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The Best-Ever Ads Are Not Always The Best Business-Builders

by Tom Ruwitch

I got an email from LinkedIn last month asking, “What’s the best ad you’ve ever seen? What made it memorable?”

The email encouraged me to share my thoughts on LinkedIn with the hashtag #BestAds.

Lots of people got that email and shared their pick for best ever.

Apple’s “1984” ad. Old Spice’s “Smell Like a Man.” Several from Coca-Cola. A few from Budweiser. Search “#BestAds” on LinkedIn, and you’ll see them.

But a warning: Many of the #BestAds were not the best business-builders.

Entertaining? Sure. Effective? Not necessarily.

A political consultant joined the #BestAds conversation by describing a television spot for a California candidate named Ed Zschau. The ad helped voters learn Mr. Zschau’s name by joking about how people mispronounce it.

“...It gave the consumer/voter critical info and a reason to smile and remember it,” according to the LinkedIn user who shared it.

But here’s the kicker: The candidate lost the campaign.

Call me picky. But shouldn’t the “best ever” ad have “best ever” impact?

OK. Maybe this ad moved the needle for Ed Zschau. Maybe the defeat was less gruesome than it might have been without the “best ever” ad.

But I’m skeptical.

Why? Because I’ve seen too many memorable, entertaining, award-winning ads…

...that didn’t work.

I’ve seen too many entertaining and memorable websites, emails, and social posts that make people smile but don’t sell diddly.

You can’t deposit smiles and laughs in your checking account.

My vote for #BestAds: The Wall Street Journal’s “Two Young Men” ad.

It’s not pretty. In fact, it’s ugly. A letter with plain, black type on white paper. No fancy graphics. No jokes.

Just a story about two men who went to school together and both work at the same company 25 years later. One is a “low-level manager in a small department.” The other is the president.

What made the difference for these two young men? The president reads the Wall Street Journal.

Countless young business people who wanted to measure up saw themselves in that story. That’s why the ugly “Two Young Men” letter worked so well.

The Journal mailed that letter for 28 years. The Journal’s Paul Bell attributes more than $2 billion in sales to that letter.

That’s best-ever impact!

So the next time you ask someone to share a great ad, don’t ask them, “What made it memorable?” Ask them, “What made it work?”

Tom Ruwitch is Founder and CEO of Story Power Marketing. Coaches, consultants, and other thought leaders choose Story Power to attract more leads, keep them engaged and interested, and inspire them to act. More at StoryPowerMarketing.com.

Submitted 34 days ago
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