An idiot’s guide to advertising / by John Hannent


Right then, you’ve got a great product or service, branded-up (you read about that, yeah?) and revving-up ready to hit the world, but no one knows about it. How are you going to tell them?


Firstly, who do you want to tell? And what’s your best and most direct route to them? 

Social Media

The best advertisers out there are building their core demographic (ad-speak for ‘interested audience’) through digital and, to a lesser extent, print media. While that’s a separate subject and a luxury only a few companies have made significant inroads into, you should be building your audience through social media already. While it may not represent the full demographic, ‘from small acorns’ ...

So you’ll probably buy ‘hits’ by getting piggybacked by companies with a far larger social and/or print audience. While that’s great and puts you in front of a huge potential audience, you need to make sure that your offering isn’t lost in the sea of  ‘me-too’ ads out there.

You see, as the web has given business an easy way to communicate to an audience, it’s following the same pattern as ‘desktop publishing’ did 30 years ago. Then, the Apple Mac revolution gave anyone and everyone the tools to publish printed media. And publish they did. What happened? The arse fell out of advertising, only for it to gain a new seat in its pants as business realised they still had to publish better material than competitors, and they went back to employing agencies.

If you look at social media marketing now, the walls of the web are festooned with product videos, all with the same format (exploding logo, cut to footage with Big Dave from Sales and closing with exploding logo in reverse). As the more ambitious businesses look to break out of this loop, they’ll employ ‘creatives’ again to give them some differential.


Email marketing has a very low conversion rate. So unless your database of recipients is well targeted, or you’re looking to mass-mail (which is invariably disappointing) it’s not really worth considering as a hard-edged advertising method. You’ve probably deleted 6 spams as I write this. No?


There is no better form of advertising than word-of-mouth. It’s covert, comes as a recommendation and costs nowt. A good campaign will facilitate this, by giving people ‘something to conjure with’ by way of memorable lines and images. It’s now called ‘Viral’. Have you gone viral yet? Aside from a forgettable night in a Blackpool singles bar, few have.


And then there’s print. Print still boasts higher conversion rates than anything (but declining); it goes into battle surrounded by associated editorial (advertorial ‘cough’) and still carries weight through the trades. 

And it’s worth saying are you marketing to consumers or do you want something you can slap a shopkeeper into an account with? Print’s a tangible, physical ‘product’, that does get noticed. Print certainly still has it’s role to play in a fully fledged advertising campaign, especially for the less web-savvy companies out there. But the strategy behind its use needs to be carefully thought out and deployed.


There’s other ways to advertise y’know! You’ve got a primed audience at shows and exhibitions for one. 

Plus, whether you promote from the front of a tight T-shirt on a young ladies chest, a tight T-shirt on a rep’s stomach, sandwich board or a leaflet enclosure, everything has its place. 

Advertising earns its keep if it’s ‘right-time, right-place’. The Eighteenth hole of a golf course being a great place to advertise alcohol, get me?


Advertising any product or service is too subjective to give guidelines on frankly, there are however one or two factors that apply to ANYTHING you do...

Add to your product

The great thing about advertising, and indeed branding, is that it’s a great opportunity to add something to whatever you’re selling. In fact, in these days of bulk importing and bulk selling, it may be the only USP (Unique Selling Proposition) the product has actually got (soz). That may be a aura of intelligence, something that targets the demographic or, in the case of coffee, two middle aged business people knocking each other off. The advertising becomes a bolt-on to the product, adding to its value.

Be Confident

The one thing that sells better than anything, from any media, is confidence. You need to appear confident. Christ, if you’re not, who’s going to have the confidence in you to buy from you? In fact, confidence manifests itself  in many ways in advertising...

Confidence in your approach

Whether this is by saying very little in your advertising or being brash; be confident in your approach. Reassure yourself that your ‘brief’ to whoever produces your ad is met so you can unleash your ad with… Confidence. Don’t mistake confidence for being big headed though, remember, no one likes a big head. You may want to say ‘The best for the best’, but that doesn’t work any more to the calloused consumer. Deliver it in an entertaining and provoking manner and you’ve made a friend… And added to the product too.

And make sure that additional supportive product information is accessible, but not obliterating your message. Social media and your website are perfect places for additional information, not all over your ad. I’ve seen thousands of ads who’s impact is totally ruined by passages of instruction, lists, specs and verbage. It’s a simple test to view your ad from 10 yards, does it still come across? Too may ads ‘grey out’ on screen or on the page because of too much ‘while I’m here and paying for the space’ additions.

And you retailers selling off the page; are you forcing so many products into your ad that they’re not arresting the eye in the first place? Think what your USPs are; service, price, delivery, guarantee, reputation?... Are you catering for this in your ad? Be confident, be different. Give yourself a platform to trade from. Don’t assume trade.

Be confident in your consumer

The ‘hot’ leads, the guys who are closest to buying, your prime audience; are already ‘primed’. They are seeking what you are advertising; the fast track to sales. So, be confident in their reaction. Also, be confident in their intelligence and awareness.

It’s this ‘confidence’ that’s been the mainstay of advertising design since the war. It’s a ‘creative’s’ job to distil and hone your messaging into an impactful communication that promotes an involved response.

That both saves time, space and maximises impact. 0.2 seconds is apparently the time an ad’s got to work in… Do yours?