Whenever business is slow, the local businesses who rent out benches post ads that read something like, “You’ve just proved advertising works,” with their contact information below. The ads never fail to evoke a small moue of annoyance in me.
My reaction has nothing to do with being caught out. I’m reacting more to the childish glee of the comment. The implication seems to be that someone has been arguing with me, and I have been expressing doubts that advertising works. But if anything is more annoying than someone assuming that they know my thoughts on a subject, it’s someone assuming they know and getting it wrong.
Having done ad design, I have no doubt that advertising can work. Like many people in marketing, I may be inclined to mutter that only ten percent of marketing works, and that the trouble is that we don’t know what ten percent that happens to be, but I am certain that it can.
Anyway, the assertion isn’t true. I haven’t read the ad because advertising works. I read it because, seeing English characters, I am constitutionally unable not to read them. It doesn’t matter whether the characters are an ad, a Biblical verse, a line of poetry or the first lines of a novel – as soon as I see it, I’ve read it. Probably, I have more control over my breathing than I do over whether I read anything. It’s no credit to any power of advertising that I’m a print addict.
Even more importantly, getting noticed is only half of marketing. Successful marketing makes viewers want to take action – to buy, if possible, but at least to know more so they can decide to buy. Since the contact information is in a smaller typeface and hard to read in passing, I’m guessing that these ads don’t prove marketing effective. Even if someone might be interested in renting a bench, they are unlikely to notice whom to contact – and, if other people are the least bit like me, their annoyance will keep most far from the world of bench advertising as they can possible manage.