With the rise in popularity of TV programs like Mad Men, the ad industry’s image recently gained the Kodachrome finish it usually reserves for the products its shilling.
There’s been a nostalgic review of ‘60s era Madison Avenue staples, such as the slickly dressed hedonists getting the best out of life, and convincing the masses to do it their way.
Fashion houses even took a cue from the style-drenched, retro programming, while authors and radio show hosts launched new careers highlighting the tricks of their trades for a rapt audience.
One of the most successful of that lot was Terry O’Reilly, host of the radio show The Age of Persuasion.
The CBC radio program allows the award winning advertiser a chance to showcase case studies from an industry that shaped our culture one ad-spot at a time. And when he digs a bit deeper into those files, O’Reilly continually shows how each actually reads like a page from our shared history rather than an info-blast that prompts pressure on the remote control’s mute button.
When he stopped in Kelowna last week for a Chamber of Commerce speaking engagement, O’Reilly came packing such tales from both his own critically acclaimed body of work and what inspired him.
The beauty of a good advert, he explained, is the development of a story readers can buy into.
Rolls Royce, for example, is well known today for being the creme de la creme of the automotive industry, but the way it gained a standing in the North American market was with a single page.
Atop a sheet that launched the advertorial style of advertisement read the words; “At 60 miles an hour, the loudest noise in this Rolls Royce comes from the electric clock.”
It was a headline that didn’t just draw the eye, but made the reader think about both the car and the manufacturing philosophy in the carmaker. Deeper into the text, the company explained the effort they put into creating a luxurious ride.
“It ran exactly once, in the New York Times, the New Yorker, the Wall Street Journal and in Sunset Magazine, in April of 1958,” O’Reilly said.
Total media and production costs of the ad: $25,000. Total sales as a result of the ad: $6 million.
Back then, $6 million dollars only represented sales of 300 cars. But Rolls-Royce could only manufacture 400 cars per year in total.
The ad resulted in an 18-month waiting list for delivery, which one of the weightiest claims to fame of any print ad.
The car company’s legacy is just as impressive as it has continued to be a coveted item among the most elite and wealthy of the world.
So, what is it that made Rolls Royce, or any number of other products, “must haves” while others have faded into obscurity?
“A great story will make you feel something,” said O’Reilly.
“Decisions made on the heart 80 per cent of the time, so why is most marketing aimed at the head?
Effective marketing can’t just be a blast of information. Smart advertisers create stories that make you feel something.”
Everyone, he said, has a story and O’Reilly said business owners would be well served by digging into it.
“If your story is good, they will listen,” said O’Reilly. “Every product and every service has a genuine story built into it. Stories can add value, value creates margin, and margin creates profit.”
O’Reilly explained that to find that story, if it isn’t always clear, business owners need to listen to their customers, ask them questions like: “What do you like about us, what don’t you like about us?”
Don’t, in the meantime, ignore your own history. Think about why your company started, what was the vision of the founder and what have been some great successes along the way?
Then offer a genuine story that makes people realize they must have the product you’re selling.