July 17, 2007
Prevention Doesn't Work in Radio, And What To Do About It
Actually, it doesn't work in any advertising. But we're radio guys.
We're often in the unenvial position of staring across the table at a potential new client who's overflowing with enthusiasm about his new preventative "thing". "Why treat the problem when you can prevent it!" Notice that wasn't a question.
Why is "prevention" such a hard sell?
"I was driving on the Taconic Parkway last week and noticed a Porsche Cayenne and a Ford Edge were keeping pace with me. I was driving my Prius and getting about 51 miles per gallon. The other two cars were averaging about 20 each.
If we figure that the average driver in the US does 20,000 miles a year, I'm going to use about 400 gallons of gas. A car getting 20 mpg is going to use closer to a thousand gallons. Figure that there are about 100 million actively driven cars in the US, which means that the net difference if "everybody did it" has the potential to save 60 billion gallons (600 times 100 million) of gas. A year.
No, this isn't a pitch to switch. It's a pitch to describe how amazingly difficult it is to market that story.
Eventually we break the news to our prospective client: prevention hasn't worked in radio. We're not saying it can't - never say never - but you should know, it hasn't yet. And many have tried. No, prevention doesn't sell. We're going to have to take a different approach with the creative.
Which brings us to Seth Godin's recent post, which happens to be a magnificently potent, multi-dimensional articulation of why "prevention doesn't sell"...and what to do about it.
We've always said that your product must solve an urgent problem, meet an immediate need or provide an immediate benefit. And your radio ads must focus on that.
Seth articulates it differently: make it personal.
"The reason PETA has had good success railing against fur coats is that they make it personal."
The lesson of the National Lampoon cover above, the best magazine cover in history, should be obvious by now. The way to sell the distant is to make it immediate. The way to sell the drop in a bucket is to make the bucket a lot smaller, not to extrapolate to even bigger numbers. "Buy this car and we'll kill 10 penguins" is a lot more powerful than "Buy this car and forty years from now, if everyone else buys a car like this one, your grandchildren are going to spit on your grave."
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Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape Our Decisions, Dan Ariely
Outliers: The Story of Success, Malcolm Gladwell
Made to Stick, Heath & Heath
The Power of Persuasion, Robert Levine
Influence: Science & Practice, Cialdini
Words That Work, Frank Lutz
My Life in Advertising and Scientific Advertising, Claude C. Hopkins
Or Your Money Back, Alvin Eicoff
Being Direct, Lester Wunderman