July, 2015

Avoid The “and Then What?” Effect


Puzzled male shrugging wearing lab coat

Way back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth, televisions were black-and-white, and telephone deregulation was a gleam in Ronald Reagan’s eye, there was this ad that Western Electric, the monopoly Bell System’s manufacturing division, ran in major magazines. It showed a photo of a small electric fan wired to a phone, over the headline, “This fan tells a deaf person the phone is ringing.” The body copy explained that the fan was wired to the phone’s ringing mechanism, so that when a call came in, it activated the fan, and the resulting breeze told a deaf person that someone was calling.

So picture this: Deaf person in the room, phone call comes in, fan activates, blows a breeze, deaf person feels it, picks up the phone and says, “Hello.”

And then what?

Telephones then, websites now

Unfortunately, that seems to be the guiding principle of too many business’ websites.

They pay thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of dollars for search engine optimization, and hundreds, maybe thousands more, for sponsored links, pay-per-click and social media to drive traffic to their sites.

That’s like the fan and the breeze.

Then, when people get to the site, they find something like this (and this is a direct quote, from a local B2B landing page, with only the name omitted to protect the guilty):

“[Company Name] is a business solutions provider focused on assisting decision makers and senior management with transforming data into actionable information so they can more effectively utilize and leverage their information assets…We provide the oversight and measurement tools that provide visibility into data quality and integrity, true project priorities and associated costs.” That’s the “And then what?”

Are people your audience? Or just search engines?

So after all the cost to drive traffic to the site:

  • What happens when it gets there?
  • Does anyone know what products or services these guys sell?
  • Is there any sense that there’s any kind of benefit for the visitor?
  • Does anyone care?
  • Will anybody still be awake after plowing through all that obscure, self-centered, highfalutin’ language?

If you can’t hold people with your landing page, they’re not going to stick around for the rest of the site.

Too many websites seem to suffer from a sort of Field of Dreams syndrome: If you build it, they will come, and stay, and buy. A look at the site’s analytics quickly shows that they won’t. The number of pages on a site that people go to is usually small. The amount of time they stay on any page is measured in seconds – and very few seconds, at that. This tells you that either the site’s drawing a disproportionate number of speed readers or that nobody’s the least bit interested.

Content isn’t king. Customers are.

Throughout the past century, the advertising industry developed many ways to capture and maintain people’s attention, talk to their wants and needs, persuade as well as just describe, and motivate response. Because too many people developing websites are technicians rather than marketing communicators – people who either ignore or never bothered to learn this knowledge – hang times on non-catalog sites are almost nonexistent.

So in creating your website’s content, divert a fraction of your attention from search engines to customers. What are the problems they’re grappling with that your business can help solve? How do you solve them? Why should they do business with you? What’s in it for them? Are you talking about them or about yourself? Can you say whatever you’re saying interestingly enough to hold their attention for more than a second or two – and persuasively enough to take the sales process to the next step?

Believe it or not, you can do all this and maintain your keyword densities, too.

Reverse the order

So when you (re)build your website, reverse the usual process.

Start off by defining your audience, analyzing their wants and needs, and figuring out how your products and services satisfy them.

Next, say it simply and persuasively – not to show what a wonderfully erudite, polysyllabic vocabulary you can marshal to impress the yokels by writing like a PhD candidate, but to create an empathetic link with your potential customers.

Then, and only then, is the time to see what tweaks you have to make to optimize the site for search engines and drive traffic.

It’s a way of thinking that works not only for B2C sites, but even for B2B sites. Because the net results will be infinitely better than, “And then what?”


Saying Everything In Your Ad Equals Saying Nothing



Each ad you run gives you one shot at your target audience, so it makes sense to use all the ammunition you can, right?


True, there’s a lot you want prospective customers to know about your business, but putting it all into one data dump of an ad will hurt far more than it helps. People aren’t sitting around waiting for your ad so they can study it and take copious notes. It’s only one of some 1,800 sales messages they’ll be bombarded with today.

