Saturday, May 15, 2010

Why most advertising sucks. (Part 2)

If you only retain one rule about advertising, this is the one: Advertising is not sales.

I'm going to repeat that, just in case there are any clients reading this blog. Advertising is not sales.

Advertising. Is. Not. Sales.

Sales is about making a transaction. Customers give you money in exchange for your product or service. Advertising, on the other hand, is about creating a desire.

Advertising comes first. The more desire you create, the easier it is to close the sale. Which has huge implications, especially when you fuck it up and do it wrong.

Treating advertising like sales actually reduces your likelihood of success. If you haven't created any desire, your efforts to close come across no better than the guy in the third-world market barking, "My friend! I make great deal for you!" which if you've ever been in a market in Cairo, Ecuador, Roumania, or just about anywhere else in the world, you know roughly translates into English as "Hello. I'm an aggressive freak who's trying to rip you off. Run."

But even if that weren't true –– which it is –– from a practical point of view you can't close a sale in an ad. Let's say you're sitting on your couch, watching TV, and a commercial for a new toaster comes on. You want that toaster. You need it. What do you do?

You a) go to the store, b) go to the internet, or c) go to the phone. Doesn't matter, you aren't in a position to make a transaction, no matter how much you want to. You can't throw your credit card at the television. You must take another step, one that involves interacting with either a salesperson or an automated process. Who or which is there to close.

Is that clear? No. I know it's not. But I can't help but try.


  1. I think this is a great article, but how does this work with people buying things online? How does a shopping cart page close a deal?

  2. An excellent question.

    The issue is one of process. At what point in the marketing/sales process are customers interacting with your site? Or, to put it another way, are you using your site to build your brand, market to customers, sell to them, or to close?

    Most fans of the internet will tell you that their sites do all four, but that’s rarely true in practice. In general, advertising works well for branding and marketing, decently for selling, but pretty badly for closing. This has a lot to do with what advertising is, fundamentally, which is one-way mass communication. The internet is magnificent at selling, but fairly weak at closing and branding. Again, this has to do with what it is. The internet allows marketers to be more targeted, more flexible, and more accountable, but not any more personal.

    To be effective, sales generally requires one-on-one interaction (the higher the price, the more necessary the personal interaction) and even if a program could be written to create a realistic impression that a personal interaction is taking place, consumers continue to be leery of machines impersonating humans.

    This is why car dealers will never go away. It’s also why advertising will never go away.