The following is a guest post, from my lovely wife no less. Please let her know how she did in the comments below. If you’re interested in doing a guest post, please see my guest posting policy and contact me. If you’d like to follow her musings, you can follow her on Twitter.
This is the fourth installment in an ongoing, special series featured on Frugal Rules about the realities of taking the plunge into self-employment.
Consumer Advice from an Ad Pro
I’ve been a copywriter in the financial services and advertising industries for nearly ten years. In that time, I’ve learned the ever evolving art of persuasion. I craft website content and marketing material copy for advertising companies with one purpose in mind – to present a problem that a product or service can solve. Metaphors, similes and all the power of language are harnessed with one intent – to get you to spend your hard-earned money on my client’s products and services.
Modern advertising has evolved beyond mere selling. To be effective, we must also entertain. Advertising companies have gotten so good at it that you may not always realize when you’re being sold to; or, when you do, you might enjoy it so much that your excitement translates into interest in a brand, which ultimately motivates you to buy our car instead of our competition’s, which is exactly what we want. Advertising companies are good at what they do, which can make it difficult to stick to your budget and live frugally, especially when you are constantly reminded of what could be yours if you are just willing to spend your money or swipe your credit card. Understanding a few timeless tactics used by advertising companies use to generate sales may help you resist the urge to blow your budget on the latest, greatest techno gadget or hot new outfit.
#1 -Advertising Companies Entice You to Buy Happiness
If you are committed to living a frugal life, you’re going to find it difficult to resist the onslaught of targeted advertising aimed at you. The first and most fundamental aspect of advertising is to promise happiness with a product. Everywhere you go you’re sent messages by advertising companies telling you how to be smart, successful and happy. Professionals who work for advertising agencies are incredibly adept in the art of persuading people to believe that happiness can be found in material possessions. If you just buy this product or have this gadget or drink this beverage or wear this outfit or use this makeup, you’ll feel confident, satisfied, sexy, calm, smart, complete, etc. Advertising and marketing is big business because it works. We’re all looking for happiness and even though deep down we know better, we keep thinking we can buy it. The first and most important weapon in your arsenal of frugality is reminding yourself daily that happiness isn’t found in material possessions, regardless of what advertising companies tell you. Never forget that there’s no lasting happiness at the end of a pile of Benjamins.
#2 – Advertising Companies Issue Calls to Action
A seasoned veteran of brand marketing told me early in my career to include at least one strong call to action in every piece of web content or marketing collateral copy I wrote. Any advertising and marketing professional worth his or her salt will include a directive to consumers in their pitches. Good billboard ads, website pages, print ads, flyers, and brochures should all have at least one command from advertising companies for you to follow – “Contact Us Today!” “Take a Test Drive Now” and “Try our Tasty New Sub” are all simple examples. Even Krispy Kreme’s glowing “Hot Now” sign has something to do with its success.
The best calls to action don’t seem like they’re telling you to do anything. Simple and succinct and offering both a promise as well as a command, Coke’s “Open Happiness” advertising campaign is a thing of genius. Using localized images to convey happiness, Coke increased revenues by getting people all over the globe to crack open cans of its carbonated beverage. People drink Coke because they like the way it tastes but as someone who works closely with advertising companies, I bet some of them are also buying Coke because on some level they believe it will make them feel happy – at least ever so briefly.
#3 – Advertising Companies Disguise When They’re Selling to You
I wrote my master’s thesis on product placement nearly eight years ago. Since then, advertising companies have used the practice to blur the line between advertising and entertainment even further. Scenes are written into a number of my favorite network TV shows to compensate advertising companies for their sponsorship. I am reminded of this every time I see Peter Bishop or Olivia Dunham use a Sprint smartphone to send a picture of a gruesome other-worldly crime scene to Astrid on Fringe. Or, when the History Channel’s American Pickers characters, Mike and Frank, use an entire episode to do something they’ve never done before – take a trip to Sturgis and sell a renovated Indian motorcycle. Both instances feature a contextualized example of product placement; both make sense with the flow of the narrative and the characters. However, I realize that I am being sold to by advertising companies because I’ve studied product placement in detail. Maybe you would too. But if not, you might be tempted to buy a new smartphone and use the Sprint network or buy an Indian hat or something because your favorite characters were using those brands.
Advertising companies know you skip over the commercials so they are inserting their content into your shows, which may be more effective in the long run. Train yourself to separate fact from fiction and as Mr. Frugal Rules says, try to keep emotion out of your purchase decisions as much as possible. Make a habit out of enjoying advertising without acting on it and you’ll do just fine living frugally in today’s advertising-saturated climate.
Since we’re talking about advertising, let’s ask the always fun question – what’s the best or worst ad you’ve seen recently? (Include a link to the ad if it’s easier than describing it)
Photo courtesy of: Patrick Nijhuis