The Most Important Ads You Will Ever Write
The most important ads you will ever write are the help wanted classifieds that will bring the right people into your life and will enable your career to take off like a rocket and keep you in orbit.
Is it a good idea to outsource the copy to a puffed-up, high-priced headhunter or a $22K junior assistant in the HR department?
When I first became president and editor of Target Marketing in 1993, the magazine was losing torrents of money. Two huge tasks faced me: giving the book editorial credibility and finding a few good sales reps that could convince old advertisers to come back and new advertisers to come onboard.
With the enthusiastic endorsement of a local Philadelphia publisher, we hired one of his telephone reps who wanted to become a full-fledged advertising salesman. He was a presentable young man who performed well for us on the telephone, so we decided to give him the opportunity to start calling on advertisers.
I took him with me on the road to introduce him to potential advertisers in the south—Little Rock, Ark., Oklahoma City and Dallas.
Midway through the trip, I discovered that he was a cocaine addict.
“Hiring the wrong person costs you three times their annual salary,” states the headline of an advertisement for the $487 software program, “Hire the Best.” The copy states, “A $50,000 employee costs you $150,000. There’s also lost opportunity cost ... plus lost business, potential customers and momentum!”
Fortunately, we found this druggie early on and dealt with the situation quickly. Had this goofball been let loose in the direct marketing community, our entire turnaround effort could easily have been scuttled. Given the success of Target Marketing and the subsequent magazines and online products started by my wife, Peggy Hatch, over the past 15 years, the collapse of Target Marketing would have resulted in lost revenues of $40 million or more so far.
The Philadelphia publisher that recommended him to us did so with old-fashioned malice aforethought. Rather than go through the hassle of firing an addict, he foisted him off on us. I will never forgive the little bastard.
The Importance of Attracting Top People
One of the smartest people in direct marketing is Drayton Bird, an Englishman who, for many years, was associated with the legendary David Ogilvy. His book, Commonsense Direct Marketing, is a masterpiece. When I mentioned that I was doing a story on how to create successful help wanted classifieds, Bird e-mailed:
The preeminent international marketing organization is Procter and Gamble. The former Chairman and CEO, John G. Smale, was once asked the secret of P&G’s success. He said, “We have hundreds of factories and thousands of products—but if I lost them all, I could get them back in eight years as long as I could keep our people.”
Wise firms know the value of good people. But do they pay as much attention as they should to getting the right ones? And do they pay the right price for getting them? After all, they spend millions (and carefully scrutinize the ROI) on getting new customers.
One of the biggest wastes is on paying people immense sums to get new people. Would you run some of the crassly unimaginative ads they run?
And what would happen if you did it yourself?
What Is a Classified Help Wanted Ad?
Essentially, it is a lead generation effort. “The headline of the ad selects the reader,” said the great direct mail guru Axel Andersson. Having been a director of eight book clubs in my distant past, whenever I see an ad for a “Book Club Director,” (very, very rare in this brave new world of amazon.com), I always look at it.
I came across the ad for CBS Radio looking for an “Account Executive.” The job was for a salesperson to sell airtime. No doubt a slew of qualified sales representatives never clicked on the ad, because the headline was misleading. It was posted on Jan. 16, 2007 and was still running two months later. How much advertising money had been left on the table by CBS in those 60 days as a result of a wrong headline?
According to Seattle guru Bob Hacker, founder of the Hacker Group, with lead generation, “The less you tell, the more you sell.” You do not want to give the person a reason to say no. At the same time, you do not want to waste your time—and the prospect’s—by attracting the wrong people.
My Personal Job Hunt
Last week, I pretended I was 35 years younger and looking for a job in Philadelphia in the fields of Advertising/Marketing/PR. Monster.com listed 456 jobs that had been posted during the past 60 days, the most recent posted on Sunday, March 18.
I downloaded 22 different openings that included Copywriter, Marketing Mgr. Business-to-Business, Account Executive, Director of Marketing, Circulation, Membership Director, Catalog Coordinator—jobs that I understood and could probably handle—just to see what might appeal to me.
Drayton Bird was right; for the most part, they were crassly unimaginative.
An example was the following—a job opening in Philadelphia with Elsevier, a world famous publisher:
Marketing Mgr, B2B
About The Company
Elsevier is an integral partner with scientific, technical and health communities, delivering superior information products and services that foster communication, build insights, and enable individual and collective advancement in scientific research and health care.
