Have you ever seen a poster from across the room that has the word “SEX” at the top in 72 point type? You walk across the room to read the smaller print, which says “Now that I have your attention, let me tell you about the advantages of….

The first time this happens you probably feel foolish that you were drawn to this poster. The second time, you don’t bother walking close enough to read. Why is that?

Is it because you don’t want to be noticed reading the poster? You don’t want people laughing when they see that you’ve fallen for it, too?

Or is it because the information on this poster holds nothing of interest to you?

As an advertising tactic, this one is flawed. It tries to capture attention without ever qualifying the reader as a potential customer. It wastes the reader’s time and the advertiser’s resources.

What Value Is Attention?

Some advertisers believe that getting the reader / viewer / listener to notice their message is such an important step that they apply no common sense to their messaging. They attempt to piggyback their communication on to some other device, some other attention grabbing message.

Is Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader? the hot television program this season? You can safely predict a slew of local advertisers (and probably a couple of national advertisers as well) will create ads playing off of the show.

These are the same people who jumped on the Where’s the Beef? bandwagon. They fell in line to ask Got Milk? Got Insurance? Got Teeth? Got Real Estate? They keep trying to catch the “next big thing” because they aren’t saying anything of significance.

Less obviously, but equally as badly planned, are those that have no tie in at all.

Borrowed Interest

I spoke to a plumber a few years ago who wanted to incorporate the Superman character into his ads. Why? Because he thought it would be “cool.” Aside from the obvious copyright violations, what does Superman have to do with plumbing?

Don’t try to associate your business with things that aren’t relevant to your business.

Don’t show your kids, your grandkids, or your pets in your ads. They won’t help you sell anything.

Don’t talk about which church you attend, where you went to school, or which organizations you support. There are no significant numbers of customers who will choose you for those reasons. (I almost wrote none, but I toned it down to avoid the e-mails telling me that half of someone’s business comes from their support of the Chamber. It doesn’t).

Then There’s The Superbowl

No, not the ads which run during the broadcast, but the “Superbowl of Savings” theme that the local car dealer will inevitably use in the days leading up to the game.

It’s the furniture store employees in football jerseys telling you not to “go long” without the new sofa, to “huddle up” with a furniture store employee. That you’ll get an immediate “signing bonus” if you take delivery this week.


Isn’t the objective to make your message stand out from the crowd? Then stop being non-memorable by looking like everyone else who’s borrowing a theme.

How Do You Get Shoppers Interest?

You get the genuine interest of qualified buyers by being relevant to those buyers. By talking to them about their needs, their concerns, their problems. By helping those people to solve the very real issues in their lives as they perceive them.

Are you a plumber? Don’t talk about the Jaycees. Talk about cleaning up to leave the bathroom spotless after your service call. Talk about your commitment to being on time. Talk about how you’ll affect the lives of your customers.

Good ads appeal to the people who want what you sell. It’s not necessary to get the attention of any non-buyers.

Good ads are not about what you sell, they’re about the people you sell to.

You won’t need to borrow any interest if you communicate the things that buyers are interested in hearing.