Guru of ads
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Fourteen Rules of The Guru

1) SUCCESS OR FAILURE. If the ad works, it is a great ad no matter how many rules are broken or how bad it may look, smell or taste. If the ad is not working, it is wretchedly bad no matter how clever the production.

2) FOCUS ON THE MAGIC WAND QUESTION. Ask all the standard marketing questions…but focus on: "If we wave a Magic Ward what specific result do we want from advertising". Caution: answer must be specific! "More shoppers" is vague. "More women looking for low priced leather couches" is specific. Read more on the magic wand question.























Questions to Ask

Magic Wand

Frequency Guidelines

How to Measure Results

Quality Control Checklist































Questions to Ask

Magic Wand

Frequency Guidelines

How to Measure Results

Quality Control Checklist















Questions to Ask

Magic Wand

Frequency Guidelines

How to Measure Results

Quality Control Checklist






























Questions to Ask

Magic Wand

Frequency Guidelines

How to Measure Results

Quality Control Checklist



3) KISS. Keep it simple stupid. Just one main thought or concept per ad. One and only one. AFLAC! When you add more thoughts, the results dilute geometrically.

4) KISS CONSISTENTLY. Develop a standard look, feel, and style that repeats itself in every ad. As long as the theme is working, run the same theme forever. The Pillsbury Dough Boy is forever.

5) KISS WITHOUT CLICHÉS, BUT WITH STRENGTH. Whenever you see a cliché in the copy, purge it. (Friendly professionals serving the community needs since 1956.) Whenever your TV shots are visual clichés (car dealer in row of cars) purge them! Then KISS with the product or service that is the strong seller or the high profit.

6) THE SOUND OF SILENCE. Watch your ad with the sound muted. This will test the effect of the ad in a crowded room or when the volume is down.

7) SOS SPELLS DISASTER. Selling Obvious Stuff (SOS) is a waste. If an ad for a cosmetics clinic is focused on selling the concept of beauty; the ad is selling the obvious. Of course women want beauty - duh! Instead sell the reasons to visit our advertiser. "Betty's Botox lasts longer and costs less!"

8) IDENTIFY THE POINT OF ENTRY. To get a new customer, identify the reason they contact you for the first time. If a pet store wants to sell parrots the point of entry is usually a parakeet. The typical parrot buyer is a man with kids and he first comes to a pet store to get his kids a parakeet. To get the parrot buyer we advertise parakeets.

9) THE FOUR FIDDLERS OF RETAIL. This rule particularly applies to auto dealers and furniture stores.
1) Have a consistent spokesperson or spokes animal or a theme with a twist.
2) Stake a claim to some unique position, niche or brand identity (Truck-King, used car superstore, etc.).
3) Include a call to action and tout selection.
4) Hook the viewer at the end with some offbeat catch phrase or jingle.

10) TAGS ARE FOR DOGS. Avoid tags in co-op. Avoid generic national footage with little localized content. If it's a competitive category we want local identity instead.

11) TEST DRIVE THE SPOT. Find someone in the building who represents the target audience and show them the spot. It is critical the target audience get the message we are trying to convey.

12) THE COSMIC TIME TRAP. If the targeted customer is a busy person, especially working moms, offer them a way to buy from you and save time. Example "Park at the door."

13) CHEESE TO CHEESE - STEAK TO STEAK. If your targeted customer is cheesy, give them cheesy ads. If the customer is more upscale, the production now requires the sizzle of filet mignon.

14) USE LOCAL TALENT. All across America, cities have local acting groups. The acting groups are loaded with talent and work for small fees. They love doing ads.

-Local Ad Agency/Worcester, Massachusetts

-Local TV Rep or production as they point the finger of blame at each other at a nationwide happening!

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Questions The Guru always asks clients.

1. Briefly, what is the history of your business?
" Opened in 1989 as Fireworks City. Exploded in 2002. Rebuilt. We got a lot of bad press so I changed the name to Fireworks Heaven in 2003."

2. What is the trend in sales today?
" Sales are up 5%, but behind in annual goal of $800,000."

3. What are your products or services by volume and profit?
"By volume. Air burst rockets 50%. Cherry Bombs etc. 35%. Twirlers and sparklers 15%. By profit. Air burst rockets 45% markup. The rest is 20% mark up."

4. Who are the core customers? Males, 16 to 39? 70% blue collar? Nascar fans? Adrenaline freaks? 90% Caucasian? From 100 mile radius?

5. What are your seasonal variations?
"Sales are 60% leading into July 4th. 30% New Year. The rest of the year is boredom on a stick."

