Don’t Make Your Ad Into an Obit

Photo of Rock Climber: Copyright: zhukovvvlad / 123RF Stock Photo

Information? or Appeal? Make your ad “work” for you!

Here are a few things to think about when formulating your ad strategy. Should my ads be informational, or appealing? You might say, “They should be both!” Absolutely. But how is that achieved, and in what measure? If we look at these two types of approaches maybe it will help clarify the differences, as well as the weaknesses and strengths.

Informational, the most overused approach to advertising

Let’s explore informational types of media first. Some examples of “informational” media might be the current weather conditions on your smart phone, or an obituary in a newspaper. Another example would be a magazine article or a newsletter post. These items are filled with information, but they require “no further action.”

What does that mean, “no further action?” It means that the information the reader hoped to get from reading these bits of media was realized. The weather blurb said it was 57 degrees, with a chance of rain, clearing overnight. The obit explained who died, how old they were and so on. Most likely the reader learned something new from the magazine article he or she read. No further action required. She could pursue more details about these things, but it isn’t necessary, because there is nothing else to be done. The reader got what they came for.

But there is something extremely important to realize about “informational” media: The viewer/reader/consumer “sought out” this information. The person wanted to know what the weather was, so they went directly to that app on their phone. Another reader bypassed article after article in the newspaper and went directly to the obit page to see if they knew anyone who had died, and so on. In each case, the consumer “sought out” the information that most interested them, bypassing anything that was not relevant to their interest!

So why is this important? Because no one will be seeking out your ad! And if they are not seeking out your ad, they most likely won’t read it, because they won’t even notice it! Most people focus on content that interests them

Appeal. Appeal. Appeal to your customer’s passion.

That’s where appeal comes in. So what does that mean? Well, if someone is “not seeking” out your message, then you must try to get their attention, take your message to them.

Maybe it is in the form of a compelling image. For instance, maybe you sell carabiners and you advertise in a Rock Climbing magazine, so your ad displays a climber on Mosaic Wall in Joshua Tree National Park. The photo is breathtaking. Maybe the climber in your photo is using your carabiner, but the focus of the ad is not your product, but instead, this incredible climbing spot in California! That image will “connect” with your reader’s interest. Yes, all climbers use carabiners, but if you want to get a climber’s attention, you may be better off appealing to his or her passion and sense of “adventure,” than her possible need for new carabiners.

And even with “informational” types of media, most magazines, newspapers still use the power of appeal. For instance, a magazine runs a phenomenal photo of a dog swimming from a flooded car during a hurricane on their cover. Or a newspaper boast a bold headline in 200 point type: Vote Recount Reveals Fraud. Those are the “hooks” that may leave a reader wanting more. And that should be the goal of your ad.

Focus your ad message so viewers will focus on your message

So how does this help in your advertising strategy? By focusing your strategy on your GOALS. So you must make your goals realistic. Sure, who wouldn’t want to run a $400.00 1/6 page ad in one issue of a magazine and see their sales increase by 75 percent? But that is unrealistic.

So what are you hoping for? Ultimately, you want to increase sales, attendance, exposure, etc. In other words, you want someone to see your ad, remember your ad, and then “act upon” it!

The first question then must be,”How do I get someone to notice my ad?”

By telling them everything about my product or event all at once? Jam as much information as I possibly can into my ad no matter how small it is?

That is the approach many advertisers take. Unfortunately, that marketing strategy rarely works very well. Why? Because when you “dump” information on your “would-be” customers, you are effectively “burdening” them with your ad. You are not “connecting” with them. And people have enough burdens in their life. So how do you “connect?” Well, that comes back to appeal. You must ask yourself this question, “Why would a total stranger be interested in my product, event, festival, sale, etc?”

The answer to that question is where you start. You want to compel them toward taking “further action,” such as, going to your website and finding out more.

Further action required

And here it comes. “What! Why should an ad require further action? I want them to get all the information from the ad!” I have heard this from clients before. But the problem is, that isn’t really true!

