Get automatic updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Connect with Steve Sipress


Where To Find The Worst Ads


I spent a little over three years as an advertising consultant for a major yellow pages publisher. I remember being excited about taking on the position, because my job was to help small business owners with their advertising, and there are very few places where it is more obvious than in yellow pages directories how little small business owners (and advertising sales reps and ad designers) know about placing effective ads.

Unfortunately, at least 95% of all ads in any yellow pages directory are beyond horrible.

This is bad for consumers, who would much prefer to find good ads there to help them make the right decision about which companies to do business with. And it’s REALLY bad for small business owners, who as a whole routinely waste billions of dollars annually on ads that have basically zero chance of even paying for themselves.

The one group this faulty model is okay for – at least in the short-term – is the yellow page publishers and ad reps themselves, who all get to cash their commission and bonus checks year after year, regardless of how many frustrated, unhappy and next-to-broke small business owners they leave in their wake by not even having the decency to learn how to create effective ads for them.

The yellow pages industry has some of the worst public relations people in the world, not even putting up a challenge to the tens of millions of people who wrongfully believe that “no one uses the yellow pages anymore.”

While it is an obvious fact that a lot less people use them then even just a decade ago, there are still plenty of people who “let their fingers do the walking” – certainly many more than enough all throughout the country – to allow a competent ad designer to create an ad that will return many times its investment year after year.

But will we ever see the day when yellow page publishers, managers, sales reps and ad designers care enough about small business owners to become competent at creating ads that work?

I’m not holding my breath.

Just in case by some strange stretch of the imagination there happens to be a yellow pages employee or two reading this post (or if my loyal small business owner readers want to know how to create effective ads on their own – to place in the yellow pages or any other medium), here’s a very basic lesson…

There are 5 major components to creating an effective ad (the order of these is essential to success):

  • Command Attention
  • Showcase Benefits of Products and Services
  • Prove the Benefits
  • Persuade People to Embrace the Benefits
  • Call To Action

Advertising is salesmanship in print. So, you need to think about the unique benefits your products or services offer and showcase them in a persuasive way. You need to emphasize results – not features.

Here’s a brief overview of each of these components…

  1. Command Attention: This is usually accomplished with the headline. You need an attention-getter that makes people want to know more about your products and services. The best headlines give a vivid portrayal of the benefits (or shows how a problem can be avoided) thanks to your products and services. The headline is “the advertisement for the advertisement.” It is a huge waste of money to put the name and/or logo of your business really big and bold at the top of your ad.
  2. Showcase Benefits: You have to showcase the benefits of your products and services and, more importantly, show how they will solve or prevent a problem that your target audience has. They need to know what’s in it for them – not just what you do. Include useful, factual and clear information to show precisely what the benefits are and how they are going to help your customer, client or patient.
  3. Offer Proof: This is where you prove what the advertisement is offering. You need to establish that you actually deliver what you say you will. Include information that establishes credibility, believability (yes, those are two different things) and trust.
  4. Persuade: You need to add compelling reasons for your potential customers to purchase your products and services. Use a hard-sell approach and make sure to create scarcity. This will make your potential customers realize that they have to act now. Which leads into the final component…
  5. Call To Action: You need to compel your prospects to DO something. They need to check out your site, sign up for your newsletter, purchase your products, contact you about services…something. Offer a freebie, such as a booklet, report, video, sample, product, bonus, demo, consultation, limited-time price…the list goes on. There are lots of ways to get potential customers excited about ordering and help them realize they are getting an amazing deal.

Good advertisements include all of these components, and are not complete without any of them. All small business owners should invest some quality time and energy to think through all of these components, then figure out how to best place them together for the most effectiveness.

I can help you to do this. Try the SSS Marketing University FREE test drive to learn from me and some other of the best advertising experts in the world how to put together great ads that get your phone ringing and your bank account bulging.

The money’s there for the taking in the yellow pages and many other media, thanks to the continued ignorance and incompetence of almost all of your competitors. Go get it!

Do You Need More QUALIFIED LEADS? Would A CUSTOMIZED Roadmap Help? Get Yours NOW!

2 Responses to Where To Find The Worst Ads

  1. Jim Lynch Reply

    July 18, 2012 at 7:01 pm


    Again , you impress with substance! Your acumen in advertising is astounding.

    The meat , the crux, the focus is in your astute observations. You continue to impress.

    Jim Lynch

  2. Steve Sipress Reply

    July 24, 2012 at 5:22 pm

    Hmmm… Something tells me you speak from experience, Jim!

    Is it any surprise that the major yellow pages publishers have all been through (or are all headed unstoppably towards) bankruptcy?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *