Ad-libs: Selling ads in a world of bright shiny objects

Ad-libs: Selling ads in a world of bright shiny objects

By John Foust
Raleigh, NC

Meet Erica, a veteran of many years of sales presentations. “There’s a lot of talk these days about people who are drawn to Bright Shiny Objects,” she told me. “In most cases, that’s a reference to consumers rushing to purchase the newest technical gadget, even if their older version works just fine. But in reality, Bright Shiny Objects can refer to anything new and different.

“One of the lessons I’ve learned over the years,” she said, “is that some people are restless. For whatever reason – desire for novelty, competition with peer groups, or plain old boredom – they are always on the lookout for new things. In the business world, they are constantly trying new procedures, new initiatives, new vendors – even new employees. If the new thing works, fine. If not, there’s always another new thing around the corner.”

Erica explained that she looks for evidence of the Bright Shiny Object syndrome. For example, is an advertiser always considering new themes or media plans? Are marketing proposals requested frequently? Has he or she ever tried to shorten a long-term ad contract? Does the account seem to have a new ad agency – and a tweaked brand identity – every year?

“These are signs of someone who likes Bright Shiny Objects,” she said. “So I build my presentations around newness. Of course, I mention my paper’s stability in being around for a long time, but I put a lot of emphasis on the new things we have to offer.”

That’s a solid sales strategy. Let’s take a closer look:

1. New information. “Like any good sales person, I ask a lot of questions, Erica said. “There’s a lot of truth in the old saying, ‘knowledge is power.’ The only thing I can learn by talking is that I might be talking too much.”

She is consistently looking for new information about her advertisers. What are their thoughts on their current marketing? What are they considering for the future? What information can she provide that might be of help?

2. New audience. “Our number one product is readership,” Erica said. “When we expand our coverage, that’s big news. I’ve found it helpful to use a map to show the growth areas. A picture is worth a thousand words, and geographic changes are easy to illustrate.”

3. New products. According to Erica, this is where you can score big points. A new product – whether it’s a special section, a snazzy addition to your web site, or a social media feature – is an authentic Bright Shiny Object.

4. Improvements in existing products. Does your paper have a new printing process? (That can mean better color and faster turnaround.) Do you have access to new market research? (Better targeting.) Have creative capabilities been improved? (Additional design staff, recent creative awards, etc.) Has your paper opened a new office or revamped the old office? Are there new ad discounts? (Save money, get more bang for the buck.)

“It’s all about getting in step with advertisers,” Erica said. “I believe my paper can be just as bright and shiny as any other media vehicle.”


(c) Copyright 2013 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: