Be useful.

People will only respond positively to your commercial communication if they find it useful.

Relevance isn’t enough. In fact, striving for relevance can be harmful. Relevance too often leads to irritating communication. Too rational. Too intrusive. Too repetitive. Too creepy.

There’s a big difference between a relevant advert and a useful advert. To their audience, useful adverts have both a useful message and a useful execution. The usefulness of an execution can be down to the clarity of benefits and ease of consumption, or it can be judged by its entertainment value or the kudos the audience gains by sharing it with friends. For example, how relevant was the first Ipren man TV commercial? Not very (it was on TV for a start), but it was extremely useful to the target audience, tripling brand share in a month.

A small increase in the usefulness of your communication reaps big rewards. That’s not an opinion or speculation. That is, in fact, a fact. And a well researched fact at that.

You can find out more useful stuff about this below, along with a ton of other useful information that could transform your commercial communications.

If you’d like to find out even more, then please get in touch and I’ll be happy to make myself useful.

Producing truly effective communication is simple. Just do the following:

Create useful messages

that promise to improve lives

Deliver them usefully

in ways that connect viscerally
But for it to be simple you need to invest in understanding your audiences completely. And the best way to do this is to observe their behaviour.
We rarely buy stuff for the reasons we give others or even ourselves, but our behaviour always gives us away.
Nine times out of ten the required investment to ascertain behaviour is only in time. I’ll bet you’re already sitting on all of the data you need. No need to buy more.

If you’d like to know more, then please call (070 5895846).

Useful media.

Media choice and deployment has a huge influence on the usefulness of a campaign.

For example, depending on whether you’re planning a direct response campaign, or a fame* campaign, different media should be used, and they should be used quite differently. Direct response is able to stand far more media abuse. Reasonable campaign responses, and often the highest levels of cost efficiency, can be gained from the cheapest (in every sense of the word) media such as graveyards in print, e-mail, telemarketing, TV shopping channels, and most of the internet.

Fame campaigns, on the other hand, are far more sensitive. The message is often a story that the audience needs to relate to on an emotional level, and the media used plays a big part in the success of that process.

* What’s a ‘fame’ campaign? It’s a communication campaign designed to make a product or service famous for a certain property (or set of properties) within its potential market. Sometimes direct response campaigns can achieve this on their own, particularly for value brands, but most of the time they can’t, and so fame campaigns are needed.

Want to know what on Earth I’m going on about? Click, click, clickety, click.

Useful tips.

Make them laugh or make them angry

Or both. Often the bigger the laugh from one section, the more the other section gets annoyed. It’s the quickest way to connect and get them engaged. Most campaigns don’t manage a laugh because they don’t want to risk anger, and so all they achieve is wallpaper.

Uniting against is easier than uniting for

It’s easier to unite people against something. Much more difficult to unite them for something. It’s the entire basis of the success of Virgin, Sverigedemokraterna (in fact, pretty much all political parties) and organisations like Sea Shepard. Highlighting others’ problems gathers a bigger crowd more quickly than offering your own solutions.

More useful creative generates a better return than more media

If you’re unkown, a ton of media will make even an average advert do something by simply raising awareness of your name. But don’t be fooled into thinking you can get away with this for long.

Know when you're sponsoring amateur hour and understand the risks

Outside of the Internet, few companies advertise on unedited media produced by kids who spend a little too much time in their bedrooms. And if they do, they understand the risks and price it accordingly.

Never look at your target audience through a mirror

One of the most common problems. Usually caused by ‘gut-feel’ and perpetuated by the fact that if you work in advertising and create a campaign that appeals to yourself, then it’ll appeal to your peers, and your peers give out awards. In the meantime, your client’s target audience will ignore it.

The average coupon response in 1986 was 2.5%. Today, digital response is about 50 times worse

It’s mainly because advertisers have lost consumers’ trust through 20 years of useless online adverts. Thirty years ago there was enough useful information in the ads that people knew what they were letting themselves in for. Today, it’s seen as a crap shoot with the dice loaded heavily against the consumer.

