Advertisers’ blind spots

Advertisers’ blind spots

By John Foust

When we learned how to drive, we heard about blind spots. Those are the areas which are not visible in our rear and side view mirrors. As a result, we have to be extra careful when we change lanes.

The term “blind spots” has become popular in today’s business environment. It refers to significant things that are not acknowledged or given fair consideration by management. Outside observers are often perplexed by the fact that certain obvious factors are always ignored.

Blind spots are common in the advertising business. Let’s take a look at a few examples:

  1. Family. This can be a big blind spot in family-owned businesses. It’s a clear sign if you hear something like, “My grandfather wrote our ad slogan, and if it was good enough for him, it’s good enough for me.” Or, “My son just finished a marketing class, and he’s got some good ad ideas.” Or, “My niece says we need to have a bigger presence on social media.”
  1. Do-it-yourself mentality. A lot of entrepreneurs and Mom-and-Pop businesses are used to doing just about everything themselves. They don’t like to delegate tasks and they resist outside help. They hire and fire, they set office policies, they select inventories, and they keep their own books.

They also maintain tight control of their marketing. In their minds, no one could know more about promoting their businesses than they do.

  1. Competitor distractions. Someone told me about his experience in working for a furniture manufacturer. His company suddenly started losing orders, because a competing company was dramatically cutting prices. His CEO called an all-staff meeting and announced that their new focus was to beat the competitor at their own game. “From that point on,” he said, “it was like Captain Ahab going after Moby Dick. But along the way, we lost our focus on quality, which had been our big selling point. It was like the CEO became blind to what we had going for us all along. It took a while to regain our balance in the market.”

Some advertisers make the same mistake. They spend so much time thinking about their competitors that they lose sight of what differentiates them in the marketplace.

  1. History. We’re all products of our past experiences. It should be no surprise when we encounter otherwise savvy business people who are wedded to old media choices – or old ad campaigns – even if those choices are no longer producing results. There may be long-standing relationships with those media outlets. Or there may be a bias against a particular newspaper or newspapers in general.

Blind spots are real, but not necessarily fatal for an ad campaign. After all, we have blind spots, too – and some of them involve our perspectives on advertising.

How should you handle an advertiser with a blind spot that is blocking the way? A good place to start is to look for common ground and bite your tongue if you are tempted to criticize.


(c) Copyright 2021 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: