story allows each member of the audience to interpret the story
as he or she understands the action. This is why people find good
stories so appealing and why they find advertising that simply conveys
information so boring.
2. Does the ad make the desired call to action
a part of the story?
A good story that is very entertaining but does
not make a direct connection between the desired call to action - the
purpose of the ad - and the story is just a very entertaining story.
The whole point of the story in advertising is to effectively deliver
the desired call to action. If the audience does not clearly understand
the desired call to action after seeing the ad, then there is no point
in running the ad. Contrary to popular belief, having an entertaining
story and clearly delivering the desired call to action are not
3. Does the ad use basic emotional appeals?
Experiences that trigger our emotions are saved
and consolidated in lasting memory because the emotions generated by
the experiences signal our brains that the experiences are important to
remember. There are eight basic, universal emotions - joy, surprise,
anticipation, acceptance, fear, anger, sadness, and disgust. Successful
appeals to these basic emotions consolidate stories and the desired
calls to action in the lasting memories of audiences. An added bonus is
that successful emotional appeals limit the number of exposures
required for audiences to understand, learn, and respond to the calls
to action - people may only need to see emotionally compelling scenes
once and they will remember those scenes for a lifetime.
4. Does the ad use easy arguments?
"Jumping to conclusions" literally gave our
ancestors an advantage even when the conclusions that made them jump
were wrong because delaying actions to review information could have
deadly consequences. Easy arguments are the conclusions people reach
using inferences without a careful review of available information.
Find and use easy arguments that work because it is almost impossible
to succeed when working against them.
5. Does the ad show, and not tell?
"Seeing is believing" and "actions speak louder
than words" are two common sayings that reflect a bias and preference
for demonstrated behavior. This is especially true when interests may
not be the same. Assume audiences are skeptical about any advertising
and design advertising that shows and does not tell.
6. Does the ad use symbolic language and images
that relate to the senses?
People prefer symbolic language and images that
relate to the senses. People are far less receptive and responsive to
language and images that relate to concepts. Life is experienced
through the senses and using symbolic language and images that express
what people feel, see, hear, smell, or taste are easier for people to
understand, even when used to describe abstract concepts. The language
and images used in advertising should "make sense" to the audience.
7. Does the ad match what viewers see with what
People expect and prefer coordinated audio and
visual messages because those messages are easier to process and
understand. Audio and visual messages that are out-of-sync may gain
attention, but audiences find them uncomfortable.
8. Does the ad stay with a scene long enough
People have limited mental processing
capacities. Quick cuts to different scenes require people to devote
more of their limited resources to following the cuts and less
resources to processing each scene. It takes people between eight and
ten seconds to process and produce a lasting emotional response to a
scene. Camera movement or different camera angles of the same scene can
engage people through their orienting responses while providing enough
time for them to process the scene.
9. Does the ad let powerful video speak for
Again, the processing capacity of our brains is
limited and words may get in the way of emotionally powerful visual
images. When powerful visual images dominate - when "a picture is worth
a thousand words" - be quiet and let the images do the talking.
10. Does the ad use identifiable music?
Music can be a rapidly identified cue for the
recall of emotional responses remembered from previous advertising.
Making the same music an identifiable aspect of all advertising signals
the audience to pay attention for more important content.
These rules take into consideration consumers'
out-of-conscious processing systems. To learn more, go to The Scintillating Grid.
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