In a recent MondayMorningMemo (email newsletter), Roy Williams, writing about radio advertising, tells us a truth that really disturbs some people: "The ads we hate often work better than the ads we love." (Counterintuitive Radio)
In fact, the ads that everybody loves usually don't accomplish their purpose; that ones that generate all the complaints are the ads that bring home the bacon. Williams points out:
- Voices that belong on the radio are easy to ignore. Voices that don't belong on the radio usually sell more product.
- "Smooth ads" are built from worn-out phrases that are likewise easy to ignore. Effective ads often feature broken sentences. Half sentences. Non-sequiturs.
- Music beds "sound good" because they help blur the ads into the format. This makes the ads ... easier to ignore.
- Humor is like nitroglycerine.
This is also true about most forms of marketing, especially fundraising.
Things that are "rough," "loud," and strange work. The big winners always generate the most complaints.
Things designers don't like to design because it doesn't look so great in their portfolio. Copy writers sometimes resist writing because it's not elegant and refined the way they work so hard to be. And broadcast producers will fight like crazy to make your message blend in with everything else on the air like seamless aural wallpaper.
Our job as fundraisers is not to create a restful, tasteful, vaguely pleasant experience. It's to make a noise that startles donors to action.
This is why effective direct mail is almost never pretty.
But the results it generates to make the world a better place: Pure beauty.