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Friends don’t let friends run ads like this

While sitting in traffic the other day, I noticed a bumper sticker on the car in front of me. It said:

“Friends don’t let friends drink Starbucks.” The name and address of a coffee shop was in smaller print below.

Since this coffee shop put its name and address on the bumper sticker, I have to believe that they intended it to promote their business and not just be funny. Unfortunately for this business, this ad fails on a number of levels.

The ad says absolutely nothing about why I should buy coffee from this business. Sure, the medium only allows for a few words. But that’s even more reason not to waste any. They could have said “Best coffee in Chicago.” Not great, but an improvement over what was there.

The name of the business was unreadble. I was directly behind this car in city traffic, so wasn’t more than 15 feet away. Even my 20/20 vision couldn’t make out the details of where the advertiser was located.

The most prominent brand name in the ad was that of the competition. Score another brand exposure for Starbucks. I wish I had competitors that promoted me!

It isn’t hard to see how this well-meaning but ill-equipped small business owner went wrong. They were just copying what they’ve been exposed to. It doesn’t take long to find any number of examples of ads from advertising professionals that are funny, cool, etc but don’t give the consumer any reason to buy the product.

How many beer commercials have you seen that were funny or clever, but you couldn’t remember what brand was being advertised?

The ultimate measure of good advertising isn’t a Clio award, it’s whether anyone bought anything. The question an agency client – or a small business who writes their own – should be asking before they sink lots of money into an ad is this:

Will this ad:

  • Tell people why I’m different or better than my competitors?
  • Get people into my store / onto my website?
  • Help strengthen a link between my brand name and my USP in people’s minds?
  • Convince people to give me their money?

This is where ad testing comes in. It’s a simple step that is often skipped because it “costs too much” or there isn’t time because the insertion deadline is tomorrow.

Ask yourself what its worth to you to avoid wasting potentially huge sums of money. Is it worth having the discipline to stick to a schedule that allows for testing? Is it worth diverting a tiny fraction of what you plan to spend on media to make sure what your putting out there works?

It’s your money.

About the Author

Ed Erickson is the President of Erickson Research, a Chicago market research consulting firm. You can find Ed on LinkedIn and .

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