Get more customers! Four steps to more effective ads


Get More Customers Series - Spice up your creative in four steps

Get more customers! Four steps to more effective ads


First I’d like to talk about what makes good ads really good – being creative. Videos, ads, and copy are all referred to by advertising professionals as “the creative.” The people who generate “the creative” are called “creatives.” Yes. They use that word a lot in the ad biz.

Now you may not think of yourself as creative. Get over it. Anybody can be spontaneous, if they let themselves. To make good advertising it’s critical

  1. that you be able to see your product from your customers’ point of view and
  2. that you loosen up your brain enough to kick out good ideas for your ads.

I’m not recommending the use of drugs or alcohol to achieve the loosening up part. You shouldn’t need that and here’s why. A recent psych study ran MRI’s on jazz pianists first while they played a melody they’d learned, and then while improvising a melody. The researchers noticed that when the musicians played the improvised tune they turned off a part of their brains in the frontal cortex that controls impulses. In other words, that part of your brain that stops you from kissing every attractive person you see, punching every irritating person, or eating every donut can inhibit your ability to let spontaneous, creative ideas flow.

A Spontaneity “How To” from Second City

Many of the best sketch comics (think Saturday Night Live or Portlandia) of the last forty years came from Second City in Chicago ( It’s a professional theater and school for improvisation. What some of the performers at Second City do to warm up or loosen up their brains before going onstage (where the pressure is intense, but the creativity is astounding) is to walk in a circle making flatulent (aka farting) noises. I’m thinking that would loosen me up. Do something to pull you out of your controlled self and let your defenses down. Try not to do this at the food court at the mall.

Here’s ( a website site that has a bunch of theatre games that may help you loosen up. You may not need them. I just wanted to include them in case you do.


Next I want to show you a simple structure for just about any ad. You may want to write this down

  1. Get their attention
  2. Demonstrate the problem or need your product or service solves or answers.
  3. Show how your product is the solution the viewer is looking for.
  4. Tell them to get your product and, if necessary, tell them how


Getting the attention of your target customer is your most important job when designing an ad, writing a TV or radio script, or laying out copy for an online campaign. We all know just how cluttered the ad space is today (related blog). It’s like hoarders are running it. So if you can’t stick out from the clutter and be heard in 2-5 seconds, don’t even start.

For example; if you’re selling reverse mortgages to retired seniors, get Robert Wagoner to show up at the beginning of your TV ad. For retired seniors, Mr. Wagoner exudes trust and is immediately recognizable. Within two seconds the people you’re trying to reach are saying, “Oh. It’s Robert Wagoner!” or “It’s that guy from Hart to Hart or It Takes A Thief.” His presence in the ad attracts the potential customers to whom you want to sell reverse mortgages and eliminates all the people you’re not interested in.

No advertiser has the creative energy or media budget to engage everybody. Thank God you don’t have to. People are very selective about where they direct their attention. You aren’t going to make people be interested in or buy something they don’t want. And if they want your product or something like it, your ad is going to be interesting enough for them to start watching or reading. Keeping them interested is the next step.


Now that you have their attention it’s time to start telling your story. Draw them in with a demonstration of a problem your product or service solves, or a need it satisfies. If they stay through the demonstration, they’re interested enough to stay through the whole ad. They’ve connected with the problem. They have the need. They’re engaged. Score!

Remember you’re telling a story. Story is the vehicle we humans have used to convey ideas to each other for millennia. We’re hard-wired to accept and learn things in a story. You know what a story sounds like. So don’t violate the accepted story format, unless you have a very specific reason.

For example; some of the most effective commercials are movie and TV show trailers (aka previews). Trailers tease us by only giving us part of the story. Because we are hard wired to hear the whole story, when we see a trailer we are compelled to go to that movie or watch that show to find out what happens.

If you’re selling a laundry product, your story might start with dried cherry pie filling on a white shirt and a woman reacting to it. (OMG!!) That’s relevant to a lot of people because no one wants to buy a new shirt every time they have a run in with a cherry pie. They want to be able to clean it. The consequences for not getting that stain out are significant to your target customer. People who buy a new shirt every time one gets dirty don’t need your product.

So tell them about this woman like them who was deeply traumatized by a stain, who used your product and was delivered from the stain in a jiffy. If the story is clear, dramatic, and loudly states that your product delivers happiness, convenience, purpose, security, or love, you’re on the right track.

But where do I get this fantastic stuff?

You to the rescue

I remember Mighty Mouse (really old cartoon) singing in an operatic baritone, “Here I come to save the day!” as he swooped in to do just that. At this point in your story what you’re selling has to provide the viewer a solution to the problem or need they connected with at the beginning of the spot. It has to make that cherry-pie-stain disappear quickly and completely.

Put yourself in the viewer’s shoes. Would you be impressed by this story – this product?

Remember to keep your message in the “you-are-a-sphere,” a phrase that came from advertising great Stan Richards about 25 years ago. It’s not about you, or even what awards you’ve won. It’s about how good the viewer is going to feel applying your product or service to the problem. Keep your story about them and they’ll connect with it.

Use a testimonial to drive your message home. A fireman (an authority) talking about smoke detectors makes sense. A fireman talking about feminine hygiene is probably a bad idea.

Strong testimonials lend credibility to your product or service and break down a long list of objections viewers might have to buying what you’re selling.


Now that you’ve shown your readers and viewers how this great product alleviates that horrendous problem, tell them how to get their hands on it. Make it as easy as possible to acquire. “It’s available wherever fine hair products are sold (meaning the grocery store).” Or give them a phone number and a website address they can use to get it.

If you’re doing direct response style spots, now it’s time for “But wait! There’s more!” Add another incentive – more product, a related product, a discount, free support, anything to sweetens the deal you’re offering. Then reiterate the original offer plus the added incentives to close the sale.


I hope this information is helpful. If you have any questions about it or want to kick some ideas around, just let us know via email or phone. We’ll be ready when you need us.

Next in the “Get More Customers” series is “Run TV that makes the phone ring off the hook.” If you’re in a home services business, or bigger ticket retail, you won’t want to miss that one. Thanks for watching. See you next time.

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