6. Who is the competition and how do you compare? "
Fireworks Frannie drives me crazy. She has half my selection, but I'm in a bad location so my prices are 10 % cheaper and she still sells more than I do."

7. Where and when do you advertise?
Print Advertising? Full page sports section on July 2nd and December 26th.
Radio Advertising? A full week prior to each holiday on nine stations. With the Conglomerate Group about 20 spots each station.
Cable TV? Two systems in July and December, each one gives me 100 spots to run. We spread it out over 5 different channels.
Broadcast TV? Late night shows on KBAG and also on KCOW.
Direct mail? No direct mail.

8. What about billboards, yellow pages, web site or anything else?
"I cut out yellow pages years ago. I have one board on the highway, and it is great. No web site. I'm planning to try movie theater ads this year."

9. What works, what fails, and what is fuzzy? What does each cost?
" My print is $10,000 a year. It used to work, but no more. Radio has failed me miserably after spending $13,000 last year. Arrgh. TV was $3,000 for cable and $3,000 for broadcast. It may work. The billboard works by giving directions. It cost me $4,000. I really should do direct mail to my customer base. Those movie theater ads will be $1,000 total."

10. Describe your usual message. How do you deal with price? Do you have any consistent theme or slogan? "
"I always show the newest big bang rockets; that's what people want. I never mention prices and our slogan is 'Big Bob has Big Bangs for Big Boys.'"

11. What is the point of entry? That is, when a new customer finds you what do they usually ask you or what do they usually want?
"A lot of them are just discovering us again, they think we were closed down after the fire so they are surprised to find us open again. Do the hideous burns on my face bother you?

12.The Magic Wand Question .What one specific thing do you want advertising to accomplish? Wave it. The Guru grants one wish.
"I want more people to know we have rebuilt the store after the explosion, and its' bigger and better than ever."
Note: This is the most important question of the day. For a better explanation of this question see the Magic Wand Question.

With this information we can easily focus our message on a simple announcement "Big Bob is back in a new location, bigger and better than ever."

We believe in concentration of the advertising budget. Because we know what works and what does not, we also can now suggest he eliminate the advertising which has failed in the past and bulk up on the media which has succeeded.

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Magic Wand

During interviews with business owners I would often walk away with my normal questions properly asked, yet still be unclear on my priorities. Then I discovered the Magic Wand question. I have used it a thousand times since that moment of discovery.

Here is how it works. After you have asked all the normal questions, ask the Magic Wand Question.

Mr. Storeowner, pretend I really am a Guru and in my hand is a magic wand. I wave it and shazam you have been granted one wish. What is the one thing you want to accomplish as a direct result of your advertising?

Note to Guru U students and business owners, the wish has to be very specific. A wish for "more customers" is not specific. A wish for "more customers who will buy four wheel drive trucks" is very specific.

The wish must also be realistic. "I want more people to buy air conditioning in December." Sorry not gonna happen.

Remember, we said only one wish. Here is a real life example. The client said they wanted to sell more of their unique Amish furniture, promote their lifetime guarantee, their weekend hours and talk up their beautiful country location. I was very stingy and insisted that they could have only one wish.

The store owner thought hard then said. "I hear I have a bad location. People have a hard time finding me. The location is obscure. I think if I could just convey my location I would get a lot more new customers. I am the only one with Amish Furniture, but I'm hidden."

A thunderbolt! There it is. The major problem is now on the table,and he never mentioned it in the course of normal questioning. Now our chances of helping have increased. Doing a marketing plan is now easy.

TITLE OF PLAN: Making it easy for for shoppers to find Amish Furniture.

MESSAGE CONCEPT: How to find the store! The video will show the sign as if from a car on I -24 at exit 40. Then we can use the camera to follow the car right to the store itself. Finally, show the Amish Furniture waiting for us inside.

Last note to Guru U student: If you have several people in your questioning session, be generous and grant each one a wish. In most cases they all agree. The store owners already know what they need to prioritize, but they aren't doing it. This is where we come in. As outside advisors, we hope to cut through the clutter and help them see the forest.

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Frequency Guidelines

Often I am asked, “What does it take to achieve high frequency?" The answer requires an understanding of the logic behind high frequency. Let us first examine three of the leading philosophies behind our requirements for high frequency.

The Glass Analogy is attributed to its inventor; James H. Doyle of Upgrade Selling, and it basically goes like this: If you have a pitcher full of water and many water glasses on a table, you can put a little bit of water in each glass. Or you could fill a couple to the brim, and let the rest go empty.

