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Catch more customers for your advertisers

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by John Foust
Newspaper Advertising Trainer – Raleigh, NC

My friends Mark and Sandy invited me to spend a couple of days in a vacation beach condo they had rented, about a month before their first child was born. Mark and I decided to do some fishing, so we bought some shrimp to use as bait and waded into the ocean, which was unusually calm and flat that day.

We stood there for several hours in waist-high water. Mark knew a lot more about fishing than I did, but neither of us caught a fish. He may have had a nibble or two, but I ended up with nothing but a bad case of sunburn. When we sloshed our way back to the shore, I still had my original shrimp on my hook. Mark told me that even though the fish weren’t biting that day, my odds would have improved if I had kept fresh bait on the hook.

It was a little embarrassing, because I should have known better. If I were a fish, I certainly wouldn’t be interested in a shrimp that had been hanging around that long.

That lesson applies to advertising, as well as fishing. It pays to make a fresh offer to your target audience.

Imagine how your newspaper might deal with the problem of long-time advertisers who run the same ads in every issue. They are loyal to the paper, but it doesn’t help them at all to let their ads get stale. It’s the advertising version of Groundhog Day, without the classic Sonny and Cher alarm clock song.

Let’s say that one of those advertisers is a hardware store which has been running the same small ad for several years. The headline simply reads, “Big discounts on hardware.” There is no illustration, just a logo and contact information at the bottom. To remedy the staleness, the account rep could suggest a series of ads, with each one featuring an offer on a specific product. This creates an opportunity for seasonal offers. In the Spring, a sequence of ads could feature a lawnmower and various gardening tools. In the Fall, there could be a leaf blower. Since each ad spotlights one product, an illustration would be a natural fit. And along the way, there is a possibility of co-op money from individual manufacturers. That would increase the hardware store’s budget, which would allow them to run larger ads.

Or how about the vacuum cleaner store which runs the same small ad with a generic headline in issue after issue? You could use the technique here, too. Just create a series featuring an offer on one type of vacuum in each ad. The cumulative message would be what the advertiser intends – “we’re your local source for vacuum cleaners” – but the delivery would be more effective.

Everybody wins. Advertisers get more business. Readers learn about good deals. Manufacturers benefit from the publicity. And your paper creates happier advertisers and better looking pages.

It all adds up to quite a catch, doesn’t it?

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(c) Copyright 2021 by John Foust. All rights reserved.

John Foust has conducted training programs for thousands of newspaper advertising professionals. Many ad departments are using his training videos to save time and get quick results from in-house training. E-mail for information:john@johnfoust.com