Author: Steve Lance and Jeff Woll
Publisher: Portfolio Hardcover
Year Published: 2006
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Why isn’t your advertising as smart, insightful, or effective as you’d like it to be? According to the Little Blue Book of Advertising, the answer is most likely because your process for creating and producing the advertising isn’t working. In this book, advertising veterans Steve Lance and Jeff Woll describe 52 tips that can drastically improve your advertising’s effectiveness.
The book is laid out in 10 main sections – 5 that focus on the strategy behind an ad campaign, 4 that offer tips for creating successful tv commercials, print advertising, internet advertising, and radio, outdoor, and direct response advertising, and a final section on managing the creative process on the set. Here are the top 5 points I walked away with.
- Know your customer and your brand – Get out into the field and start interacting with your target audience. Know them not as “single, urban women 18-34″ but what they like to do, who they talk to, where they hang out, what websites they visit, how they buy products like yours, etc. Finally, know what your target audience thinks about your brand, “the sum total of what you make, do, sell, service, or show to the world.”
- Know your objective – Where do you see your brand and/or your company in the near future? If you don’t know where you want to go, your advertising won’t be effective.
- Know where you want to go – Where are your customers? Do research, then go there and meet them. Don’t expect them to come to you.
- Create a great advertising strategy – Great advertising focuses on your target audience not how great your company is. Sell the consumer benefit because there’s no way you can capture your customer’s attention without it.
- Understand the creative process – Finally, creative directors should guide and manage the process, not stifle creativity. They should get into the trenches and talk with the creatives.
This book is geared towards larger companies who have big marketing budgets, lots of consumer products and are looking to create extensive brand building campaigns. While some tips are applicable to small businesses, the vast majority won’t work for small businesses on a limited budget.
That said, I tend to think that branding campaigns are, for the most part, a waste of time and money, and there are far more effective ways for small businesses to interact with customers (ie start dialogs rather than push marketing messages at them). As Seth Godin says in his book, Small is the New Big,
There’s a difference between brands and branding. Brands exist whether you want them to or not. Brands aren’t going to go away anytime soon. Brands are a useful shorthand for a complicated asset within an organization. Branding, on the other hand, is a thing you do. And as an activity, branding is problematic. Branding is ill defined, usually vacuous, often expensive, and totally unpredictable.
I think the worst advice in the book was to ad agencies. When describing how an ad agency might measure its efforts, it mentions
If you’re an advertising agency, you might want to measure how many awards your creative people win. Fine. Nothing wrong with that. Awards and trophies look good on the mantelpiece and make the recipients feel acknowledged. Some agencies measure how much billing they’ve gained in the past year. Others (wisely) prefer to measure clients’ spending growth.
Sorry, but I disagree. Ad agencies should be focused on getting results for their clients, not how many awards they’re winning or how much the client is spending with them. The prettiest, most creative ads are useless if they’re not helping to make your clients money. If your ad agency isn’t focused on your business rather than its own creatives’ egos, that’s probably why you have a problem with your advertising in the first place.
The book as an informal tone to it and each main section starts with a cartoon illustrating the main point of the section. Much of the text has witty/snarky side notes in parenthesis – often about measurement like “(M’gosh! That measurement thing again!)” – and many of the tips come with a list of the basic steps to take to implement the ideas. I admit that I was thrown off by the tone, which (it seemed to me) talks down to its readers at points, as if the authors have an ax to grind with those who are clueless about advertising. In the authors’ defense, I’m sure this is their attempt at humor, but I found it irritating.
While this book might be useful to marketing execs at Fortune 500 companies, the average small business or professional service probably won’t get much out of it. That’s not to say this is a bad book. There are all sorts of great tips and advice including getting out there and talking with employees, doing research before you create the ad, and their stance on whether to use long vs short copy. But many of their tips are hit or miss – and there seemed to be more misses than hits.
That said, the premise of the book is correct – advertising hasn’t changed that much. In fact, if you’re looking for books to improve your advertising, the best books are still the classics – My Life in Advertising and Scientific Advertising, Jon Caples’ Tested Advertising Methods, and David Ogilvy’s Ogilvy on Advertising. Read and master those and you won’t need much else.