Excerpta Medica, an Elsevier business, is a strategic partner in the development and implementation of medical education, medical communication, and publication planning solutions for the health care industry.
—Prepare and execute Elsevier Pharmaceutical Sales marketing plan for both Elsevier and Netter product lines.
—Attend all Book Project Proposal/Pricing Meetings to:
Gather content and pricing information on all new medical text books
Deliver realistic Pharma Sales sales forecasts for appropriate titles
Negotiate book prices with Marketing Managers when necessary
—Liaise with book (Trade) marketing managers to uncover sales leads and coordinate potential sales with business development managers and external sales agents.
—Review all book marketing direct mail work orders for relevant Pharma potential and order or run-on with updated Pharma copy where appropriate.
—Work with Business Development Managers in determining which new and existing titles are appropriate for pharmaceutical, biotech, and device industry promotion.
—Maintain reports that provide Elsevier Pharmaceutical Sales staff with pricing and content information needed to position new and existing titles with pharmaceutical, biotech and device customers.
—Plan and develop all print and electronic materials required to support client programs sold by Elsevier Pharmaceutical Sales Business Development Managers.
—Partner with Business Development Managers to conceptualize and develop promotional programs and materials to drive sales of Elsevier Pharmaceutical Sales products and services.
—Plan, develop, and maintain departmental website presence.
—Manage outside vendors in the design and production of all promotional materials and programs.
—Develop and maintain media schedules and coordinate placement of advertisements.
—Develop and maintain exhibit schedule and work with meeting sponsoring organizations to obtain optimal exhibit and promotional opportunities.
—Gather and distribute relevant market/industry developments.
—Process all marketing invoices.
—Assist Marketing Director in the development of the marketing and tactical plans.
After listing the key competencies and qualifications the candidate must possess—including a “BA/BS in business, life sciences or related field”—the job description ended with the most astonishing sentence imaginable:
“The preferred years of experience for this position is two years.”
What is described above is a nightmarish job with vast responsibilities that could in no way be handled by someone with just two years of experience. By looking for two years experience, Elsevier is clearly planning to pay peanuts and set this person up for failure.
What’s more, the ad projects zero warmth about Elsevier—its commitment to excellence, to its customers and employees.
The place sounds like a zoo—more Hell-Severe than Elsevier.
What was Elsevier thinking? Was anybody thinking at all?
This position is one of 23 openings in Pennsylvania out of 456 Elsevier job openings nationwide.
A Great Help Wanted Ad
I glanced at The Philadelphia Inquirer Classified Section this past Sunday and on the front page was an ad from Parsons Engineering that, to my way of thinking, is a stunner. Compare this to the Hell-Severe ad above:
NOW HIRING AT OUR AIKEN ENGINEERING CENTER
Founded in 1944, and with over 11,000 employees worldwide, Parsons is one of the largest 100% employee-owned engineering and construction companies in the United States. Parsons has established an outstanding performance record over many decades and our employees have worked on major projects throughout North America and in more than 30 countries; As a leader in our industry, Parsons maintains a competitive edge with our innovative designs, creativity and flexible approach to difficult opportunities.
Parsons is staffing our full-service Regional Engineering Center in Aiken, South Carolina. The center will provide technical and management solutions to industrial customers as well as to federal, regional, and local government agencies throughout the United States.
We have the following opportunities available:
Sr. Project Managers
Sr. Heat Exchange
Sr. Pipe Stress
Principal Material Handling
Sr. Pipe Support
* 4/10 work schedule Monday—Thursday.
* Competitive compensation
* Complete benefits package including extensive
medical/vision/dental care, long-term care plan,
401(k) matching, employee-stock option plan,
generous paid time off and much more.
* Work alongside leading industry professionals with
access to the latest technology.
* Opportunity to work on high visibility “marquee” projects
that can enhance or help you build your reputation in
the company, the industry and your chosen field.
* We’re a private company, owned 100% for the benefit
of our employees.
Please visit us online at: www.parsons.com to apply for a specific position or e-mail your resume to: Aikenhr.email@example.com. EOE
How could anyone not want to work with these people? Engineers responding to this are given a warm welcome by a company that is obviously proud of its history and accomplishments, what it does and how it treats its employees.
Think of it! Four-day work weeks, full benefits package including medical, 401(k) and stock options plus a commitment to boost employees’ reputation in the company and the engineering world.
