Don’t judge your advertising like it’s a work of art…

Several months ago I put together a phone book ad for a client (yes, there is still a group of consumers that use the phone book). Anyway I looked at all the competitor’s ads and came up a strong design.   The design was a real eye-catcher which is #1 goal of an ad, especially a phone book ad, where you’re going toe to toe with several competitors.

I showed it to the client who uttered the words I’ve heard many times in the past, and even though I try to educate every client to not say those words (mostly because those words are ultimately meaningless in the grand scheme of things as you’ll soon find out), he uttered them…

“I don’t like it”.

Now let me explain to you why those words mean nothing in this instance…

I’ve studied thousands of profit-pulling ads in my life. Some from retail, many from the catalog industry and mail order. And the vast majority of the successful ones are “ugly”.   They aren’t pleasant to the eye.   The often contain too much sales copy. They many times have bold colors.

In other words they aren’t works of art. Nor should they be.

I get why clients would prefer a “pretty” ad as opposed to an “ugly” one. Many have never seen the split tests results that I have where a “pretty” ad had been tested against an “ugly” ad (ugly wins most of the time).

And without the knowledge or experience to know that ugly ads usually perform better than symmetrically perfect ads, most people are going to go with the pretty one. In addition, it’s just our nature to want our advertising to look “in order” and without an element of chaos in it.

But it’s that chaos that will more readily catch our eye when looking over a group of ads– The chaos ad will stick out when surrounded by ads that are symmetrically perfect or have a color combination that goes together, while our ugly ad probably will many times have colors that conflict.

After a bit of discussion, the client eventually saw it my way, ran the ad and their return on investment (keep in mind that yellow page advertising is still costly) has been the best of any of their previous yellow page advertising.

So next time you have to decide on an ad design… don’t be afraid to “ugly” it up a little.

In my next email I’m going to talk about the one person you have to keep on a very tight leash when it comes to profit-pulling advertising!

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