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Take Your Ads for a Spin

Susan Payton

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Advertising can be mundane, but it doesn't have to be. Now and then I come across an ad that just makes me stop and admire it. For example, there was a series of Parisian Heinz Ketchup ads that featured photos of food made of cardboard. The idea was that ketchup made anything (even cardboard) taste good. It just makes me smile, and yes, want to eat lots of ketchup. We're used to ads and commercials for ketchup that show smiling kids putting it on their hot dogs. But this one really throws me for a loop. It speaks the truth (some foods just taste like cardboard without condiments), and the truth sells.

And speaking of the truth, you’ve seen those anti-smoking commercials from, who takes its knowledge of smoking statistics to the streets. One commercial has an old time cowboy posted up (complete with pot of beans) in a New York street. He sings “You can’t always die from tobacco; sometimes you just lose a lung. ” He has a voicebox. It’s chilling, but it stays with you. It’s the shock factor that makes advertising like this work.

And then there are computer ads. We’ve seen attempts at an interesting spin (what ever happened to “Dude, you’re getting a Dell” dude?). Now Mac fans are doing the advertising for Apple (the spin doesn’t get more interesting than that). The classic debate between Mac and PC is wide open, and users are expressing themselves through channels like YouTube.

We’re sick to death of advertising. How, as a business owner, can you get through the fortress? Find your spin. Don’t create mundane just because you think you have budget constraints. Fantastic advertising takes only creativity (and if you don’t have it, hire it), not a big budget.

Here are some ideas to get you started.

  • Look at what your competitors are putting out in advertising. If it’s not creating a buzz, run the opposite direction.

  • Think about what gets your attention. You may love Burger King’s ads, but what if you sell pool supplies? You can still use good advertising as a springboard for your own ideas.

  • Examine your demographic. The 18-25 year old crowd goes for spoofs and crazy characters, but the older crowds don’t. Keep that in mind.

  • Test different ideas. If one doesn’t work, try another.

    Susan Payton is Managing Partner of Egg Marketing & Public Relations. She assists small businesses with marketing strategy and corporate communications. She is also the author of 101 Entrepreneur Tips, a handy guide that helps entrepreneurs make repeat customers, close the sale, and delegate work. For more information on Susan and Egg Marketing, visit or email her at Get free shoestring marketing advice on Susan's blog,

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