I hope I don’t disillusion, disappoint, or disaffect anyone. But this needs to be stated overtly: Advertising is not a dance.

That’s not to say every business needs to advertise. There are many businesses with strategic, managed growth plans that can do quite nicely without advertising, thank you very much. But businesses that decide to advertise need to view advertising as a commitment, not an experiment — as a sustained series of determined steps forward, not a tentative dance.

You put your right foot in/You take your right foot out.

Like everything else, advertising has causes and effects. The key to successful advertising is to think through those causes and effects thoroughly enough to minimize if not eliminate unintended consequences. Here are some examples:

Cause: “We want to check the editorial calendars and advertise only when they cover what we do.”
Effect: Good idea. No one needs what you do at any other times anyway.

Cause: “We want to advertise once or twice in every publication.”
Effect: Okay. You don’t need the readers of any one publication to remember you anyway.

Cause: “We only want to advertise in the conference directory.”
Effect: Perfect. The directories that don’t go in the convention center trash will wind up in the hotel-room trash.

You put your right foot in/And you shake it all about.

Here’s the deal: It typically takes seven exposures to any image or message to create a lasting impression. It may now take more than that, given the fleeting nature of everything in the Age of Drive-By Media in which we live. That means advertising has to be sustained to be effective. It also means those without the intestinal and budgetary fortitude to sustain their advertising should adopt Plan B because the messages sent by sporadic advertising are dubious, at best:

  • You don’t have the faith in your brand you want your prospects to have.
  • You don’t have the financial stability or wherewithal to advertise consistently.
  • You don’t have the decisiveness or patience to adopt a campaign and stick to it.
  • You don’t have any qualms about leaving your fate to speculation. (“What happened to those guys?”)

When it comes to advertising, you’re either in or you’re out. Everything else is a self-defeating dance.

You do the Hokey Pokey/And you turn yourself around/That what it’s all about.