We live in an over-communicated society- information is gushing toward your brain like a fire hose aimed at a teacup. If you want your message to be captured and retained you’d better be prepared to be more interesting, more relevant, or more entertaining than your competition.

The secret of successful advertising is to uncover the story that is uniquely and wonderfully your own, and then tell that story in the most compelling way possible. You will not uncover it by trying to imitate others. And if you want to stand for something, you can't stand for everything.

So successful advertising requires a brave business who is prepared to stand out.  A great advert can be made utterly ineffective through compromise. Yes you can soften your advert so it offends nobody, says nothing and sounds like every other advert.

But, you're trying to get through all the noise, distraction and clutter with your message. We’ve already acknowledged people avoid advertising, - that is obviously advertising- because it is, after all, only advertising.  So why would you want to turn your business into an advert- the very thing people avoid.

  1. Don’t be an advert

So here is my first piece of advice. Don’t fall into the trap of turning your story into an advert.

Word of mouth has long been your best form of advertising- If your advertising tells your story the way one person speaks to another and without clichés or un-sustained claims that muddle most ads- then you probably have yourself a good non- ad.

The voice, the words, the conversation, the context, the scenario- has to exist outside of the world of advertising. We have to be able to relate to the people talking to us. Most adverts are merely somebody, with a good voice, reading a piece of paper, really fast. And you can sense- even they are not engaged with the words they are saying- how do they expect us to be?

Predictability is what makes advertising sound like advertising. Clichés for example- don’t engage anyone- they are predictable. Problem is most businesses want their advertising to sound like advertising and are not brave enough to create a non-ad. But not you- right?

  1. Put your customer in the story.

Don’t expect the recipient of your message to be the translator. Don’t tell them all about your business and then get them to do the job of working out what the message means to them.

Most advertisers think the customer is asking.
Who are you? What is your product? When are you open? Where are you located?  Truth is the only question they are asking is “Why should I care?

Your customer is saying tell me a story that has me in it. The more the advert can place people inside these problems- joining the conversation that is already existing inside their minds, the more compelling it will be. Don't narrate the problem- put people inside the problem.

Powerful advertising points the minds movie camera to that place in the mind where you want the listener to go. The imagination can be a powerful thing but only when the listener is a participant in the movie, it’s their movie.

So, the most powerful word in the advertising language is the word ‘you’. ‘You’ engages the mind of the listener. Skilful use of the word ‘you’ puts the listener in your ad.

For all the thousands of people who visit your website- they’ll only arrive one reader at a time- talk to that one person. If the first three paragraphs of your website doesn’t include the word you at least 8 times- re-write-it. People didn’t come to your website to read all about your business- they came to see if you understand them and their problem- demonstrate that you do- talk to them about themselves.

  1. Your Claims

To be persuasive your ads must be frank, direct, honest and believable.

Dishonesty and exaggeration happen in advertising because businesses think the truth is seldom appealing enough. But remember-  like the two guys who come across a lion in the wild- you don’t have to out run the lion- you only have to outrun the other guy.

Understatement is for more powerful than overstatement- sincerity is attractive.  Don’t be vague- Specifics are more believable than generalisations. Impressive claims are far more impressive by making them exact.

Your ad is believable when your listener agrees with it. Tell them what they already know or suspect, remind them of things you know they have experienced. Confirm with them their perceptions are accurate and they’ll agree with whatever you have to say.

Nothing sounds quite so much like the truth as the truth. And most people seem to know the truth when they hear it.

  1. Framework is like a logo

Framework is the continuation of the theme, scenario, style, or characters you employ to deliver your story. Good adverts are created with a frame-work that can then be extended. If you start anew with a different, sound, theme and angle each time you advertise, you will get no residual benefit of the profile you have invested to create.

Most adverts have no framework at all- they are just another voice over. Insist that your media rep provides you with a concept that has legs- make them explain how the campaign will evolve over time and the multiple directions it can go in.

