Always a Critic

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The planner in me enjoys picking apart ads and uncovering the strategy behind a campaign. That said, the natural born skeptic in me often gets angry. I see a lot of ads that make me question the research behind a claim. Even with all the regulations in place and the amazing potential for the public to ‘call bullshit’ via social media, there’s still a disappointing amount of misleading advertising out there. I’ll be the first to tell you, when a planner comes across some research that has even a remote possibility of turning into a unique selling proposition for a client, they’re pitching it. Why? Well, even if the client doesn’t go for it, the mere fact that they took the initiative makes them look good. It’s a great way to keep clients loyal and show them you’re always thinking of them. But I think, in many categories, the competition forces

Today I saw a tv spot for Cancer Centers of America, touting a major claim that they have a “95% patient satisfaction rating.” With so many parity services out there, customer service is everything, so this number has significant meaning. Not having done much (any) competitive research to see what other cancer centers are claiming, I’m guessing this is a major differentiator for the Centers. Amazing insight, excellent statistic to cling to for a strategy. Right?

Now for the skeptic in me…how did they get that number? Satisfaction rating? Is that the same as still alive? Being a cancer center, I imagine some, if not many, of their patients die. I also would imagine that they didn’t survey any of the customers that have died, as most would certainly not give their approval. So, to me, that’s a number that needs to be explained further. It’s a great claim to lead with for the advertiser, but for me, it’s a simple reminder to always be a critic.

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5 Tips for Advertising Your Small Business

Advertising can be one of the fun, creative outlets of owning a business. But no matter what media you’re creating an ad for, there are some fundamentals that you should keep in mind.

1. Take a risk -regardless of your budget or the channel you advertise on, you need to be creative in order to capture peoples attention. You generally only have a couple seconds to wow someone before they move on to the next distraction. How will you do this? Well, the best thing to do is work with an ad agency. That’s what they do. But if you can’t afford that, there are certainly plenty of unique ways to steal eyes.  Use amazing imagery. Write compelling copy. Relate to the audience. Be funny (but make sure it’s not just funny to you). Promote a great bargain. What about catchy music or an original jingle? Make it ridiculously simple. See something you like? How about doing something similar?

2. Know your goals? Do you want your campaign to increase sales? build traffic on your site? make people love your brand? Keep this in mind during the entire process. Sometimes even the best ads in the world don’t do anything for a company because they got lost in the details. Make sure your goals are set and your ad is going to help to achieve them.

3. Everything is negotiable. Ask for a rate card, then say no. I bet they call you back with a better deal that they magically found. Don’t even wait until you want to advertise, do it now when you don’t care so that by the time you do want to buy some air time, you’ll have already beat the sales person into giving you a great deal.

4. Be the audience. One of the best things an ad agency can do for you is bring you an objective opinion. It’s easy to get too close to a business and forget to put yourself in the customers (or potential customers) shoes. Take the time to think about a typical day for your average customer. This might help you come up with that kick ass idea that everyone will talk about. And remember, don’t sell them your service, sell them the benefits of your service.

5. Measure and adjust. Was your campaign a success? What could’ve made it better? After any advertising that I do, I like to analyze the results. It’s not always the most fun thing to do, but it saves you (and makes you) money in the long run. Maybe you could’ve ran in a better time slot. It’s more expensive but it reaches more people. Maybe your ad wasn’t as funny as you thought. (Hint: Don’t ask family, they’ll always say it’s funny) Maybe you didn’t run it enough or it didn’t have a clear call to action. Did your website traffic increase? And remember, breaking even isn’t bad. You put your brand in front of thousands of people and you moved enough product to do it again!

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Wegmans Using QR Codes




QR Code

You’ve likely seen a QR (quick response) code by now, a little 2D bar code that stores lots of info. They were invented in Japan in the early 90’s for the manufacturing industry, but only recently are they being used in advertising here in the States. With the advent of the smartphone and apps, these codes have become a great way to link people from a physical product to the digital world. No stranger to smart business practices, Wegmans has adopted the codes in their Menu Magazine.

When you come across a QR code in Menu, go ahead and scan it. It will take you to a video of Wegmans chefs showing you how to make the recipe you were just reading about on paper. Pretty cool!

How they work:

They’re simple and free to use. First, you need to download a free QR Code reader app on your iPhone, Blackberry or Droid. Open up the app and point the camera at the code. It will automatically scan it and take you to the destination embedded in the code. Try mine above. I programmed it to take you to my website.

There’s a lot of potential for these codes to really make Menu, and the entire print industry for that matter, more interactive and fun to read. Here’s a few others…

QR codes in Real estate


QR Code tchotchkes

Personal QR Codes

What else could they be used for? Send me your thoughts at

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It’s my opinion that every company should have a slogan, even local businesses. It not only helps to quickly define who you are and what you do, a good slogan can also begin to differentiate you from your competition and embed your brand into the hearts of your target audience.

I ran into one that struck me as ‘almost there’. I liked it, but it could just use a small tweak in order to really get the most out of it. It was an ad I saw on a website for a local salon and spa. ( The slogan read; “Your hair, our style”. I think this is a great start for a slogan. It’s simple, short, direct and informative.

The problem I have with it is the second part, “our style”. It comes off a bit egotistical and perhaps a little presumptuous. I don’t care what your style is, I want to be IN STYLE. I think if this was changed to “in style”, it would help to eradicate the possibility of it being perceived as assuming. It would also add longevity and tell people that no matter what the style may be at the time, they know it.

A good slogan can really help a business, no matter what size or industry. It’s not just about creating something catchy, funny or clever, it’s about being remembered when the need for a service like yours arises in a customers mind.

What are some slogans that strike you? email me at

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What Strikes Me

Billions of dollars are spent every year on advertising. Whether you want to admit it or not, in one way or another, it defines us. What we eat, where we shop, how we feel, where we live, who we are and who we want to become. All influenced by advertising.

Most of us are used to hearing about great ads, if for no other reason than the Super Bowl. They make us laugh, get us choked up, create desire, make us do weird things (like the Captain Morgan stance) in strange places and often make you say things like “my burger never looks like that” or “yeah, in case I’m ever off-roading in the desert in my Cherokee”. There’s so many ads that come at us each day, it’s only natural that they will elicit some sort of emotion, good or bad.

I’m like most people, I secretly love being sold things. Why? Because I publicly love to buy things. The idea of a business trying to communicate with me, or strike me, through various media, trying not only to grab my attention, but give me information that I may or may not want and do it in a way that makes me actively think about their brand, product or service, is truly empowering.  I choose my loyalties by buying from these businesses and it’s their job to retain me after the strike. I’m a high maintenance consumer. You should be too.

Most of these potential friends who are trying to strike me are not the Apple’s or Nike’s of the world. Sure, I’ll probably touch on those brands here and there. But I’m going to write about any advertising that strikes me. Be it the late night infomercial, the local car ad or the Annie’s Attic ad in Crochet Magazine. That really exists.

This is a blog about advertising and how it relates to world around us. I will look at the different ways that these businesses try to reach people. What are their intentions? What is the perception they are creating, or trying to create? Sometimes I will commend them for a job well done. Sometimes I will not.

The point of this blog is not to chastise (maybe a little), nor am I wishing any ill will towards any of the businesses that I write about (maybe sometimes). The point of this blog is to create better advertising and smarter consumers by building a discussion about what people like, what they don’t like and WHY. I encourage you to take part and tell me what you think. Send me an ad that you like, or thought was funny, or simply hated, and tell me why it struck you.

Sure, there are lots of these types of blogs. I am merely going to put in my 2 cents because I want to. I like advertising. So, that being said…what strikes you?

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