Have you ever heard your own voice on a recording? Inevitably we all think we sound like James Dean or Berry White (or insert female with a nice voice) and the vast majority of us are quite disappointed when we actually hear what we really sound like.
The same often goes for writing - and this doesn't just apply to advertising, it's for anything.
Keep in mind the first time you write something you are likely going to sound more like Bobcat Goldthwait and less like James Earl Jones. Take a step back and try to read it like you've never seen it before. And don't be afraid to scrap the whole thing and start over.
Years ago a study was done which estimated the number of advertisements one in the U.S. sees on any given day is around 1500. Of these 1500 messages one sees on any given day, it is estimated they vaguely remember only 76 - and that is vaguely. If asked later "which advertisement do you remember seeing today?" I would shudder to know the number of ads (that some person somewhere paid someone to make) people actually remember, maybe two.
Why tell you this? Seems counter to my line of work. I should be telling you everyone remembers every ad they see. However, you being a person also subject to all this advertising, I think you would realize I was lying about that.
This is why it is so essential that every penny you spend on an ad (or article or landing page or website or anything you actually want someone to remember) is spent talking to your potential customer in a unique, unexpected, and entertaining way. You need to be sure it does all that and sells your product.
You may laugh, but up to a year ago I had no idea how to hard boil an egg. I looked it up on the internet, and it said to wait until the water is boiling, take it out and let it cool, etc, etc. It still wasn't coming out right though. I was determined to find out why I couldn't make hard boiled eggs so I did some research. Typing in "How to hard boil an egg" resulted in the exact same set of instruction page after page. Not helpful. What's the point of saying the same thing again and again?
Buried deep on the internet I found a "guys guide to hard boiling eggs" and finally I found where I was going wrong. All the earlier descriptions told me to wait until the water was bubbling, this article though spoke to me, it did not assume I already knew anything (which I didn't) and explained that I need to wait until I saw big bubbles! And the whole thing was hilarious, plus it gave me my own safety guide and told me how to treat burns if I became impatient and simply grabbed the egg as it was still boiling.
It was brilliant. Since then I have been hard boiling eggs left and right, and to this day, of the hundreds of guides on "how to hard boil an egg" that I ran across I only remember this one hidden deep within an internet search.
The point is, no matter what you are putting out for the public to read, treat them as if they have never heard of it, like they don't know how to hard boil an egg, and do it in some new and interesting way.
I frequent rarely (frequent rarely? Is that possible? Yes, I frequent, but rarely) sites that hire freelancers such as Craig's List, freelancer.com, and Guru. Recently I had won a bid for a project, and I needed the work, but found that the ads they wanted were in the line of "get rich quick". It was not exactly get rich quick, but they were specific about a sort of informercial feel that made a whole lot of promises that I was more than certain they could not and likely had no intention of fullfilling.
What to do in this situation? There are different theories. Some copywriters look at it like "it's not my job to justify, just to sell." I disagree with this, not only because it is dishonest, but also because it does not work in the long run. I respectfully declined the project after suggesting several alternative routes which I felt could work better for the specific product.
Selling impossible dreams will always work on a segment of society. "Get rich quick" "Cure acne overnight" "Lose weight without exercising" are all fairy tales, but people buy the product and sellers make money off crushing these people's dreams. But only for a little while. Eventually the product just goes away as the base who first bought into it realize it was something of a scam and do not come back.
And perhaps the saddest part is, the product is not always a scam. Sometimes a diet pill can work, sometimes people make money selling trinkets from home or whatever, it just does not work as well as they first claim.
Had they been honest at first, they would not have sold as much that first week or month maybe, but their target audience would have shifted, people would come back for more, they would not have turned off a large segment of the population. And, after a year or two, they would still be making money instead of moving on to a whole new scheme.
In the long run honesty is always the best policy, even in advertising. And you can make more money that way too, if that is something you're worried about.
So you've probably seen at least part of the commercials for Mayo where they try to show how hip, cool, American, and awsome they are in 30 or so seconds. If not here's how it goes, it has a young man with an "in your face" voice talking about how Mayo is a rebel but still cool and indifferent just like you, then their tag is "Are you mayo?" This is an advertising tactic called "Affective" mixed with a bit of imaging and positioning. The idea is to appeal emotionally and specificaly to one's self-image here. The goal is the next time you buy your sandwich spread you say "Hey, I'm cool so I should buy Mayo and not this other stuff." Full disclosure, these commercials make me physically cringe, and I rarely get through the entire thing before muting or changing chanels (consequently I am the demographic they are appealing to which is a bad sign).
Does it work?
Whether something works in advertising is a mix of recognition and whether it is a good ad. If you do enough advertising even bad advertising will work to some extent. However, this does not mean you are getting your money's worth.
Here's the problem with the Mayo ads:
1. No one in that demographic thinks Mayo or anything that goes on a sandwhich is "cool" - saying Mayo is "cool" is not going to change this fact
2. They are trying too hard. Think of high school. Did the cool kids ever try to be cool? Of course not, there is nothing attractive about trying to be something you are not. That goes for every kind of ad, but Mayo really missed the boat here.
How to fix it:
1. Take a different approach. Appealing to one's self-image when you are something that goes on a sandwich simply is not going to work. If Mayo cannot advertise health or taste or some other immediate benefit that one associates with food, then they need to create an image that falls in line with what a condiment is.
2. If Mayo still would like to take the approach in advertising of branding themselves a particular way, they may want to try humor, which is what their competition did, or they can switch demographics to something more "motherly" or even grandmotherly. This is simple and works almost universally when one is selling something that frankly, the young people they are trying to appeal to simply don't care.