In any given publication, the most noticed ad gets ignored by 54% of the readership. Of those who notice it (i.e., see the headline, visual and logo), only 10% – 4.6% of the total audience – will read even some of your body copy.

Your business has many good things going for it, most of which potential customers couldn’t care less about. (One local company that builds closet shelves loves to harp on being family owned. Is that why consumers buy closet shelves?) Similarly, consumers have many wants and needs, only some of which your product or service can fulfill. You need to determine where the two overlap, so you can say what you have that solves their problem.

You need to do it on their terms, so the ad talks about them and their needs, instead of being an extended “About Us.” You need to boil that message down to its single most important essential and make that the basis of your headline, where it will have the best chance of being noticed.

The rest of your ad should support your main premise – single-mindedly and briefly; nothing repels the eye like an ad wall to wall with type. You’ll waste far less ammo – and be far more likely to hit the target.

Does Donald Trump Need A New Logo?

real logo


Of all the better-known, officially declared Republican candidates (Sorry, George Pataki and Jim Gilmore don’t count.), the one who needs the most help in a general election against Hillary Clinton is Donald Trump. According to the most recent Real Clear Politics polling data averages for nine leading Republicans, he comes in ninth – and by a long way. While Rand Paul averages a mere 3.8 percentage points behind Clinton – with Mike Huckabee (-5 percent), Jeb Bush (-5.6), fellow Floridian Marco Rubio (-6.8), Ted Cruz (-8), Chris Christie (-9.7), and Scott Walker (-9.8) all within single digits of her, Trump lags by almost 20 percent (-19.6 percent, to be more exact). That’s almost twice as bad as the 10.7 percent gap between Clinton and Ben Carson, the next-lowest Republican contender. So now here come those wild and crazy graphic designers at ,riding to the rescue. In a July 8 email, LogoMyWay’s Joe Daley advises that in the wake of their Hillary Clinton logo design contest, they’ve held a Donald Trump logo contest, that 120 entries are competing for the $200 first prize, and that voting for the winner is now open.

While Donald Trump may have lots of problems as a serious candidate for the nation’s highest office and the leadership of the free world, his logo probably isn’t one of them. As you’ll see from the slide show, it’s not at all bad. It’s clean. Its colors contrast. His name pops. It even contains a four-word slogan summing up his main platform point – Make America great again! [original punctuation] As you’ll also see from the slide show and from the contest link, the contest entries don’t really improve on that. For example, the one entry that makes his surname the focal point sets the letters closer together (eliminating the negative space that helps the name stand out so much better in the real logo, cluttering it up by adding “FOR PRESIDENT”and “2016” (as if no one knew what the election’s for or when it’s taking place), and giving the “P” Trump’s, uh, unique combforward hair sryle.

Which brings us to another point about all those logos: too many of them are all about the hairstyle. This may result from the designers’ failings in imagination or from the candidate’s failure to make it clear he stands for anything other than himself. Of those that don’t focus on the hair, mpost focus on the catchphrase from the contrived cable reality series Trump starred in – You’re fired! Given what America’s gone through the past six-and-a-half years, that would be great if Trump were running against Obama. But unfortunately for Trump and fortunately for the nation, he can’t, thanks to the 22nd Amendment.

There are a few clever uses of Trump’s initials, some logos featuring standard patriotic symbolism, and one that would be more visually fitting for the election of 1896 than 2016’s.

Anyhow, you’re more than welcome to view them all and vote for your favorite here (and you don’t have to join to vote). The one thing you can’t vote for  is”none of the above.”