So be honest, here. Do you really want someone to read your ad and move on, as if they were reading a weather report. No, you want them to “take further action” in the form of a “verb,” like “contacting” your about your services. Or “buying” your product, or “attending” your event! Every product, service, or event announcement “requires further action.” Your ad is not an obituary. It is not a weather report. Your ad, to be successful, will always shoot for a “call to action!” The real job of advertising it to interest your potential customer enough that they want to take “further action” to learn more about your product. Or where they can purchase it. Or read reviews so they can learn how others loved your product.

Which brings us to appeal. How do you appeal to your customer? By focusing your message and piquing their interest, appealing to what “they” like and why “they” might enjoy what you have to offer. And doing it in a very focused, very impactful way. Maybe through design, a poignant image, a catchy phrase. Let’s face it, we are all consumers. And I can say I have never seen an ad that prompted me to purchase a product without taking further action. Because “buying” the product IS further action!

Don’t underestimate a “gift”

A gift? Yes, but maybe not the kind you’re thinking of. That’s my word for giving your perspective customer something for free when you advertise. Maybe you share an extraordinary photo from an exotic place. Furthermore, you allow that image to fill the entire page of your ad, with a single line about your product, ending with your logo and website info. This leaves the photo free from verbiage and clutter, and a chance for your viewer to experience a rare treat.

Humor has always been a great way to connect with customers. Maybe something funny about the product, or just something funny about human nature. This has become a popular form of advertising, especially with video and animation. You give your customer a laugh, or a smile, without ever having to purchase a thing. Be altruistic. Connect in real ways. Give something to a total stranger. A smile. A laugh. A heartfelt image.

When does ‘information” work?

Is there any situation when a lot of information can work? Absolutely! One perfect example is a poster that will be displayed in a coffee shop or some kind of prominent place for a few weeks or so. A poster is usually somewhat larger, can hold more information comfortably. Moreover, it is not competing with a bunch of other ads squashed into a single page. And even though your poster may be surrounded by other advertisements, people will still have time to see and read it while waiting for their coffee. And if they don’t see it one day, they may see it another. Furthermore, because of its size and appeal, they will have a chance to digest its message.

Another is your website.

People have “sought out” your website looking for more information. Don’t disappoint them. At the same time, don’t be dry and boring. Think, how can I make my information entertaining? Don’t forget the appeal. Be aware of your customer’s passion. The more you understand your customers, the more your customers will appreciate your caring. And the more excited they’ll be to do business with you.

Fight the “fill it up” trap

It is very tempting for advertisers to “fill” their ads full of copy. They want every detail of their product, every piece of information about their event. We’ve all seen those ads. They are filled with product, filled with descriptions, filled with info, no space left anywhere. “I paid for the space, I’m going to use it all,” an advertiser may say. That may be true, but those ads lack focus and appeal. They are like “Text Attacks” on prospective customers. And it is understandable why advertisers do this…they want the most “bang for their buck!” Advertising isn’t cheap, and advertisers feel that if they can get enough information to a prospective client, they can make a sale. But it doesn’t always work that way.

Start paying attention to car ads, whether in magazines or on television. Mercedes doesn’t show every car in their line. They usually showcase just one. And think about the tone of the ads. Luxury car manufacturers focus on Style and Luxury. They make use of incredible seascapes and mountain vistas as backdrops. If it’s a Toyota Prius, they may focus on family, suburban/urban landscapes, mileage and environment. If it’s Ford Tough, you are probably going off road, huge tires, rough terrain, and mud. And just when you think it’s over, something huge will probably drop from the sky into the pickup’s bed to show just how tough it is!


Focus is the key. A clear message. And sometimes your product surrounded by white space stands out more, and a message that is simple and succinct makes a better first impression! And don’t forget about the “gift.” How could Mary Poppins be wrong when she sings, “A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down!”

If you need more info please contact me. I would love to hear from you.