Testing the Advertising Waters

One of the reasons why advertising fails. 

"Money is too precious to spend on experiments, but it's amazing how many people do." - David Carmichael

There are approximately one hundred and twenty thousand sales people responsible for selling advertising on the television and radio stations of America and Australia. Each of these one hundred and twenty thousand sales people will make “prospecting calls” on an average of three business owners each day. One business owner out of twelve will say, “Perhaps your station is the right one for my business. I’ll buy a small schedule to test the waters, and if it works, I’ll start using your station on a regular basis.”

Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it? In reality, it’s no different than standing at a roulette wheel saying, “Perhaps black is the colour for me. I’ll place a small bet and if I win, I’ll start betting black on a regular basis.”

Thirty thousand business owners in America and Australia will decide to “test the waters” on a TV or radio station today. Most of them will experience very poor results. Will they be disappointed? Yes. Surprised? No, because most of these business owners have “tested the waters” many times before with very limited success, and the few successes they had were rarely repeatable.

Why would a business owner do what he has done before and expect a different result? It is because every one of those one hundred and twenty thousand sales people have been taught to sing a seductive little song whose chorus line is, “The secret is to reach the right people, and our people are the right people for you!” Once again, the logic of reaching the right people is extremely appealing, mostly because it’s common sense. The problem is with advertising is that it so often defies common sense.

Want to hear the really sad part? Nearly every single one of the disappointed business owners would have been delighted with the station they chose had they only understood two simple laws of advertising

Law of Advertising # 1:

It’s what you say, not who you say it to, that will determine your success in advertising. Most people are “the right people,” when you say the right thing! Be convincing!

Law of Advertising # 2:

Short schedules are always a gamble. Few people will be convinced quickly, and few of those people who are convinced will have any immediate need for what you are selling. By the time their need arises, your “testing of the waters” will be over and they will have forgotten you.

You must decide what to say and then say it to as many people as you can afford to reach relentlessly. If you cannot afford to reach a station’s audience with relentless repetition, you should consider buying a smaller audience. It is better to reach ten people ten times than a hundred people once.

“Testing the waters” is the signature of an uncommitted advertiser, and I’ve never known an advertiser to experience more than momentary success with such an outlook.

Focus and commitment are the unwavering signatures of real success. Show me an advertiser with a genuine commitment to a focused message, and I’ll show you a success in the making. 

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