6 Reasons Your Advertising Isn’t Working

Did you launch a new campaign that’s not performing as well as you expected? Is your advertising getting lost in the clutter, or is your sales department blaming the advertising for not producing enough qualified leads? Here are 6 reasons your advertising may not be breaking through the clutter, engaging customers effectively, or producing the kind of results you desired.

       1.Your strategy is off target

Great advertising is advertising that works for the business and the brand. It brings the business strategy to life and fulfills the brand promise. To win, marketers must first start with understanding the customer. The more you know about your customer, the more effective your strategy will be. The intent is not simply to effectively position your product or service, build category ownership, or communicate a unique selling proposition in a creative way, but to change behavior and elicit action. Getting a new customer to switch banks. Getting a new customer to taste your new crackers. Getting a new customer to choose one plumber over another. It’s not just about developing the right marketing and creative strategy, but deploying the right media strategy, too. What good is serving up the right message to the wrong audience? Invest your money where people invest their attention. Today’s customer journey is an iterative, complex, integrated mix of touch points. Traditional channels with its emphasis on paid media must be integrated with earned and owned media. Marketers must explore new, multi-channel, multi-touch channels and use attribution tools to measure the campaign’s effectiveness. Because in the end, creating irresistible campaigns that convert is both art and science. It all starts with a sound marketing strategy. For example, Macy’s new marketing strategy to win over new younger shoppers while also appealing to longtime loyal shoppers is a sound strategy that has the potential of helping the struggling retailer turn things around.

  1. The messaging is wrong.

Everyone knows Geico. We all talk about how creative and funny their commercials are. What’s more, Geico is always changing the creative to keep the campaign fresh. But in terms of messaging, there is one constant: “15 minutes can save you 15% or more on your car insurance.” It’s the perfect example of a winning message, one that’s clear, concise, and has a call to action. (Kudos to Ken Marcus and Sean Riley for constantly creating great work.) But all too often, the clarity of advertising messages get lost. They’re too abstract, too complex, too cluttered, too creative for creative sake. Look at the simplicity of Apple’s ads. Clean, concise, simple creative ideas, grounded in the brand promise. It’s also an example on how messaging doesn’t just refer to the copy points in your ad. Your visual messaging can also be off-target, like a recent newspaper ad for Long Island Eye Surgical Care selling Laser Cataract Surgery. The stock photo shows 8 children shot from above with circled fingers playfully covering their eyes. Off strategy? Indeed. How many 6 year olds do you know that need cataract surgery.

  1. The call to action is missing. Or lost within the clutter.

How often do you see an ad with no URL, no store locations, and no clear call to action? I see a half dozen ads like these every day! Take an ad for OTO Health Hearing Centers on Long Island with no URL listed and more clutter than a supermarket ad. Or an ad for Livingston Foot Care Specialists on Long Island with no call to action, no brand promise, just photos and names of the doctors. Come on folks. How many customers can engage with an ad that features a laundry list of doctors names and photos? Where’s the message? The emotion? Where’s the reason why I should change my behavior and consider your medical practice or hospital over someone else?

  1. Too much reliance on data and tech. Not enough on insight.

All too often, marketers overwhelm creative people with data. The result? Less clarity in the advertising. Jon Brody, CEO and co-founder of Ladder, a growth marketing agency, says “The problem is that people have too much data and are making fewer good decisions because they’re so data-driven. You need to be ROI-driven,” he says.

Effective marketing is about optimization. And according to Bill Pardo at Microsoft, we should use data as information, not as insight. “Put another way, it’s not about the ingredients, it’s about the cook. Ingredients alone don’t make a meal (at least, not a good one). And even great recipes don’t come without a lot of experimentation and failed attempts by the people who create them.” This is especially true for those of us in the creative advertising field. So if your ads aren’t working, perhaps you relied too heavily on data and not enough on insight.

  1. You failed to humanize your brand.

If you’re not getting the results you expected from your advertising, perhaps you should consider humanizing your brand. Emotions are what drive your target audience to purchase. In fact, findings from a 2015 Nielsen Consumer Neuroscience study of 100 ads across 25 brands in the consumer goods market revealed that ads with the best emotional response generated a 23% lift in sales, meaning that emotional marketing is not merely effective as an engagement vehicle but also as a true business driver. Many behavioral scientists believe that the primary decision drivers are mainly emotional. And as we age, emotions drive us even more in our purchase decisions.

Those that succeed in humanizing their brands include Ikea, who’s current ad for college furniture and dorm room gear features a crying mom next to her selfie-taking daughter with the headline: “An empty nest shouldn’t empty your wallet.” Or the current Farmer’s Insurance campaign, “We know a thing or two because we’ve seen a thing or two,” featuring unique human experiences that were covered by Farmer’s. Or an ad from the “Away” campaign for Go RVing that shows a bulldog resting comfortably with family inside an RV with the headline: “Away is where you never have to leave anyone behind.”

  1. You didn’t have buy-in from the top.

Steve Jobs met every other week for in-depth sessions with Lee Clow, the creative leader of his advertising agency. The reason is simple. The vision for the brand and advertising comes from the top. No ifs, ands or buts.

Yes, there are CMO’s and Marketing Directors who can articulate the owner’s or CEO’s vision. Or get close to it. But many campaigns fail because the top dog didn’t have his/her skin in the game. That kind of clarity of vision can’t be interpreted by others or assumed. To win, the vision must be owned and driven from the top and both client and ad agency must share the inspiration, welcome real discussions, disagree and agree, and above all, put the good of the work first.

STUART DORNFIELD is an award-winning freelance Creative Director/Copywriter with more than 40 years experience in marketing, strategy, advertising and production. As the former Sr. VP-Creative Director of Zimmerman Advertising (Omnicom), the 13th largest agency in the U.S., and the former co-founder of Gold Coast Advertising, 3rd largest agency in South Florida, today Stuart offers his creative services and marketing insights as a freelancer with offices in New York and Miami