The Real “Reason Why” Most Modern Day Advertising Fails

Reason Why Advertising John E. Kennedy

After watching the Super Bowl big game advertisements the other night, I feel that it is appropriate to revisit the three most important words ever to describe what advertising actually is.

“Salesmanship in Print”.

This week’s post from our #ThrowbackThursday series, “52 Advertising Lessons From Past Advertising Greats” comes from the man who defined advertising – John E. Kennedy (1864-1928)

These three simple words – “Salesmanship In Print” – that John E. Kennedy shared with Albert Lasker on a May evening in 1905 changed advertising forever. If only the practice was as simplistic as the definition. For better or worse, successful advertising requires a complex blend of psychology, creativity, and analysis. But even with all the convuluted campaigns and tactical decisions we deal with, advertising still comes down to one common, easy to define goal: motivate your audience to take action.

In his must-read book “Reason Why Advertising” John E. Kennedy states:

Many Advertisers, however, seem satisfied to spend their money on mere Opinions about Advertising when they might have invested it on Evidence about Advertising. These are the Advertisers whose business must die before they can be convinced that “General Publicity” (merely “Keeping-the-Name-before-the-People”) is wrong and “Salesmanship-on-paper” right.

They blindly gamble in Advertising when they might have safely invested in it. If they were to buy any other kind of Service, except Advertising, they would demand tangible proof of its efficacy before they spent money on it.

If they hired a Salesman, for instance, they would expect him to prove he was earning his salary by making a satisfactory Record on Sales. They would not accept, for long, statements from him that he was “Making a General impression on the Trade” for his salary.
Nor would they be satisfied with the statement that he was “Keeping-the-Name-before-the-People” profitably enough to compensate for lack of Sales.

In your opinion, which ads from Sunday’s big game were focused on increasing sales? Which ones only made “a General impression”? Remember, creating a memorable ad is only half the challenge. It doesn’t matter if the ad was funny or cool, if it did not provide you with an authentic and sincere reason to buy, it failed. I do admit that some of these ad and marketing campaigns are forced to sell crappy products that you don’t have a real reason to buy in the first place. For example, if the beer company has to resort to gimmicks with the can or bottle, then the actual product probably has no real value.

In your opinion, which ad was the most effective in giving you a reason to buy the product or service being advertised?