Insights from Reality in Advertising

One of my former mentors recently asked me if I had read the book Reality in Advertising by Rosser Reeves.  I had not, but I immediately picked up a copy of the book after he shared with me his business coach, Jay Abraham, had recommended it.

The book itself has a simple concept … find your unique selling position, make sure it resonates with your target audience, and stick with it.  It’s 36 short and concise chapters highlight high level case studies and principles without addressing the tactical aspects of implementation.  Understanding theory and being able to execute on it are two entirely different things.  With that in mind, I recommend you read the book first with an open mind.  Then reread it as you think about one area of your business specifically.

I always like to jot down the “nuggets” or “aha moments” I have from a book.  Below are the ones I took from my first two reads of Reality in Advertising:

  • “A single study is very much like a single observation of the stars when a racing sailboat is at sea.  It may tell you where you are at that precise moment, but it will not reveal where you have been, how fast you are moving, nor how to judge the winds and currents which are carrying you along.  Nor does it tell you the speed, position, and course of your competitors.”
  • “Does your story work?  Does it pull people over to your product?”
  • “The lost sale, genetically, is like the baby that was never born.”
  • “Too frequent change of your advertising campaign destroys penetration.”
  • “Unless a product becomes outmoded, a great campaign will not wear itself out.”
  • “The consumer tends to remember just one thing from an advertisement – one strong claim, or one strong concept.”
  • “I like to think of the bits and pieces of a product’s individuality as pieces of tile. They must be assembled, like a mosaic, into one striking and memorable theme, for the public simply cannot carry all the individual pieces in its head.”
  • “Penetration – which may be defined as ‘what is is possible for the consumer to carry in his head.’ For most people do not rush right out and buy.”
  • “Each advertisement must make a proposition to the consumer. Not just words, not just product puffery, not just show-window advertising. Each advertisement must say to each reader: ‘Buy this product, and you will get this specific benefit.'”
  • “The reason the advertisements have no real message. They vanish into the underbrush of advertising. Written by copywriters who do not understand reality, they disappear into a fog of sameness, triteness, and triviality. Most of them have interchangeable parts, like a Ford.”
  • “The agency can induce the client to change his product, improve his product. …If the product cannot be changed, and remains identical, it is possible to tell the public something about that product which has never been revealed before. …The first big advertiser can preempt the USP.”
  • “Any copy in advertising is an argument. It is literally throwing down a challenge to the reader … saying: ‘Let’s argue about this.’ The human reaction to any statement of claim is ‘Wait a minute! Who says so?’ Built into copy is the presupposition of rejection.”
  • “Play the game of spotting the pictures that do no go with the words.”
  • “Keep his useful words on the sound track and devise useful pictures to accompany them on the screen.”
  • “Cut down on frequency and reach out for more and more people.”

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