Ad-libs: Fixes for advertising flaws

Ad-libs: Fixes for advertising flaws

By John Foust

Raleigh. NC

Golf magazine runs features which focus on problems and solutions in golf swings. It’s a good way for duffers – as well as experienced golfers – to improve specific elements of their games.

In the spirit of improving our advertising swing, let’s apply this concept to the ad business. Here’s a look at two problem areas – one involving a sales presentation, and one involving a challenging creative situation.

Flaw: A prospective advertiser is not listening to your sales pitch.

This is a common problem in the sales profession. You’re sitting across the desk from a big advertising prospect, and she is barely paying attention. Your carefully prepared charts and graphs generate no interest at all. And each point you mention is met with a polite nod or a distracted “uh huh.” The longer you talk, the more fidgety she becomes. Her glances at her computer monitor indicate that you’re quickly running out of time. You feel like you’re sinking in quicksand.

Fix: Stop talking and ask questions.

One good thing about a sales presentation is that you usually get instant feedback on how you’re doing. In this case, your prospect is telling you that your presentation is boring. It’s not that she doesn’t like you and your paper. You’re simply talking about the wrong thing (your company), when you should be talking about her most important advertising topic (her company).

Step 1: A bored prospect won’t buy anything. Before you reach for those wonderful charts and graphs, ask questions. Ask a lot of questions. Ask about her business. Ask about her advertising challenges. Ask about her company’s competition. Ask about her short and long term marketing goals. Isolate specific problems that you can solve.

Step 2: Listen carefully. Show sincere interest. Take notes.

Step 3: Show her how your paper can help solve the problems she has identified. By customizing your presentation – and your explanation of those graphics – you will hold her attention and increase the likelihood of making a sale.

Flaw: Your client wants his picture to appear in the advertising.

In personal service industries like real estate, insurance and financial planning, a photo of an advertiser is a good idea. In others, it’s an ego issue. Your client recognizes that your publication reaches a lot of people, and he wants his friends and acquaintances to say, “Hey, I saw your picture in the paper.” In fact, he may measure an ad’s success by how many people mention it.

The temptation is to say “okay,” put his photograph front and center – and make an easy sale. But the right thing to do is to create an ad that works.

Fix: Make it relevant.

This can be a unique opportunity to humanize the advertising. Look for ways to link the person to a specific consumer benefit. For example: “I’m here to make sure your vehicle is serviced correctly”…or “I personally inspect every widget we deliver.”

The challenge is to shift the focus from “Look at me” to “Look what I can do for you.”


(c) Copyright 2012 by John Foust. All rights reserved.


John Foust has conducted training programs for thousands of newspaper advertising professionals. Many ad departments are using his training videos to save time and get quick results from in-house training. E-mail for information: