Give advertisers a choice
by John Foust
Jul 02, 2009 | 930 views | 0 0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Raleigh, NC - Peggy was talking to me about sales. “When I first started selling advertising, I would come up with one killer ad idea, and then build a presentation around that one concept. Although I had some success with that approach, I felt like more of my ideas should have been accepted. Then I bought a sweater.”

A sweater?

“That’s right,” she said. “On a day when one of my best ideas had been rejected by a client, I went to a store after work to buy a blue sweater. As I looked through the various sweater styles and shades of blue, it was like one of those cartoon light bulbs switched on over my head. I realized that people like to have choices when making a purchase.

“So I tried a little experiment with my next ad presentation. I asked our paper’s creative department to prepare two versions of the same ad idea. Both layouts had the same copy and the same illustration, but one was vertical and one was horizontal. When I met with the advertiser, I explained that either choice would work – it was just a matter of deciding which ad he preferred. Our discussion was a real learning experience. He learned something about ad copy and design. And I learned something about human nature: people appreciate the opportunity to choose.”

Peggy’s technique has helped her make more sales – and create more knowledgeable advertisers. Here are some points to keep in mind:

1. Choice is good. “The whole idea is to give an advertiser a degree of ownership in an idea that someone else – our creative department – has developed,” Peggy said. “When he or she takes ownership, there is more enthusiasm for the idea. And we all know that an advertiser who is genuinely excited about an idea wants to see it in print as soon as possible.”

2. Too much choice is bad. “Every now and then, I show three options,” she explained. “But most of the time, I give people two choices. I’ve learned from experience that more than three is likely to muddy the water.”

3. Stay away from earthshaking decisions. Don’t put an advertiser in a position of making a decision that is likely to make or break the effectiveness of an ad. Safe choices include things like: Should the format be horizontal or vertical? Should the second color be red or green? Should the headline be serif or sans serif?

Some things are off limits in this type of presentation. For example, don’t ask an advertiser to make an on-the-spot choice between two entirely different positioning strategies. Strategy is an integral – and difficult to change – part of the marketing process, and therefore should not be reduced to Option A vs. Option B. Likewise, certain creative choices (photography vs. cartoon art, for instance) represent such radically different approaches that they need careful consideration.

“I try to include a simple choice in each one of my presentations,” Peggy concluded. “It makes a big difference in my selling.”

(c) Copyright 2009 by John Foust. All rights reserved.

E-mail John Foust for information about his training videos for ad departments: jfoust@mindspring.com

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