Something’s Missing ~ How to Make Ads that Don’t Suck


Kelly Walker 2If you looked in the mirror and noticed you were having a “wardrobe malfunction,” wouldn’t you fix it? If your fly was unzipped or your hair was sticking up in a “Something About Mary” way, would you just leave it as is?

Probably not.

But what if someone told you your ads are dull, or that your branding looks like it’s from the 90’s? In the words of the immortal Vanilla Ice, “Stop, Collaborate and Listen!” What follows is some essential marketing wisdom that will increase your sales if you let it.

Marketing is a bit like dating. The object is to attract others through wit, humor, interest and looking your best. So why do most local ads come across as so, well, “local?”

We see so many print ads that look like mini-brochures, and TV ads that send one scrambling for the mute button. Where’s the attraction? Would you go on a first date and drone on about all YOU have to offer? (“Well, I’m really good at cleaning my fridge, I want 14 children, my favorite color is light tan and I like Piña Coladas and puppies.”) No way, José! If you really want to attract someone’s attention, you will turn your focus on him or her and be interesting.

So just what is missing from most local ads? In a word: CREATIVITY. It hurts us to see businesses spending their hard-earned marketing dollars on ads that will fail to engage. We know that we can make truly remarkable and engaging ads that brands are built on. Simply putting out an ad communicating little more than, “Here we are and here’s what we offer” is about as effective as wearing a tee shirt saying, “My biological clock is ticking” to a singles event. No, strike that—at least that tee shirt is funny! Most ads are the equivalent of “I’m single and looking for love.” Not very effective.

One of our favorite advertising sages, Roy H. Williams puts it well:

“In marketing you must choose between boredom, shouting and seduction. Which do you want?”

Professionals with solid training and experience in advertising theory will always be worth their weight in gold, no matter how technology may change. As Albert Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” Figuring out the latest digital tool is not too difficult, but true brand-building advertising genius is rare indeed. In the immortal words of Mr. V. Ice, “Anything less than the best is a felony.”


1. Get professional help so your ads won’t be boring. Don’t be blinded by the lights of the latest technology and the mechanics of delivery and lose focus on the message in the medium. Strategic creative direction—not just good design and layout—is essential. Creativity sells.

2. Don’t shout!!! Bright colors, multiple exclamation points and other cheap tactics are highly-visible indicators that you are to be avoided. Shouting is no substitute for substance, and today’s consumer is much too discerning to be “sold” to. The best ads don’t look or sound like ads.

3. Seduce. By that, we don’t mean use sex to sell—that’s no way to build a lasting brand. What we mean is give people something more interesting than the thought that is currently in their minds. Disrupt their cognitive filters with a startling image, humor or an unfolding story. Wrap it all in exquisite design and your ads will be impossible to ignore. Va-voom!

Andrea Walker is Business Director for Intrepid Marketing, a leading Bend, Oregon marketing agency. For more information, contact Andrea at 541-633-6435 or

(Photos courtesy of Intrepid Marketing)


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