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By Dick Maggiore and Mark Vandegrift

Attention and Substance in the Practice of Positioning

The Practice of Positioning = Substance + Sizzle

If you read our post on Super Bowl ads, you may have noticed that our picks routinely (year in and year out) differ wildly from those of Ad Age, the industry's published mouthpiece for Madison Avenue big company advertising. As the leading agency ion the practice of positioning, the reason for the difference is a matter of philosophy versus mere opinion.

As the nation's leading agency in the practice of positioning, we believe that advertising is primarily a business tool, paid for by advertisers, to affect sales and profit. If it didn't affect these things, we would be hard pressed to keep our doors open.

A great ad is not measured in applause or accolades for the agency. It is measured in how close it aligns to the practice of positioning and the rewards delivered to clients, chief among these are brand traction, sales traction, market share, ROI -- the stuff of real business success. Unfortunately, many in our industry are of the opinion that advertising's primary job today is entertainment. Entertain them, and they will buy goes the theory. The correlation seems logical, but is it? The practice of positioning will tell you that it isn't.

Certainly, some aspect of entertainment is needed for any ad to be effective since people are not paying attention. In the practice of positioning, getting attention is a daunting task. If the ad goes unnoticed, it will be ignored. Truly, the first job is getting the attention of the prospect. If this takes entertainment value, so be it.

To get attention, it is crucial to say what you need to say like it has never been said before. So, we are not anti-entertainment in the sense that for advertising to engage, it cannot be dull or boring. It has to stand out and attract attention.

What we are against is advertising that wastes the attention it struggles so mightily to get by failing to deliver the advertiser's advantage or brand positioning. Advertising for advertising's sake is wildly different than doing it for the advertiser's sake.

Ads that build the reputation of the agency more than the client's reputation is nefarious -- a villainous waste of time and trust. Moreover, merely to indulge in creative acrobatics, is not being creative.

The creative agency has to be disciplined in the practice of positioning so that every thought, every idea, every word, every expression or copy line makes more vivid, more believable, and more persuasive the product advantage the advertiser (client) wishes to convey. Everything we do must be done in accordance with this purpose and the practice of positioning. You cannot leave the selling idea on the cutting room floor.

On the other hand, the advertiser has to convey the product advantage through the practice of positioning in such a way that people feel it in their gut. If selling is the goal, we must at once possess the substance of the selling message -- the idea that once made known will give client's competitive advantage -- and the Sizzle -- saying or communicating this idea like it has never been said before. Substance with no Sizzle can go easily ignored. How many people do you know who look good but are dull?

Sizzle with no Substance, on the other hand, can be a costly counterfeit. Without incorporating the practice of positioning, people will remember the ads and not you or your product. One thing about counterfeits, to the untrained eye, they look very much like the real deal. How can you tell the difference?

Here are a few tips that might help:

    • Think of ads you like.
    • Name the ads that made you want to buy something.
    • What's the difference

Lorraine Kessler is Innis Maggiore's Principal Client Services & Positioning Strategist.