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The Law of Diminishing Returns Works for Advertising, Too

Law of Diminishing Returns

So many things have to go right for an ad to work. It has to get noticed. The message must persuade the target audience to do something or take some action. The ad has to appear in a medium the customer visits, so they can actually see it. The last thing you want to do is screw it all up with an ad that tries to do too much – what I like to call the “kitchen sink” approach.

Sometimes an advertiser has a list of important features and benefits for the customer, multiple telephone numbers (even a fax number…. a FAX!), free case studies or demos, social media links, industry certifications and logos, customer testimonials. The list is long and everything must go in the ad. That’s everything and the kitchen sink, too.

David Ogilvy said, “Strategy is sacrifice.” That means knowing what to keep and what to let go so the strategy or the ad is focused and, in a word, simple.

Economists understand the law of diminishing returns. It holds a great truth for advertising professionals, too. In effect, it says the more things you add to your strategy or your ad the less effective it becomes. Instead, really great strategy and great ads are clear, concise, and devoid of unnecessary frills. The hard part is stripping down to the bare essentials. You have to know what you want your ad to achieve. It cannot tell the customer everything, so you have to establish a single goal for every ad or campaign. Is it name recognition and recall of your brand? Is it showcasing how your product or service will solve their problem? Is the goal to help the customer form an opinion about your brand?

Watch this example of a Simply Orange juice commercial from 2012 featuring actor Donald Sutherland’s voiceover. The theme of the spot is, ironically, “simplicity”. The ad is fantastic for what it doesn’t say. It doesn’t say anything you might expect from the litany of typical orange juice features: rich in vitamin C, antioxidants, other health claims, tasty breakfast drink, loved by kids, good for your family, cancer-fighter.

When we write the brief describing the purpose of an ad, we strip it down to one specific goal. That clarity and precision can be very difficult to achieve, but your ad stands a much better chance of working when we all understand the law of diminishing returns.

Mike Hallaron
About Hallaron Advertising Agency

Mike Hallaron is principal partner and has served as director of accounts at Hallaron Advertising Agency in The Woodlands, Texas since 2003. The agency works closely with clients divining advertising strategy and implementing effective, award-winning campaigns. More than just an idea shop, Hallaron is a full-service agency focused on increasing client’s sales using TV, radio, mobile, Web, outdoor and social media.

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