Ad-libs: Strange things I’ve heard around ad departments

Ad-libs: Strange things I’ve heard around ad departments

By John Foust
Raleigh, NC

In my years around newspapers, here are a few statements that made me say, “Huh?”

1. “Let’s run the ad one time to see what happens.” People who run an ad one time would get just as much for their investment by throwing it down a storm drain. This advertiser didn’t realize – perhaps because no one had told her – the power of reach and frequency. How many people do you reach? And how often do you reach them?

2. “It’s recyclable.” A sales person said this in response to the question, “What is the number one reason to advertise in your paper?” It didn’t occur to him to talk about how advertising is good for business.

3. “You should support your local paper.” The same sales person offered this as the second reason to advertise. He didn’t realize that most businesses are looking for ways to sell product, not support the local media.

4. “The only reason to cultivate relationships with people is to get money out of them.” This was said by a sales manager in a staff meeting. While it revealed a shallow and manipulative approach to customer relations, it was worsened by the fact that several people on his staff were in their first job. What a lousy introduction to the sales profession.

5. “White space is a waste of money.” An advertiser said this, while reviewing the proof of an ad which featured some white space between illustrations. She insisted on adding more pictures, which resulted in an uninviting glob of clutter on the page.

6. “My office building is brown. So print my logo in brown ink.” This advertiser was hung up on color, even though he had not built his brand on color (like Coca-Cola’s red or McDonald’s golden arches). When an advertiser has the freedom to pick any color, it’s best to base the decision on what will look good on the page.

7. “They just don’t get it.” This is the way one publisher described his advertising staff. What he didn’t realize is that, when everybody doesn’t get it, something is wrong with the communicator – namely him.

8. “I don’t believe in having friends at work.” An owner made this absurd statement at an all-staff meeting. Thank goodness, my boss didn’t discourage friendship in my first job after college. My former co-workers are still some of my closest friends.

9. “If your account rep doesn’t do a good job, let me know.” An ad manager said this to a client, in the presence of the account rep. In an effort to impress, he put the sales person in an awkward position. Not exactly a confidence builder.

10. “An ad doesn’t need a headline.” This was mentioned by a recent graduate who was showing his portfolio to ad agencies. Commenting on an ad with all copy and no headline, he said his professor had called it a creative approach. In reality, numerous studies have shown that the headline is the most important part of an ad. No headline? No way.


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:

(c) Copyright 2014 by John Foust. All rights reserved.