A prospective client called me last week, complaining that his latest radio and TV advertising campaign wasn’t working. He wanted my opinion about why, and some recommendations to turn the campaign around. When I talked with him further and checked out the creative, I was reminded about the 10 reasons why most campaigns fail.

  1. Looking for instant results. The ad that creates enough urgency to cause people to respond immediately is the ad most likely to be forgotten immediately once the offer expires. Such ads are of little use in establishing the advertiser’s identity in the mind of the prospective customer.
  2. Not buying enough frequency. Research shows that it takes 6 or 7 times for an ad to motivate a prospective customer to pick up the phone, visit a store or make a purchase online. For a media mix to be effective, each element in the mix must have enough repetition to establish retention in the mind of the prospect. Too often, however, the result of a media mix is too many people reached without enough repetition. Years of experience have taught me over and over that advertising is a game of repetition.
  3. Assuming the owner knows best. Most business owners are quite unqualified to see their company or product objectively. Too much product knowledge often leads them to talk about features that prospective customers don’t really care about, or answer questions no one is asking.
  4. Unsubstantiated claims. Advertisers often claim to have what the customer wants, such as “highest quality at the lowest price,” but fail to offer any evidence. An unsubstantiated claim is nothing more than a cliché that prospective customers get tired of hearing. You must prove what you say in every ad.
  5. Creating ads instead of campaigns. It is foolish to believe a single ad can ever tell the entire story. The most effective, persuasive, and memorable ads are like a rhinoceros: they make a single point, powerfully. An advertiser with four of five different things to say should commit to a campaign of at least two or three different ads, repeating each ad enough to stick in the prospective customer’s mind.
  6. Relying on late-week schedules. Advertisers often schedule their ads on Thursday and Friday, saying, “We need to reach the customer just before he or she goes shopping”. Why do these advertisers choose to compete for their customer’s attention each Thursday and Friday when they could have a quality conversation with prospective customers on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday?
  7. Great production without great copy. Too many ads today are creative without being persuasive. Slick, clever, funny, creative, and different ads are poor substitutes for informative, believable, memorable and persuasive ones.
  8. Forgetting the website. Research shows that over 90% of prospective customers visit an advertiser’s website after seeing or hearing an ad, before they proceed further and make a purchase decision. Yet many advertisers forget to feature the products or services that they are selling on the home page of their website.
  9. Buying ads on the wrong station or wrong media. Many advertisers fail to take the time to think through the targeting of their campaign, and write down critically important information on the profiles of the prospective customers that they are seeking to attract. They fall into the trap of buying radio and TV spots on the basis of just the price.
  10. Confusing reactions with results. The goal of advertising is to create a clear awareness of your company and its unique selling proposition. Unfortunately, most advertisers evaluate their ads by the comments they hear from the people that they know. When we mistake these types of opinions for results, we create ads that often say nothing of benefit to potential customers.