Allocating little drips and drabs of your advertising budget in too many places means your results will suffer. According to Doyle, it is far better to choose a few glasses and fill them to the brim. In real life hundreds of business owners have taken the advice and consider Doyle a marketing visionary.

Attila The Hun Mandate. This move was invented by a radical radio salesperson. If you recall, Attila the Hun conquered the weak and gained in strength. When choosing media for advertising, apply the Attila Mandate and take advertising money from the weak and give it to the strong.

Attila defines strong media as “that which works best for the bucks spent.” The strong media may not be the top rated station; it could well be a runty station that works best. Weak media is defined as that which does not work and deserves to be pillaged.

Media Mix is Dead. The Guru at the Virginia State Broadcasters Convention voiced the "media mix is dead" obituary in 2001. In the last century, "media mix” meant a good campaign had elements of daily newspaper, weeklies, outdoor, radio, broadcast television, cable television, direct mail, etc. The Guru preaches domination of just a few media outlets instead of media mix. Instead of a long list of media outlets we buy one radio station, one TV outlet, and one newspaper. We dominate the ones we do buy, and let the rest go hungry.

Historical Background. Before we go forward, wisdom dictates you ask yourself how these newer theories became successful. The answer is simple. Fragmentation made it happen. Twenty or thirty years ago most cities had a handful of radio or TV stations, cable was weak, the paper was dominant. That day is history. Now media fragmentation is the norm. Trying to reach all people all the time is impossible, and the shotgun approach fails. Matching specific media to specific audience became a more efficient rifle approach. But wait, there is more! Newspapers are looking more like dinosaurs, but what about radio and TV? The airwaves are so cluttered that even when you target the audience carefully one shot will not bag the quarry. Hence we enter the era of the machine gun approach. Running high frequency to a specific audience to break through the clutter really works.

Specific Guidelines:

The following guidelines are what we preach as we advise thousands of retailers across the USA. The guidelines are not an exact science, but our clients are happy with us. The intent is to give you basic rules of thumb. If in doubt, always err on the side of high frequency.

RADIO: If a Run-of Station schedule, you want 40 spots per week on any one station. This can be reduced if you narrow the day-part to just morning drive or mid day etc.

CABLE TV: If a Run-of Station schedule, you want 40 spots per week per any one channel chosen. Thus if we are using Lifetime in our campaign, we want to be there at 40 a week. As in radio, the frequency can be reduced if you are choosing a narrow day-part or a specific program.

BROADCAST TV: Buy only specific programs and run in any chosen program at a minimum three times a week. For example, if you run the 6 pm local news, you want at least three a week. Avoid broad rotators. What to do with a show that airs only once a week like ER? Buy multiple spots..

NEWSPAPER: When you look at industry figures, it becomes clear the daily newspaper is not suited to high frequency. In fact their own statistics in Starch and ABC newspaper performance reports prove the best bet is to advertise once a week. Running the same ad a second day generates a very small increase in the number of people who see the ad. In the field our standard advice to people who choose the newspaper is to run one B.A.P. (Big as Possible) per week. Price and item seems to work a lot better than image advertising in newspapers.

DIRECT MAIL: The advice I give is based on a pattern of “diminishing returns.” In essence, the same type of mailer will generate its best return the first time out. The more often a mailer is used the lower the result. As a general rule, once a quarter is a good bet.

BILLBOARDS: The big, giant boards on the Interstate seem to work the best. Directional boards get results. The standard, smaller city boards require high frequency or “showing” as they call it in the industry. Ideally you want to have a showing of 50% or better with small boards. That means 50% of the people in the area will see the board in the course of a month. Avoid more than six or seven words on the entire board.

WEB SITES- I am not an expert in how to make your web site work, but I can give you two ironclad guidelines I am dead certain about. A) You must have a web site of some form, even if it’s just basic information. Having no web site today means you do not exist. B) Web sites are great for shoppers who want information and lots of detail about your business and your products or services. For all other questions, I suggest you review the web sites of your more savvy competitors to see what they are doing and then call in an expert.

How to Measure Results

On America's streets, I am often asked by station owners "How do we measure advertising results?"

I believe that the station owners must have some measurability or they will get a client cancellation. Here are four sticks by which to measure advertising success.


This is the least reliable of all measures. Basically the customer is asked, "How did you hear about us." Answers will range from the reasonable to the absurd. Answers will include media being used and media not being used. To make the Ear-Meter work you must include something in the commercial that generates comments; for example, using the owner in the ad.


