Advertising Myth #4 Exploded

It happened two days ago. Another advertising rep came through the door. He was pleasant enough. He was expanding his little (51/2 X 8) coupon book to my area. His circulation is 45,000 at a cost of $550 a page. He agreed to $450 after about a minute, and we had a deal...I thought.

Then he wanted an agreement for 6 months. I understand why. One sale for six insertions is easier to sell that six sales for one insertion each. Plus, there is less formatting of the ads. I said that I would agree to one time & then sign an agreement if the first time was profitable (I was pretty sure it would be). Then he said " Well, it takes seven exposures l for your ad to register in the prospect's mind." All ad reps say that. They all believe it too. But it isn't true..at least in print. Your print ad is the most effective the first time it runs. The result doesn't get better the more times people see the ad. There is a slight effect after the ad is run several times... it's the " This company must be substantial.

I see their ad all the time" effect. But think. How many times do you see a movie before you know if you like it? Once. How many times do you need to hear a joke before you think it's funny? Once. The great thing about direct mail is that you can tell a compete story. The reader sees the whole offer all at once. In direct mail (or large newspaper ads) everything the reader needs to know to make a decision is there. (at least in good ads). A direct mail ad can be read...set aside...read again...shared with others...thought about...and then either discarded or responded to. In radio or TV ads, there is a build after the ad has been shown several times...because most people don't see the complete ad the first few times...and almost nobody sits in front of the TV or radio with a pen & paper in hand waiting to write down your phone number or address.

But in print, all of that is right in front of them. In our store, we have run several print ads (mostly by direct mail) almost unchanged for the past five years...every month. Let's take an example..... We have an ad for our Riccar vacuum cleaners that also features a couple of known brands to draw attention to the ad. Our ad cost is about $500 for this single ad every month. In the first month we ran this ad, we took in about $23,000 in high end sales. The second month we did about $43,000 in sales from the same ad...but the second month, we also put the ad in the newspaper and added another direct mail company...so the figures are skewed a little.

After that, the results from the ad slowly dropped every month until...5 years later...we still get about $8,000-$10,000 a month in sales from that same ad. And we've improved the ad and offers a little offer that time. It's still very worthwhile running that ad. But the response declines over time. For about a year, we rotated ads..every 3 months, the same ad appeared...3 ads rotating every month. That seemed to boost results.

Then it occurred to us that we could put all the ads in the direct mail magazine the same month. We tried that, and our sales increased by 240% (from that magazine). I'm a slow study. Now you don't have to be.

Claude Whitacre is the author of the book The Unfair Advantage Small Business Advertising Manual. Claude speaks on small business advertising and retail marketing.


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