To finish with let’s address the 3 parts of a good marketing message. Follow the guidelines I’ve already outlined and get these three components right- you will be miles ahead of most other advertisers.

You may of heard of the marketing acronym- AIDA which stands for Attention, Interest, Desire, Action.  Well its right, you have no chance of creating an interest, desire, or an action towards your business, if you first haven’t first gained the audience’s attention.

  1. Attention

All adverts should start with only one objective- gain the attention and interest of the listener. Don’t jump straight into the message you want them to know- start by gaining their attention so you know they’ll be listening when you do get to the message you want them to know.

People should be drawn into the advert with curiosity- wondering what the message is actually about. Remember people don’t listen to adverts- they listen to what interests them. Advertising must entice your customer with a thought more interesting than the one he or she is thinking. The common, mundane, predictable are ignored, yet intriguing, fascinating, invoking are immediately spied and examined.

Think of it as the lean-in effect. If you can get people to lean in towards you message- then you’ve got a far greater chance of them capturing and retaining that information.  Curiosity vacuums attention. Some advertisers will commit 90% of their advert to create the lean-in effect and only then deliver the message they want people to remember.


Here’s the test and something very few advertisers know. Memorable ads create a vivid first mental image- they get people to see something in their minds eye. It’s proven that we recall the images of the mind more powerfully than the images of the eye. So get the start of your advert to switch the minds movie camera on.


But be warned the movie has to be relevant to the message- you can’t start with the sound of a civil alarm just to tell people about your shoe sale. The first mental image you create has to have a direct connection to the path you want the listener to follow you on. The proceeding content of your advert has to answer the curiosity arousal you just created.

Once you have the listener’s attention now you can deliver that thing you want them to know.


  1. One thing

What is the one thing you want to get across?  What is that hole, differentiators and benefits you are wanting them to know about?   Of all the information I share with you in this video series- this is amongst the most critical.

Your advert must contain a consumer benefit.

You know what the consumer thinks? That you and your competitors are pretty much alike. By listing everything that you and your competitors do, you are just reinforcing the common held belief that you’re all the same and therefore price is the only differentiator. Every sentence used in your marketing to highlight that fact weakens your message.

Here is a powerful discovery made in the field of social science- By focusing attention on an aspect of something- that aspect becomes more appealing. You may not have the most universally appealing point of difference, but you don’t need to. Focus your message on that gap your point of difference fills- because focused attention makes it more appealing. To receive the best benefit of focused attention, the key is to keep the focus singular – don’t compare. Focus attention on your favourable facets. With no comparable attention to your rivals favourable facets.

Get that one thing across and have people believe it’s the most important thing.- because you made it so.


  1. Action

No person takes an action until they has seen themselves taking such action in their mind. We always imagine a thing before we do it. Causing your prospective customer to imagine doing what it is you want them to do is the highest goal of advertising.

So just as a great advert starts with a vivid first mental image it must finish with a good last mental image as well. A good last mental image causes the listener to ‘see’ themselves doing the thing you wish them to do. More than a call to action, a well written last mental image actually completes the desired action in the mind- creating a mental picture in which the action has already taken place-

Them imagining the after state version of themselves.

Keep your call to action singular and simply- if you want them to visit- but its unlikely they can visualise your premises in their mind- rather then get them to go to your website so they can see where you are and what you look like.- Then they are more likely to come visit.

I probably could talk to you about the topic of correct advertising for a very long time and there is certainly more to this topic. But if you want to digest more- there is a bonus video attached from my good friend and business colleague, Ralph Van Dijk- who is the founder and CEO of Eardrum, the worlds most awarded audio creative agency. If you want to hear great examples of adverts applying all the principles outlined in both this video, and his, please visit the eardrum web site at www.eardrum.com.

One of the concepts me and ralph have worked on together is in crafting a campaign that works very effectively for businesses who provide a service and need to be positioned as an expert people can trust.

If that’s you and your industry- you’ll get a lot out of the next video- so we’ll see you there.