Sin #3:  Vanity

The desire to create ads that are all about you and your company

Vanity causes advertisers to talk about themselves in their ads. Vanity makes advertisers give themselves cute nick-names like “Mr. Big Volume”.  Vanity keeps advertisers producing ads that sound like ‘ads’.

The quick skinny:

  •  Be authentic.  People are cynical. Speak to your customers, not at them.
  • Tell your story in an interesting and unusual way that doesn’t sound like an ‘ad’.
  • Appeal to the emotions of your listener in broadcast and leave the details for your search & web.

“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it” – Simon Sinek, How great leaders inspire action

 Bob Dylan and Eminem moved millions of people and became the voices of their respective generations by telling emotionally compelling stories with interesting phrases and unusual story lines. Why should that be any different with your advertising?  Airstream does it.  Apple does it.  Chick-fil-A does it.  So why is it that most local advertisers miss this completely, and waste millions of dollars in intrusive media (radio and television) on poorly conceived ads that sound like “ads”.

In broad strokes, people are cynical.  Years of being baited-and-switched, lied to, and swindled have caught up with advertisers.  They don’t believe ads.  Couple that with the sheer volume of sponsorship and advertising in general and you have a tough environment for advertisers to cut through the clutter.  Moreover, social media has made transparency not only desirable, but necessary for survival.

Local advertisers often use their broadcast media to tell what they do, how they do it, or where and when they do it, details largely irrelevant when a customer is not yet in the market for a product.  But the problem with ads sounding like “ads” is not that they don’t give good information. It’s not that we don’t want to know store hours, or pricing, or lease options. We may very well (in transactional mode) need this information.  The problem is actually biological. The area of our brain, the limbic system (or region), that is responsible for our feelings, emotions, and all decision making has no capacity for language. Informative “ads” telling an audience what you do may very well be understood, it just doesn’t drive decision making and behavior.

Attempting to motivate 3% of an audience to “buy now!” while annoying, boring, or chasing off the other 97% is a poor use of broadcast media, if not wildly inefficient.  Screaming “NO MONEY DOWN!!”, staging a phony “Memorial Day sale”, and having unsubstantiated claims like “Atlanta’s trusted source for….” in your ads in an attempt to interject emotion are ineffective because they are no longer believable, and trust is an emotionYou must be real with your ads. Tell the story that is uniquely yours.

The encouraging news is that if we dig deep enough, most local advertisers have an emotionally compelling story to tell, and with the help of a good writer, have the capacity for a successful campaign.   Upon asking a business owner “why did you get into this business?” there is almost always an interesting story.  The most effective way to connect emotionally with consumers before they are in need of what you sell, is by telling them WHY you do what you do.  Emotional connections are about virtues, causes, and beliefs.  These virtues are best told in stories, not ads that sound like “ads”.

If you are a good operator, run a sound business, and are passionate about your craft, you have what it takes. Advertising will only hasten what is going.   Tell an emotionally compelling story in an authentic, unusual, and compelling way that connects to people and you are bound to succeed.