This is a very reliable measure but it cannot be reviewed alone as it appears in your client's sales reports. To make the Sales-Meter work, you must measure sales over a period of time and then factor in all outside influences: market statistics, the sales of the competitors, seasonal variances, plus any internal issues your client has with product, services and staff. A success may well be an increase or holding a sales loss to 2% in an environment when everyone else is down 8%.

In some competitive categories, data exists to allow you to calculate your clients gain or loss of their share of sales in a market. Auto dealers all have this data. If your Ford dealer goes from a 24% share of Ford sales to 30% in the local market - that is a win. Your state usually reports tax dollars collected in certain categories like furniture. If your furniture store pays an increasing share of total tax collected they are selling a greater share of the furniture - that is a win. Very often the manufacturer's rep who calls on your client knows who has what for market share.


This is a great survey you can conduct on behalf of your client. Survey at random about 100 people who represent the target demo. You goal is to discover where your client is positioned in the brain of the consumer. Ideally you would do this before a campaign runs, then again after it runs and measure the changes. If you do this yourself you must buy and read "Positioning the Battle for Your Mind" by Reis and Trout. Here is a sample for a law firm:

If I ask you to give me the names of several law firms, what names come to your mind?

This will give you the relative strength of your client's position in the general category of law. Now we want to see where they stand in specific areas.

Who is the biggest law firm _______________
Who is the most expensive________________
Who has the best lawyers_________________
Who would you consider for advice on:
Buying a home_____________________
Retirement planning_________________
A car accident______________________
A very serious injury claim____________
A drunk driving charge_______________

Finally, we want to know what image, if any, our client has in the mind of the average Joe.

What comes to your mind when I mention some names?
Law Firm A___________________________ Law Firm B (our client)_________


This is a very reliable way to be sure you are advertising to the right people on the right media. Ideally, the Media-Meter would become a routine part of your client's business to build a database over time.

Media Survey Questions: (Customize for the particular business)

1. Have you ever purchased from us in the past? YES NO How often________

2. Did you check the newspaper prior to shopping? YES NO
If yes, which publication:
a. Local daily paper
b. Nearby daily paper
c. Local shopper
d. ____________ Other

3. Do you subscribe to the daily newspaper? YES NO If yes, do you subscribe DAILY or just SUNDAY?
On a typical weekday how many minutes do you spend reading the paper _____
On a typical Sunday how many minutes do you spend reading the paper______

4 List your three favorite radio stations or radio personalities_______________________ ________________________________________________________________________

5. When you wake up in the morning do you turn on the TV? YES NO
If yes what do you usually watch: ____________________________________________

6. For the local news during the day and at night, what local TV station do you usually watch: ________________________________________________________________________

7. What are your favorite programs on television during the daytime on your local TV stations? ________________________________________________________________________

8. Your three favorite programs on television at night on your local TV stations: _________________________________________________________________________

9. Circle either CABLE or SATELLITE if you subscribe, and if so circle the time of the day when you usually watch cable networks. MORNING DAYTIME NIGHT OVERNIGHT

10. What are your three favorite networks or shows on the cable or satellite during the day_______________________________________________________________________,
and your three favorite at night ________________________________________________.

11. If you received 5 pieces of direct mail in your mailbox in any one day, how many of those will you usually read__________?

12. Did you use the Internet to find our store or research our services? YES NO

Note- Ideally the client will fill in some estimates on the customer demographics for example: Age____ Sex_____Blue Collar____White Collar____Zip Code_____Income_____ Etc____.


Quality Control Checklist

CLIENT NAME ____________________________
Sales rep__________________________________

Sales Rep Checks:
Magic Wand Wish
Is it simple? Yes No
Is it realistic? Yes No
Is it specific? Yes No
Point of entry is:
Strength of client is:
Call to action is:
Cleared to Production by________________________

Production Dept Checks:
Does this copy obey the KISS Rule? Yes No
To Magic Wand Wish is clear?Yes No
Point of Entry is clear? Yes No
Strength of the client is promoted? Yes No
Is Blah Blah Blah purged? Yes No
Is there a call to action? Yes No
Consistency from past? Yes No NA
Is co-op localized? Yes No NA
Cleared to Produce by____________(Your initials)

Post-Production Field Test:
After watching the ad the message they got what was what?
Magic wand wish implanted? Yes No
Call to action implanted? Yes No
Cleared to Air by_______________________________

In-Flight Checks with Client
Date done with (client name)

Client level of happiness with our efforts
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
With the actual results
1 2 3 4 5 7 8 9 10
Clear to continue on Air by_______________________

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