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October 6, 2014:
The DASH Issue
CEA President/CEO
Gary Shapiro





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Ad Strategy Vs. Ad Writing

6-24-2013

Ad strategy is more difficult to teach than ad writing. Ad writing, essentially, is to choose:
1. An intriguing angle of approach into
the subject matter and
2. The sharpest words and phrases to
make your point.

Ad strategy, essentially, is to choose:
1. The point you need to make.

Bad strategy happens when you:
1. Listen to an advertisers wishful thinking and then
2. Assume that a radio schedule that
3. Delivers great frequency and
4. Reaches the perfect audience
5. With really good copy will
6. Make that advertisers dream come true.

If youve been selling radio long enough, you already know that a clients wishful thinking will help you sell that client a radio schedule, but it takes a lot more than wishful thinking to motivate the clients customer.

CLIENT: I wish I could sell these items.
ACCOUNT EXEC: Let me help you.
CLIENT: How can you help me?
ACCOUNT EXEC: We have a loyal audience. (Insert success story here.) Advertising is an investment in your future. (Insert schedule and contract here.) Now tell me exactly what makes these items different and special and better than the ones your competitor sells. (You start taking notes like crazy. The client is animated. Sincere. Hopeful. Excited.)

You return to the station with a contract and a run order. Now all you need is great copy, right?

Let me pause here to say that its not my goal to discourage you. My goal is only to open your eyes. I want you to see the problem clearly so that you no longer walk into a trap from which there is no escape. We will now continue.

You work really hard and write a great piece of copy. Excellent copy. Miraculous copy. The greatest copy ever written. Your co-workers love the ad. The client loves the ad. High-fives all around and champagne for everyone.

The schedule runs. The ad airs. Everyone is commenting on it. Very little of the product is sold. Beyond generating those comments, the ad has minimal impact on the business.

What the hell?

Your copy, indeed, was fabulous. You employed an excellent angle of approach, held the listeners attention, and made a powerful point in a clever way. Well done! But your fundamental strategy was flawed. Your ad answered a question that no one was asking.

You walked into the trap when you failed to question why the client was overstocked on the item he wanted you to advertise. The real problem is that no one wants the item. Your client assumed and you assumed with him that if people only knew and understood, theyd rush in to buy the product. So you told the people, you made them understand. And they still didnt want the product.

Advertising will only accelerate what was going to happen anyway.

Convince your client to let you offer the public what the public already wants. This is what drives traffic into a store. And many of those people will find other things to buy from your client. In other words, fish with bait that you already know the fish love. Dont try to convince the fish to swallow bait they dont really like.

The inexperienced account executive allows the patient to diagnose his own disease, then prescribes treatment under the illusion that the patients diagnosis can be trusted. If medical doctors did this, they would go to jail.

The treatment, the copy and the schedule, is the easy part. The diagnosis, the strategy, is the tricky part. A quick glance at the symptoms does not prescribe the cure. Identical symptoms can arise from many different causes.

The successful diagnostician knows the truth of a statement is not determined by the sincerity of the speaker. In other words, a deeply sincere, passionate client can easily be wrong in all of his assumptions. If you allow your client to frame the fundamental strategy and decide the principal point that your ad will make, you are at the mercy of your patients self-diagnosis. You and your station will be blamed when that patient fails to recover.

The solution is simple. You must separate the selling of the schedule from the creation of the strategy. Selling requires you to be warm, receptive, and empathetic. Strategy requires you to be cold, objective, and suspicious of the clients self-diagnosis.

Ask yourself this question: Are customers not coming because they dont know about this client, or are customers not coming because they do know?

Diagnose the real problem. Offer the clients customers what you know for certain they want. Are you beginning to understand why it takes a few years to become a doctor? But stick with it. Dont give up. Have courage. Youll get there.

Roy H. Williams is president of Wizard of Ads Inc. E-mail: roy@wizardofads.com.




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