Showing up to a social event with an agenda can get awkward quickly

And social media is a social event.

Don't be dishonest

General disappointment with the performance of digital media has put a focus on those who’ve been representing the interests of advertisers. And it seems many, if not all of the media agency groups have had their hand in the till. To be fair to Ronnie Biggs, he never managed to steal anywhere near as much as they’ve managed to.

40 to 45 seconds is the most efficient TV spotlength

The combination of the flaws in linear TV audience measurement, how reach is built with TV, and the way TV channels charge for different spotlengths mean that 40 and 45″ films are the cheapest in terms of the cost per awareness point generated.

Multiple posters bought in the same location is a waste of money

Unless the creative execution calls for it.

You’re much better off placing a single poster in as many different locations as possible. If you feel the need to place multiple posters in a single location in order to be seen, then your creative execution isn’t useful to your audience.

Know when you're doing direct response or fame advertising

Direct response is selling off the page/screen. There’s an immediate reason to buy offered in the communication. This usually isn’t the reason people should trust you (or at least it isn’t the entire reason). This is provided within the fame communication. This makes you famous for something that you can be trusted to deliver. It can be as simple as strengthening a reputation for actually delivering the goods on offer, or as complex as delivering cool.

Direct response communication can sometimes deliver the fame (especially with value brands), but more often than not it can’t.

Putting the message in the first 2 seconds of your online video ad isn't going to work

Apparently, on average, people watch less than 2 seconds of online video ads. What do you think they’re doing during those two seconds? They’re desperately trying to find the off button. The only way someone could be less receptive to your message is if they were dead.

Don't pay for badly handled ads

The medium is also the message. If the medium you’ve paid for your ad to be exposed within doesn’t expose it in accordance with what has been agreed (or if they do something as stupid as what you can see above), don’t pay for it.

Always buy audience or response; never spots, pages, sites, banners...

If you don’t know the audience you’ll be getting for any media buy (who, how many, when, and in what environment they’ll be delivered within), then you shouldn’t be buying it.

Most of the audience you buy in any medium doesn't automatically exist

How many are brought into existence is dependent upon how useful your creative work is to them. For example, on average less than 50% of TV ratings are seen, though this can be drastically increased with useful creative. Useful creative is even more important in print, online, posters and radio when trying to convert bought audience into actual audience.

You know it's easy to work out an average market price for commercial media right?

It’s just supply over demand, or revenue divided by audience delivered. Both aren’t that difficult to find out. Know this and you know if you’re being ripped off.

If you can't find a use, use language

Apple use it all the time with product upgrades. And if it can make them the most valuable company in the world…

And did you know that 8 out of 10 advertisers say they prefer Useful?

Don’t try to get people to like you by telling them that they’re wrong

What do Hillary Clinton, the Remain side of the Brexit vote, and Lidl all have in common? Their communication has been aimed at telling those people that don’t like them that they’re wrong. And the results have been predictable. All would’ve done a lot better if they’d confidently communicated what their fans like about them instead. Don’t believe me? Hillary, Remain, Lidl…you’re wrong.

How does that feel?

Phrasing lies as questions allows communicators to get away with murder

Companies, organisations and people have been destroyed by carefully constructed questions. While others have been turned into huge successes.

Here’s a couple of examples:

Are today’s advertising agencies really so useless that over 90% of the campaigns they churn out have pretty much no positive effect and waste billions of dollars of their clients’ budgets? And how quickly will Useful be able to fix these advertisers’ woes?

Contact me, and I’ll give you an answer.

You might not want to use this trick, but you should be ready when others use it against you.

The audience you pay for when you buy outdoor posters has less than a second to see your ad

The vast majority of people you’re paying for are inside a vehicle. And that includes bus stop sites. If your execution can’t be seen and understood in around three quarters of a second, you’ve wasted most of your media money.

