Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Abandon Hope (The Last Post)

This is part Four of a series of blogposts critiquing the ads in the National Post’s Special Report on Small Business for Oct. 17. Eights ads down (some of them thumbs-down!), and three to go.

On page 12 we find a tall, thin 1/3 page ad for ADP, the payroll and benefits people. The headline offers a classic technique, the rhetorical question: “Isn’t it time you stopped playing Hide & Go Seek with your hidden payroll costs?” But I’m not sure what that means. And I can’t imagine an entrepreneur who would admit to doing that anyway.

I like the body copy much better: “Doing your payroll with an accounting software package can mean unexpected costs. Lost productivity. Expensive technology upgrades. Penalties for late tax remittances...”

Marketers are supposed to identify their prospects’ pains before offering solutions. ADP does that very well – once you get past that head-scratching headline.

Page 13 is a right-hand, full-page ad for Lenovo that poses a much punchier question: “How much is your life worth?” (“Your notebook is your life. Drop it and you could lose everything. That’s why the ThinkPad T60 has a magnesium alloy rollcage…”)

The graphic shows a cool-looking Lenovo laptop (still equipped with the IBM logo, I see) suspended in space – or it could be plunging to the ground. But I’ve seen laptops before. A photo of a business owner looking lost or frantic with his PC in pieces on the floor would make a much more arresting graphic.

The ad goes on to compare two lists of hardware specs. I don't think entrepreneurs read these – they're for geeks. I would have used that space to tell another story.

Finally, page 14 features a half-page HP ad (although the Intel logo at the top of the ad is bigger and more prominent than HP’s). The picture shows something cutting up the face of an analog clock while the headline reads, “Why take hours to configure your servers when you can cut it down to 15 minutes?”

Another of those rhetorical questions you find yourself asking almost every day…

The small print says those Intel Dual-Core processors can get any job done faster. But I doubt many business owners get to the fine print. They have things to do. Between the incoherent graphic and the incomprehensible headline (or was it the other way 'round?), they probably called it a day.

The score: a couple of great messages from Rogers, and some promise by a few of the banks. For the most part, a disappointing array of ads.

And the worst part is that the advertisers will probably blame the Post when they find out their ads have no impact.

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