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Marketing 101
December 04, 2001 08:57:39
The 12 C's Of Effective Advertising

Duane Sprague
D.J. Sprague Marketing & Advertising

You have no doubt heard of the 4 C's of selecting a diamond (Cut, Clarity, Color, and Carat). I have created the 12 C's of advertising, and considering the potential for waste vs. profit when it comes to your advertising budget, these 12 C's are far more important than a diamond purchase. When these 12 elements are used together, you will have effective and efficient advertising that works every time! You will be one of the few who absolutely believe that advertising is a powerful tool with the precision of a laser, and the predictability of the sunrise.

1) Cut: First and foremost, you need to cut through the competitive clutter and get noticed and remembered in a positive way. Your copy, offer and creative execution must be enticing, exciting, moving, and believable. You need to stand out, and offer something stunning that people want. Like exceptionally friendly and personable service, super convenient location, huge variety and product selection, value-added services, etc.

2) Clarity: Your message, offer, and Unique Selling Proposition (USP) must be clear, concise and easy to understand quickly. Keep it simple, powerful and clean, both in design execution and message.

3) Color: Use only full color ads. Color increases credibility, enhances communication, and cuts through a sea of non-color ads. Use colors in your logo and color schemes that fit your image and message. Use them consistently. Use color pictures, graphics, charts, or any imagery that will enhance and communicate your message and offer. In a two color ad, the most powerful attention grabbing color combinations are red copy on a solid yellow background (Kodak logo), yellow copy on a red background (McDonald's logo), or black copy on a yellow background.

4) Carrot: You need a hook, a carrot or an offer that is going to motivate the viewer to act now. You need a call to action, like “come in today and receive a free         ”. Or a self-liquidator, which is a popular item that you can buy in bulk at a huge discount, and sell them for what you paid, just to get people into your dealership. Self-liquidators work great as traffic builders, as long as what you are offering is clearly in demand, you can sell it for less than what the retail market price is, and you advertise it so that people know about it.

5) Communication: You need to establish a dialog with your prospects, which requires a response device (a phone call, a self addressed and stamped reply card, an e-mail, etc.), a database of responders, and a timely follow-up system. Since virtually none of your competitors actually have a communication dialog with their prospects, you will automatically win by default.

6) Commitment: You must stay committed to your advertising, your schedule, your look, and your branding message. Otherwise you lose the equity position you created.

7) Consistency: There are two conflicting theories in advertising. One is the theory of frequency, which claims that people must see or hear an ad at least three times before they will take notice and act upon it. The other is recency. The recency theory makes more common sense, because it claims that only one impression is required, if it is made upon a person that is actually in the market to buy. Think about it, if you are in the market to buy a DVD player, and you see an ad with a good price on a quality name brand that you like, with the features and specs you are looking for, at a store convenient to you, why do you need to see that same ad 3 times before you will act on it? You don't. You see it once, all the elements make sense, and you act.

Recency theory then, simply states that it is far more important to cast a wide net to reach that small percentage of people that are ready to buy today, than to keep beating your message over the heads of a smaller audience with frequency, because statistically, you will be talking to fewer people who are in the market. And this is precisely why classified newspaper advertising works so well for dealers. Despite the fact that newspapers are losing readers and market share every year, and the average age of the daily subscribers is going up each year, outpacing the average age of the population. And the fact that people spend less time reading the paper than ever before, the fact is that the few people who are reading the automotive classifieds are those who actually in the market. And they only need to see your ad once before they act.

The recency theory hinges on the idea that is far more important to cast a wide net using mass media, and be seen or heard by those people who are in the market, just before they are ready to buy.

8) Combination: In order to capitalize on the recency theory, you need to get in front of as many potential buyers as possible on a regular basis. This requires a media mix, consisting of a 7x15 full color ad in the automotive classified section of the major daily newspaper every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, a regular broadcast TV schedule (not cable), consisting of at least 100 Gross Rating Points per week, and a radio schedule on the top 4-5 stations, with at least 4 spots per day, Monday through Friday, with an equal rotation from 6AM-7PM. As well as 2 spots per day Saturday and Sunday, 10AM-4PM.

9) Cost: Your media schedule must be professionally planned and negotiated. An expert professional approach will take into account strict cost efficiency objectives of buying the schedule at the lowest Cost Per Point (CPP) and Cost Per Thousand (CPM). As well as generate more reach and more frequency than a media schedule that is placed by a layman. More money is wasted in advertising than you can ever imagine, simply by paying too much, buying the wrong media outlets, the wrong schedules, and the wrong programs. There are specific methods, strategies, and formulas to buying and negotiating media at rates 30-70% less than you are paying currently. You can learn them, or hire someone who has the training, and the proven and documented ability to do so.

10) Caliber: Your ad must be of a high caliber that will reflect positively on your dealership. The only thing that the prospect knows or sees about your company, is the image that you portray in your ads. If your ads are a cheap, slapped together low quality production, what does that say about your company, your image and your product? The quality of your advertising production, like your clothes, your house and your car, are a direct reflection on who you are, the types of customers you attract and serve, and where you are going in the future. Advertising is the same as courting a beautiful lady. You absolutely must put your best foot forward in order to win the hand of that lovely lady. Don't skimp on production if you can at all help it. In fact, reserve about 15-20% of your entire monthly advertising budget for print and electronic media production.

11) Copy: Use advertising copy that entices, describes the benefits in word pictures, stirs the emotions, justifies the decision on logic, and SELLS! Make every single word count. No fluff, no filler, no waste. Your job is to capture their attention, peak their interest, motivate and sell in only a few seconds. Again, the caliber of production is critical. If you don't have a really good copy writer who can write to sell, you're sunk. Budget for quality production and quality copy writing.

12) Cute: Avoid cute kids, pets, models, jingles or jokes if they are not absolutely critical to the selling message and motivation to buy. These are known as “attention vampires” and they actually rob from your advertising impact by taking the focus off of your critical selling message and offer. There is a time and place, and a very effective way to use them, but only when they are essential to the very message itself. Michelin Tires does a wonderful job of the proper usage of cute babies and animals in their ads. Simply because their entire message is the safety and protection of your most precious cargo. If the message were anything different, it would not have worked for a tire company.

Integrate these proven principles of effective advertising into your daily action plan, and you will succeed in the sometimes elusive world of advertising.

Duane Sprague is an automotive advertising expert, consultant, author and speaker. Duane is a Certified Media Buyer, a Certified Research Director, and holds a Graduate Certificate in Marketing Communications. Duane conducts seminars in media buying, advertising and marketing for the automotive industry, and is President of D.J. Sprague Marketing & Advertising.
He can be reached at (801) 556-5922, or on the web at



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