“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” – John Wannamaker
Due to still settling in to routine after the unreal trip to SXSW, my editorial calendar has gone to pot, which means I was taking an early morning walk wondering what on earth to write about today.
Fortunately, I bumped into the soon-to-be Sausage King of East Sussex – a young entrepreneurial spirit who has recently taken over a sausage stall in a prime location in Brighton. The title is not self-appointed; he has no idea I call him that.
We chatted briefly and as I sauntered on my merry way, picking up a local paper I began to think about small businesses, and how important advertising is to small businesses.
Or rather, how important it is to make sure their advertising is working as hard as possible to:
- Get customer’s attention
- Make customers remember them
- Get customers to take action
- Prove that an advert has worked… or not
However when I got back and looked through the paper, and the paper I picked up last week I found the following:
- Over 50% of the paid advertisements (excluding classifieds) included simple copywriting and advertising mistakes
- The total cost of the adverts was over $20,000 (£12,834)
- The average cost per advert was over $1,200 (£754)
What’s more, the mistakes that were made are easy to avoid.
This is part one of the top 20 print advertising mistakes
1: Missing Details
There was a full page advert at a cost of over $2,700 (£1,700) that had no contact details. No website, no address, no phone number nothing. Not even the full business name. It had tons of fantastic deals, but absolutely no way of getting in touch or finding them if you didn’t know who they were. This one mistake could have cost them thousands by buying an advert no-one could respond to.
2: No Tracking
I’ve paid for and designed advertising in the past. For a small or start up business, it’s a big investment to make and there’s always a niggling feeling that you’re putting money into a black hole. I found only 1 advert that had put on any kind of tracking into its advert – a code to quote when claiming a free gift (great idea). To make the best out of tracking a print advert, have a specific purpose for the advert (an offer, a free giveaway a competition) and a means to track responses (a specific url, a specific phone extension or code to quote)
3: Hidden / Obscured Company Name
Make your company name stand out. Don’t obscure it through wacky graphics, or just by including your website address. You want to have a consistent association between what you offer and your company name so make it stand tall and proud in every piece of print advertising you do.
4: Unreadable Text On Pretty Pastel Colours
If it’s summer and I’m feeling uncharacteristically feminine I might swap the cowboy boots and jeans for pastel shades, but I’d keep them away from any print advertising, especially if I was then going to lay white text on top. I saw plenty of pretty ads that were just too hard to read. If people can’t read your copy, you’ve wasted money on your advertising.
5: No Details About What The Business Does
It’s understandable that you don’t want to feel like you’re repeating yourself about who you are and what you do, but to really get your message to stick, you have to. One restaurant had a great offer, but didn’t tell the reader what kind of food was served. It might seem like a little point but it can make the difference between getting your customer to stop, and them turning over the page. Include your tagline that says who you are, what you do and who for wherever possible.
6: Meaningless Phrases
If you do have a tagline, make sure it’s one that encourages your target market to think something “specifically” about you. I saw lots of phrases that sounded great, but didn’t convey how or why that business particularly shined. For example:
- Quality Without Compromise
- Make a World of Difference With…
Avoid these clichéd phrases and try to keep it simple: “outdoor camping gear for all the family” is actually a very good, straight forward tagline. Your advertising doesn’t have to be mysterious and clever, it needs to be as easy as possible for your ideal customers to contact you and buy your products.
7: No Emphasis On The Deadline For Offers
If you’re reading this you’re probably used to the idea of including an element of urgency or a deadline, but this was a very simple mistake I saw a lot of adverts make.
8: No Call To Action
Some adverts were like gentle reminders that a shop existed. No call to action, no special offer, not even a request that the reader get in touch, pop in, phone them or visit.
9: Irrelevant Photos
One advert that sold batteries had pictures of leaves everywhere. Everything else in the advert was great: a special offer, promotional code, call to action and benefits stated. But the main photo (which is one of the first things to catch the eye) betrayed what they were offering. Use photos to show your product, or the benefits of a service (such as happy children playing for a childcare centre)
10: Mixed Or Too Many Messages
Understandably businesses are proud of their service, but this can turn into information overload in advertising. One recruitment advert encouraged people to get involved because they would help to eradicate world diseases, have fun, make friends and business contacts and learn new skills. All fantastic, but by listing them altogether (and without bullet points) it diluted the impact. Either pick one facet of your product to focus on, or stack the benefits and make them relevant to each other.
Now, I’m curious and would love to know your thoughts. I spoke to my brother who used to be an advertising rep for a local paper where I grew up. He said one difficulty was educating (or enchanting?) businesses that there were better ways to lay out their adverts.
So I would love to know what you think.
- Do newspapers offer enough support in educating local advertisers?
- Are local businesses unaware that you can include simple copywriting techniques to improve adverts without hiring a marketing agency?
- Why are small to medium businesses investing an average of nearly $3,000 per advert, but not taking care with making their message attract, engage and persuade their target market?
I would love to see local businesses in Brighton (and beyond) get more from their advertising investment and would love to know your thoughts and experiences on print advertising and the challenges of advertisers and newspapers.
Let me know in the comments below.