What most adverts omit

What is it that almost all of the most successful adverts contain which less successful adverts omit?

I truly believe, after years and years of writing advertisements and watching the results roll in, that the most successful adverts contain something that is personal.

It might be a personal insight about the writer or something made up to look personal, but it is still personal.

This doesn’t mean that every time I write an email I start jabbering away about my love of Arsenal football club or my deep interest in the music of Bob Dylan or the fact that I sit writing these adverts looking through the gaps between huge pine trees into the distance.

Nor does it mean that I try to personalise the advert by writing your name at the top or dropping in a digital signature. These last ideas don’t work, because your readers will be savvy enough to know that you are trying to con them into believing this is a personal message when it isn’t.

So I am not talking about pretending to know the reader, but rather about including the odd snippet that gives just a little hint about who you are.

Now the question arises, why does making the advert something that is actually from an individual rather than from a corporation at a distance increase the chances of success? And indeed, if that is the case, why do most companies not follow this approach?

The reason why the approach works is because all of us like to feel we are getting personal attention. We want to feel we are dealing with an individual, and we want to feel that the company we are dealing with knows who we are.

Now this doesn’t mean that you have to say, “we are a small family business” because that phrase has been done to death. It needs to be personal and original.

As to why most people don’t do this, I think that many firms want to pretend that they are big corporations, market leaders, etc.  When in fact the big firms that are market leaders are trying desperately hard to become personal.

Being personal means having a personality. I try to express both a knowledge of how direct marketing works and my innate sense of irreverence (as per the Toppled Bollard stories) while still being able to see why one advert works and the other doesn’t.

This comes about because in direct marketing I have constantly questioned the established norms. But then, having proven to my own satisfaction that personalisation of emails and postal campaigns harms rather than supports response rates in certain cases, I’ve rambled on about why people took so long to realise this.

Of course, irreverence can be taken too far, so one needs to be careful – and indeed if you do put across your individuality you might well put some people off.  But we are talking here about the overall effect, not one or two potential customers.

Perhaps I should say that above all else successful firms of all sizes have their own vision of what they are trying to do. And then you need to experiment to prove that it is actually helping to bring in new customers.

Which brings us back to experimentation. If you feel that is something you’d like to do but is not your forte, then we do have a programme that can help you introduce new approaches into your advertising, but without you having to write the adverts.

The programme is called Velocity. And although we’ve outlined the general approach on our website, it is immensely flexible. The point about Velocity is that if you feel that you’d like help with the writing of your emails, and/or you would like to take your work in a new direction in order to increase response rates, Velocity could well be a programme that helps you.

Please do take a look at the web page or call Steve on 01604 880 927 or email Stephen@schools.co.uk.  And, of course, if you want to have a chat with me that’s not a problem. Just call or email Steve and he’ll pass the message on to me and I’ll come back to you.

Tony Attwood


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