Ad Libs: Advertising’s Bill of Rights

Ad Libs: Advertising’s Bill of Rights

By John Foust

Greensboro, NC

In the advertising business, there are things which must be done in order to create an effective campaign. Think of it as Advertising’s Bill of Rights: Send the right message to the right audience in the right medium at the right time about the right product (or service) which sells for the right price in the right environment.

John Foust

Although some other rights might be added to the list, this covers the basics. Here’s a closer look:

  1. Send the right message: In other words, watch your language. Instead of using empty claims and exaggerations like “fantastic,” “incredible” and “best ever,” stick to legitimate features and benefits. If you’re putting together a response ad (as opposed to an image, or institutional, ad), make a compelling offer – discounts, time-sensitive offers, two-for-price of one, etc.
  2. To the right audience: There’s no such thing as selling to “everyone.” On any given day, only a small slice of the total audience is in the market for a new car or a refrigerator or a pair of jeans. Aim your message at the people who want/need/qualify to buy what your advertiser is selling.
  3. In the right medium: It’s rare when a particular product is limited to only one possible media outlet. As a result, most of your advertisers are deciding between two or more choices. The first order of business is to learn as much as possible about the media product(s) you sell. Then learn all you can about the other choices in your market. That will put you in position to make fair – and convincing – comparisons between Choices A, B and C. Along the way, you will confirm ways to present your paper’s print and online products as the right picks.
  4. At the right time: While some products and services are viable all year long, others are seasonal. Unless your publication is in a year-round cold climate, don’t try to sell snow shovels in July.
  5. About the right product (or service): Likewise, it’s not smart to advertise lawn furniture or residential termite services in a congested area with high-rise apartment buildings.
  6. Which sells for the right price: A car dealer told me about a salesperson who approached a man in the used car lot. When the man asked, “How much is this truck?” the salesperson replied, “$19,900.” The man said, “But the tag says $15,000. Do you think I’m some kind of fool?” The salesman said, “No sir, I was just checking to make sure.” Encourage your advertisers to price their products fairly. If the price is wrong, no one will buy.
  7. In the right environment: Measurements of success shouldn’t stop when an ad runs. Sure, advertising can generate traffic, but if consumers encounter rude employees in the advertiser’s place of business, they will leave. And you can say the same for poor parking, inconvenient hours, dirty floors, and complicated return policies. True advertising success calls for the entire Bill of Rights, not just one or two.

— 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. Email for information:

Copyright 2022 by John Foust. All rights reserved.