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by Dan O'Day

Unless you're doing "Institutional" or "Image" advertising -- which ad agencies love but which usually are bad investments for advertisers -- your advertising should have a clear Call to Action. This is especially true for local retail advertising, which is the lifeblood of commercial radio.

Contrary to popular belief, a "good" commercial is not one that wins awards. It's not one that everyone tells you they love. It's not even one that the client tells you he loves, nor the one your audience hums along with.

A "good" commercial is one that motivates the listener to act on the sales message:

To go to the automobile showroom and test-drive the vehicle.

To sample the fragrance at the department store's perfume counter.

To pick up the phone, dial the toll-free number, and request the free information booklet.

(As David Ogilvy said, "Don't tell me you love my ad. Tell me you bought the product.")

There is nothing as powerful as a Sense of Urgency to motivate people to act. (That is why it is far easier to sell a cure than it is to sell a prevention.)

"Limited supply" -- if genuine and if communicated convincingly -- can lend a sense of urgency to a sales offer. (Think about past holiday seasons when parents frantically ran all over town, searching for the nearly-impossible-to-find "Tickle Me Elmo" or "Cabbage Patch" dolls.)

The limited supply might refer to the product itself. Or it might refer to some sort of bonus and/or Gift With Purchase.

Another very strong incentive to act is embodied in a deadline.

In the U.S., we are required to report our income to the Internal Revenue Service. For individual taxpayers, the annual deadline for filing their tax returns is April 15.

Based upon a completely nonscientific survey I've made of people I've met in life, I'd estimate that 43% of American taxpayers mail their income tax returns on April 14 or 15.

Why do they wait so long?

Is it because April 15 is just too darned early in the year? If income tax returns weren't due until, say, June 15, would everyone file their returns in May?

No. They'd file on June 14 or 15.


Because true, enforceable deadlines are among the strongest motivators known to humans. (I don't suppose you've ever stayed up all night finishing a school report...or a sales proposal for which you've had weeks during which to prepare.)

The following is not a deadline:

"With prices like these, you know they won't last forever!"

Neither is:

"Hurry, this sale ends soon!"

A deadline is:

"Friday night at 9."

"December 31."

"Tomorrow at Noon."

Grocery stores understand this. Odds are the supermarket you patronize has weekly "specials." They probably begin on Thursday and expire the following Wednesday. They don't advertise their "storewide savings." Instead, they offer something of genuine, measurable value -- a great bargain -- for a very limited time.

Week after week after week.


To motivate grocery shoppers to return to their supermarkets week after week after week.

The more you can educate your clients regarding the wisdom of making genuine, valuable special offers with deadlines, the more money you can make for them.

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