Business Writing Sample: Authored Article


By Mike Johnson for RMR & Associates
1999 RMR & Associates

Gaining the Attention of the Market:
Why Great Creative?


Can you finish this sentence: "Certs gives you ___, ____, _____ ______ ___ ____."

If you were able to supply the missing words "two, two, two mints in one," you are a living, breathing example of the effectiveness of advertising creative. This Certs breath mint ad ran years ago, yet most people can still spout it off as if they had just viewed it this morning. This creative scored highly because the message was concise, memorable, benefit-orientated, frequent and distinctly unique.

Of the five attributes, I believe that being distinctly unique is the most important because we're fighting for attention in a noisy world. Surveys show that readers, viewers and listeners give you only 2 seconds to gain your attention. If you can't stop the reader, viewer or listener, you've wasted your investment and you've communicated nothing.

So, before you start crafting jingles or designing creative, it's best to clearly define exactly what advertising truly is. Advertising is controlled communications designed to increase profits. Properly done, good advertising will increase brand preference, increase product trial and increase sales leads. All of which are designed to create more sales.

According to the Small Business Administration, the leading cause of business failures is "not having a sufficient number of buyers to produce consistent profits."

Simply said, if you can't sell your product over time, you won't be able to keep your doors open. As exciting as it seems, advertising is actually a very sober art and science. It's a means to an end, and that end is to increase profits.

The pathway to achieving that end starts with answering the following three questions:

* Who is my target market?
By defining who your buyers are, you'll be able to select the most appropriate media vehicle (print, television, radio, Internet, etc.) to reach them. The media vehicle determines the shape of the creative message.

* What is it they want?
Research your prospective market as thoroughly as your budget allows. In many cases, you can negotiate free, or reduced-cost studies of your market from the media vehicle you pay to broadcast your advertising. Research shows that customers don't buy what they need, they buy what they want.

* Why should they buy it from me?
The reasons you list here will form the backbone of the creative that drives home your message. Your ad creative must quickly communicate perceptible points of difference. Seemingly small points of differentiation can become the key selling points that lead to success.

Once you've answered the above questions, then it's time to build creative that succinctly and uniquely conveys your message. Your creative and copy must be driven by a defined purpose. Communicate to the correct target audience. Identify and demonstrate key benefits. Stop the reader by communicating a unique personality or tone. And finally, what is so important for increasing profits, leave the potential customer with a call to action.

I suggest using the following tips to build great creative.

Headlines.
Make them concise, clever and direct. When you think you have them just right, continue to test them. A simple change in a headline has been shown to give 10%, 100% and as much as 1,000% more response.

Benefit-orientated copy.
When writing the ad copy, think fact, feature, benefit. Back to another Certs example, the breath mint ad had this voice over: "Certs with Retzen..." (Fact) "Gives you fresh breath..." (Feature) and the actors conveyed through their actions: "Which makes all the girls go after you..." (Benefit).

Communicate a personality or tone.
People in companies don't buy what they need, they buy what they want. It's an emotional buying decision, and people sometimes don't even want to admit that to themselves. Create a personality or tone that first stops the reader to view the ad, then plays to their emotional want.

Size or frequency?
To look big and "safe" to the consumer, choose the largest ad you can afford. But if you must choose between size and frequency, pick frequency. The "Rule of Seven" says that consumers need 7 impressions over a 12 month period to receive your message. Great creative can grab attention even with smaller ads by using color, shape, artwork and headline.

Provide a strong offer.
Make your offer very clear. If you can get your offer into the headline, great. If not, make sure you don't bury it. Types of offers that drive response include discounts, free information, free samples and free product trials.

Leave potential customers with a call to action.
Leave your message ringing in the potential customers' ears. Tell them exactly what you want them to do. Test the product. Call for information. Buy today. Visit your website.

An example of great creative that drove sales was a campaign we did for Yurie Systems. Yurie Systems was Business Week's #1 Hot Growth Company in 1997, and we needed to put together a campaign that helped them increase their brand awareness and generate sales leads. So we needed to design a campaign that worked as a stop sign in terms of the color, imagery and layout that stopped people and made them pay attention.

Yurie's product was a computer network protocol product called Intelligent Access Control that through a series of multi-service switches, can direct any traffic to any network. The key product attributes were power and grace. Because Yurie's competitors were all heralding just the bandwidth (power) aspects of their product, our creative had to herald the importance of both power and grace.

The ad pictured a Sumo wrestler dressed in a tutu with the caption: "More bandwidth won't always improve performance." It also told customers to visit Yurie's website to order a free sample CD ROM. Over 1,000 people did just that within the first 30 days of the campaign. Since then, Yurie was bought by Lucent for a billion dollars. Of course, we can't take all the credit, but certainly having strong products, and having strong markets, and a strong focus on marketing communications, played a significant role in their success.

More Business Writing Samples