Negative Ads Do Not Work!

(Originally published on 2008-10-30 as /archives/1147)

I suspect the real reason that negative ads are made is because the people who pay for the ads are negative.

None of the opinions below are those of my past-or-present employers. I have worked with members of the advertising community outside of the two marketing firms that I have worked-for, and I have learned by observing those experienced people.

People belief that advertisers know how to subconsciously control our buying habits, but the truth is this: they know far more about selling advertising services.

  1. The advertiser learns what the client wants through a creative process that includes iterating over design elements until they have an ad that fits the client’s sensibilities. This process is basically the same for all of the great firms, although they each have a registered-trade-or-service-marked name for that process, and they each claim that their process is special and unique. The firms that don’t know what they are doing? They have registered-service-marks for non-existent processes, and they depend on being lucky when they propose a new ad:
  2. The advertiser then produces an ad to fits the client’s sensibilities, wants, and desires. These sensibilities, wants, and desires were learned in step (1).
  3. The ad is presented to consumers.
  4. The firm collects statistics.
  5. The firm communicates those statistics in a way that says, “Yes, Mr. Client. You were correct. This ad that we made to-fit-your-sensibilities was very effective at selling your product!” Please note: these sensibilities are not necessarily those of the company that sells the product: they are those of the most influential individual that regularly met with the advertising firm.
  6. The firm then asks: “May we work together some more in the future?”

Man, if I were a magician I would be kicked-out of the guild for revealing my tricks.

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