Pr Agency Gets $156mm Reward For Failed $1.37mm Obamacare Video Promotion

richard simmons

Way back in in the 1950s, Dr. Jonas Salk’s personal motto was, “The reward for work well done is the opportunity to do more.” Six decades later, Covered California, the state Obamacare exchange, put a new spin on it: The reward for work poorly done at exorbitantly inflated cost is the opportunity to do more work for over 100 times as much money. As reported July 1, “A publicity firm that produced a costly webcast for California Obamacare featuring a gyrating Richard Simmons” – a four-minute-twenty-three-second video costing $1.37 million – “was retained, along with another company, for three more years at a cost of $156 million. One legislator demands an audit.” According to Covered California Director Peter Lee, the Tell a Friend – Get Covered video was supposed to do two things: First, save media costs by running only on free social media, such as YouTube. And second, it was supposed to resonate with healthy Millennials – who, as you might recall, have little need for health care services at their age but whose premiums are vital for subsidizing the care of older, richer Americans. The video was just loaded with “content that resonates among Millennials and that can be spread by Millennials to their friends and loved ones,” Lee said. “Millennials are not only our key audience, they also are our ambassadors in spreading the word about Covered California.”

And who’s more resonant with Millennials than the star of the video…Richard Simmons?

Specifically, with Richard Simmons “wearing red tights and a black sequined tank top…joined by a contortionist for a dance competition. Part of Simmons’ routine involved “writhing on the ground and peeking through his split legs” while “a DJ played dance music and the program’s hostess sang, ‘Get covered, hashtag, Uh huh,’ and ‘This is beautiful … I feel inspired to tell my friends to sign up online. That was beautiful, Richard!'”

So it’s no wonder that Ted Gaines, vice chairman of the State Senate Standing Committee on Insurance, is calling for an audit, to determine just what California got for 1.37 million of its citizens’ tax dollars and why the state is throwing more than 100 times as much good money – 114 times as much, to be specific – after bad. “Ogilvy [Public Relations, the agency that produced the Simmons video] made some major mistakes in their advanced outreach, specifically with the use of Richard Simmons. The video bombed; I wasn’t able to get satisfactory answers as to what they accomplished with this,” he stated. “Why are they being rewarded with a renewed contract when they wasted taxpayer money?” he asked.

One thing California’s $1.37 million wasn’t buying was media exposure. Posting a video on YouTube is free. Another thing it wasn’t buying was celebrity talent; the C-list celebrities – including Simmons, Olivia Wilde, Tatyana Ali, Fran Drescher, contortionist Nathan Barnatt, and hostess Hannah Hart, star of the ever-popular YouTube series “My Drunk Kitchen” – donated their talents, such as they are – for free. You’ll see from the video itself that the $1.37 million bought next to nothing in the way of production values. As PJ Media’s Stephen Green blogs, “The studio cost little, the kind of place you rent in Los Angeles to shoot a Cornballer informercial. The studio audience is made up of people who show up for these things to “get on TV!” and also maybe for juice. The production crew? Bare bones. The writing credits, should there actually be any, couldn’t have cost enough to cover the deductible on an ♡bamaCare!!! Silver plan.”

Even worse, it bought next to nothing in the way of viewership. “[I]n over a year there isn’t a version of it on YouTube with even 25,000 views,” Green notes. Using an industry measure of media efficiency, cost per thousand (CPM), a $1.37 million video reaching 25,000 viewers has a $54,800 CPM, which is three to four orders of magnitude higher than media averages. According to 2010 Morgan Stanley research, broadcast television has the highest media cost, averaging $28 CPM. Print media – magazines and newspapers – are next with CPM averaging $16, followed by radio ($10 CPM), Out Of Home ($5 CPM), and Internet ($3 CPM). A $54,800 CPM not only isn’t in the same ballpark; it’s not even on the same planet.

The Richard Simmons fiasco and Covered California’s current $78 million revenue shortfall notwithstanding, the government agency awarded Ogilvy Public Relations and Campbell Ewald a three-year, $156 million contract to “creat[e] a media campaign to entice new enrolees, specifically minorities.” Hey, given all they accomplished with just a measly $1.37 million, you can imagine what they’ll do with 114 times as much dough to play with.