Buying all of the ad pages in a magazine (or breaks on a TV channel) is a waste of money

The only place it gets you noticed is the advertising trade press. If your target audience weren’t impressed when they saw your first ad, they’ll be pitying you by the time they see the fourth. And if they were impressed with your first ad? Well, you can work out the rest.

Don't be a snob

Communicate with confidence, but don’t look down on your target audience.

The same goes for your adverts

…because beautiful is useful.

There's never been a better time to get the over-fifties

The over-fifties have all of the money (and will accumulate even more of it as interest rates rise), and they’re easier to reach with commercial media than ever, because they’re consuming more than ever. There’s also over 12% more of them than there was 10 years ago and they’re now almost half the adult population.

They’re less responsive to advertising, so you need to know what you’re doing when communicating with them (but that’s easy enough to learn – we can help you with that), but once you’ve got them. You’ve got them. And the cost to get them is a fraction of younger audiences. If you’re not targeting the over-fifties, then start now.

Incredibly, someone got paid to produce this poster rather than banned from ever doing it again

Everyone passing this poster is in a car. They have less than a second to see it. This is not new information. It’s been known for decades. Yet agencies continue to put press ads on this expensive medium that can’t possibly be comprehended. And it happens all the time. Go ahead. Next time you’re out on the roads see how many posters you can read (including bus stop posters where most of the audience you’re paying for are passing in a car).

Running more than one creative execution will generate more effect from the same media spend

Show a bunch of people two (or more) different executions rather than one and you’ll get a greater positive response. Even if you have the exact same message, but done in different colours (some people prefer green, some red, some yellow, etc).

Are they really working for you?

In Bob Hoffman’s new book, BadMen, he discovers some disturbing facts about the digital media industry and the agencies who were supposed to be policing it on behalf of their clients.

Any media market that needs a 70% discount to achieve an average market price is likely to be corrupt

When there’s an unusual amount of air in a ratecard, someone’s probably getting a bung.

Native advertising is seen as deceptive

43% of adults in the US say they feel disappointed or deceived by native ads, with this percentage increasing with age. A fifth of people say they think worse of a brand that uses native ads, while a tenth are more positive. So common sense is right sometimes.

A lot of people doubt themselves. Removing that doubt is very useful.

Why do so many people buy experience gifts from experience gift companies when they could buy far better experiences for a fraction of the price if they spent five minutes using Google? Because they doubt themselves. Especially in unfamiliar situations.

Experience gift (and many other) companies know that removing doubt is very profitable. Good fame advertising is a key component in building enough trust to remove doubt, making it extremely useful to insecure consumers.

Use me.


To tell you in detail who would find you useful.

To tell you why and when they might find you useful. (This is not always obvious. People often use what you produce very differently, and for quite different reasons than you or, even in many instances, they think they’re using it for).

To tell you where communicating with them would prove most useful to them.

To tell you what messages about you they will find most useful.

To tell you which method of communicating those messages that would be most useful to them.

To create and produce and deploy those messages.

To plan, negotiate and buy any and all media needed to deliver those messages.

And if you’d like me to write or check your English copy I’d be happy to do that too.

Useful work.

Putting a ‘trade’ ad from a third party into broad media consumed by the the advertiser’s target audience (in this case Lidl) is an interesting and effective way of getting a difficult-to-believe (but true) message across. The audience grabs hold of the information because they think they’re overhearing a conversation they shouldn’t.

Brands I’ve helped.

Angostura Bitters
Aco Vitamins
Box Experience
British Airways
Castlemaine XXXX
Danske Bank
Gillette Gel
Grant’s Whisky
Head & Shoulders

Hewlett Packard
Kellogg’s Cornflakes
Live It
Natrel Plus
Oil of Olay
Red Cross

Right Guard
Ritter Sport
Silja Line
Stanley tools
Stockholm Stadsmission
Sunny Jim
Svensk Hypotekspension
Swan Lager
Tetley’s Bitter
Timotei shampoo
Turkish Tourist Board
Twinnings Tea
Uncle Ben’s