Lessons From The Apprentice

I’m a “The Apprentice” junkie.

One of the most interesting episodes I’ve seen was episode 5 of UK series 2. And it was interesting because both teams made the same fatal mistake.

Sir Alan Sugar asked them to create an ad campaign for a membership card for private charter flights.

But, before he gave them the task, he delivered a fantastic sales pitch for the card. He told them why he created it, what it does, who it was for and why people should have one.

All the teams had to do was turn his sales pitch into a TV ad and billboard and they were home and hosed.

However, both teams missed this point and created weak campaigns that missed the key selling point. They seemed to forget that advertising is just a form of selling and “got all creative”.

It was like he handed them a diamond and said “polish this” but, instead, they threw the diamond away and replaced it with a turd. They then spent their time trying to work out the best way to polish.

The problem is, no matter how good you are at polishing, a well-polished turd is still a turd and will never be a match for even the scruffiest diamond.

If you want to see an example of a simple, but scruffy, diamond in action, watch Sir Alan’s ads for Premium Bonds.

If you ignore the bit with the horses at the start, it’s just a grumpy looking bloke talking to a camera.

But he knows what he’s selling.

It’s “there are a lot of prizes, but no risk. You can get your money back at any time.”

Or, to put another way:

“Here’s what I’m selling. Here’s what it does. This is why you should own it. Here’s the answer to the one main objection you might have. Here’s how to buy it. Thank you. Goodnight.”

There’s no confusion about the message. And there’s no need for anything fancy.

So, what’s the lesson here?

Advertising isn’t about entertainment or pretty pictures. It’s about the message (i.e. the offer). Everything in your ad should work for the message. And anything that doesn’t should be cut.

Don’t make the common mistake of falling in love with the cleverness or cuteness of your presentation. And don’t fall into the trap of thinking your business name or logo is the key point of the message, it almost certainly isn’t.

The message is the value you are offering the reader.

Know your message. Deliver the message in the clearest, simplest way possible and then get out. 

Message over.

Steve Gibson

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