Advertising 101: Communication Not Voodoo

Thursday, August 7, 2014

When I was visiting my hometown of Portland, Oregon a few years ago, one morning I passed by Voodoo Doughnuts. The line into the place was two city blocks long. Must be great, Anthony Bourdain raved over their Bacon Maple Bar on “No Reservations.” Maybe he’s still getting the word out by wearing one of their Voodoo Doll Doughnut t-shirt. You can get one, too.  These people know how to advertise.

You can’t work in the advertising field without people asking you what you do. Every person, unless you live out in the boondocks, is exposed to an average of 3,000 advertising messages a day (although we only process about 247), but has no clue what advertising is or what it can do.

So, what is advertising?

First and foremost it is a form of communication. Communication is the passing of a message through a medium in such a way that the message is understood by the receiver at the other end. If there is a breakdown in any part of this process, then communication has not taken place. Good advertising is a specific message getting the attention of a specific audience through a targeted medium, like Facebook or a brochure or a TV commercial. Bad advertising is communication breakdown.

Second, advertising must inspire movement. As advertising great David Ogilvy said in his book, Ogilvy on Advertising, “When I write an advertisement…I want you to find it so interesting you will buy the product.” If an advertisement is not inspiring someone to buy something, then it must have another purpose, such as branding. Simplistically stated, branding should inspire people to be emotionally involved with a product or a service or a company. Voodoo Doughnut succeeds in branding and selling. I said they're good.

Lastly, at least for this quick overview of the subject, advertising should get attention. It should be seductive enough to get noticed in a very ad-littered world (remember those 3,000 messages). Of course, it has to get the attention of the right people, and once it has their attention it better be telling them the right thing about the product or service being advertised. I think the Voodoo Doughnut website header says it all. Drool. Drool.

While the concept seems simple, good advertising is very complex. Good advertising has a well-developed creative strategy. This strategy takes into account the product, the competition, the problem being addressed and most of all, the potential customer. Because people are fickle. You never know how long they are going to crave those cayenne dusted Mexican Hot Chocolate Donuts. But then again,…

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