Thursday, March 5, 2009

Test: Is your local ad staff killing your newspaper (and your advertisers)?

Today, I'm recommending you give each of your ad reps a test to see if your department is needlessly losing revenue. It'll also tell you if they're driving your advertisers into the ground--and your newspaper along with it.

Here's the test: One by one, show them a 2x2 running weekly in a competitive publication and ask, "If you were going back with a new ad, what would be the best size to recommend?"

Past experience with an ineffective ad campaign led this advertiser to believe the newspaper was just too expensive and ineffective to run any larger (see below).

I often ask this as part of my on-site newspaper ad sales course and this is the answer I usually hear:

"Well, clearly they don't have a lot of money, so maybe we should try to bump them up to a 2x4 or 2x5," invariably basing their answer on the current ad size. Of course, this is the worst way to come up with a recommendation.

Here's an analogy that might help your ad staff see the problem. A doctor examines a patient complaining of being dizzy all week. "I've been taking $40 worth of aspirin," the patient tells the doctor. The doctor consults with other doctors and decides, "This patient is spending $40/week on aspirin right now, but maybe we can get him up to $80."

Can you imagine this? Of course not. The doctor doesn't let the patient's current spending habits influence, in the slightest, what course of action he'll be recommending. His priority is saving the patient and he focuses only on that.

But in newspaper ad sales, many ad reps only recommend the ad size that the advertiser will be comfortable with instead of making a recommendation that'll "save the patient," that is, the solution that'll actually generate a profit for the business.

It's a combination of misconceptions that contribute to this problem:

The ad rep instead ignored what he thought the advertiser would "go for" and created an ad with the size and content that would drive sales. A huge increase in size and frequency and the most successful ad the advertiser ever ran.

1. The prospective advertiser will never go for it.
The ad rep confuses what the advertiser might be willing to spend and therefore the size ad they might be willing to run, with what's in the best interests of the advertiser. The ad rep has got to recommend what's best for the account.

Of course, getting him to buy the ad means getting behind all those incorrect theories that have lead the advertiser to believe smaller and cheaper is better. Then, it's very easy to turn a 2x2 weekly advertiser in the competition into a third-, half- or full-page advertiser in your newspaper, even in this recession. We do it all the time and if you're interested, we can show you just how easy it is in a Web meeting.

2. The ad reps think larger ads is a waste of money.
That's partly the newspaper industry's fault, having put too little emphasis on larger, direct-response ads that will get a response for your advertisers now and too much emphasis on recommending branding ads (that are actually rarely branding ads). I think out of desperation to drive revenue, we've taught our ad reps and our local advertisers that in many cases, big ads are unnecessary and too expensive.

3. The ad rep thinks the larger ad is too much of a risk.
When done right, it's actually a safer bet. A larger ad gets more people about to buy the product seeing it, reading on, and coming in. The problem is, most ad reps don't really have a logical process on hand when creating an ad that will work.

An ad has got to grab the attention of people who are about to buy, give them a reason to read on (to counteract the prospect's tendency to go where they're already comfortable with), and contain enough substance that this week, while they're still in the market, they will believe that your advertiser actually does what he claims. That's an oversimplification, but take a look at the ads your ad reps have been recommending and I'm guessing it will be clear why they believe advertising is risky, and larger advertising is a larger risk.

For those who have taken our Response Oriented Selling course or are members of our DesignYourAd Overnight Ad Production service, you can use this ad as a template. Just ask for ad 770-Cycle-97-V1(2B).pdf or select it from our gallery of effective services ads.