And all of it in the most beautiful horse country in America. From one of the Aiken, S.C. Web sites:
Aiken Fox Hunting
Aiken is home to more than five fox hunts per week! The Aiken, South Carolina area is a great place to fox hunt. Below is a list of local hunts: Whiskey Road Foxhounds—Aiken Hounds—Belle Meade Hunt— Edisto-Mount Vintage Hounds—Why Worry Hounds
Starting on Feb. 2, 2006, the Aiken Hunt Week begins and will include over 5 hunts in 1 week. This is a great time for all when visitors from across the region converge on Aiken. Parties and numerous gatherings are the hallmark of this annual gathering.
The carefully crafted ad for Parsons Engineering was created by adults for adults.
The responsibilities and qualifications of the individual positions are not listed. A Sr. Structural Engineer or Sr. Architectural Designer knows exactly what Parsons is talking about.
The frigid, all-business Advertising/Marketing/PR ads—clearly typed up by low-level HR wonks and approved by incompetents—state the obvious. For example, the majority of these classifieds say, “excellent written and verbal skills are required”—or variations of that wording.
For gosh sakes, if someone in advertising/marketing/PR does not communicate well, the person is clearly in the wrong line of work. And poor communications skills will be picked up on instantly in the cover letter that accompanies the resume.
In terms of creating a sense of the ambience and corporate culture, the cliché buzzwords that are supposed to titillate a prospect are “... in a fast-paced environment.” This line appears in roughly half the ads in this category.
Drayton Bird’s Classified Ad
One of the triggers for this edition of Business Common Sense was an e-mail from Drayton Bird a couple of weeks ago—his classified ad looking for a PA. I asked Drayton what a “PA” is. “Personal Assistant,” was his reply. “A wonderful way to make your secretary feel good without paying her any more money.” Drayton’s e-mail:
Talking about the Internet, Denny, two days ago, I wrote an ad, which we ran on Gumtree.
My PA wanted to go to an employment agent—fee about £4,500 for finding someone.
The ad cost £19. We got 72 replies (so far) of very high quality—with replies like “Pick me! Pick me! Pick me!” and “This is me!” plus lots of people saying how they loved the ad.
What was the secret weapon? I told the truth. Not forgetting the odd literal—no wonder as it took about 20 minutes to write and about the same to place.
Here is this oh-so-creative masterpiece:
You’ll love this unusual PA/Secretary job—
if you’re an unusual person
We don’t care how old you are, your creed, colour or background if you think you’d enjoy handling this:
* Manage the diaries of two people who run around a lot
* Arrange a lot of travel (US, Italy, Ukraine, Romania, Slovenia, Czech Republic in the next three months)
* Deal with suppliers—IT, stationery, plus boring essentials like office supplies and biscuits in the meeting room
* Help with personal stuff, which is almost as complex as a TV soap
* Find all sorts of things on the Internet (please be good at that!) and in the office
* Organise speeches and put together PPT presentations
* Write, add, multiply, divide and subtract
* Be absurdly charming—to people ranging from publishers to marketing directors, on the phone and in person
* Inhabit a very fast-moving world with occasionally (i.e. frequently) excitable colleagues
* Work odd hours and do unusual things sometimes
* Comprehend what on earth our IT support people are talking about
* Ignore bad language—which comes with the business at no extra charge
All this without getting paid a fortune—just a reasonable rate for the job plus a bonus. Disgusting, isn’t it?
Our name is known internationally. We create marketing material for clients whose names you will immediately recognise. We do speeches and presentations, even write books. And all from a small office near Oxford Street with a multi-national staff of seven, plus a few out of town colleagues who pop in regularly. Nearly all of us are young.
We have fun doing it all—the lady you’ll take over from has put up with it for 15 years without complaining more than 15 times a day. And we need someone like her who is in for the long haul, not looking for a stepping stone.
Please write a fairly detailed e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org saying why you think you might be the right person—and when you are available. We really need to find somebody ASAP, to start in max six weeks (preferably much earlier)—and spend a few weeks with the lady you’ll take over from. References absolutely essential.
I bet you’d like to look at us in more detail. Go to www.draytonbird.com.
And if you have any question—just give us a shout!
NO AGENCIES, PLEEEEEEASE!
Anti Spam: Do NOT contact me offering services or anything of a commercial nature.
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Of course it stood out among all the garbage employment agencies (like the one we would have had to pay) were running.
And what is the most valuable thing in any business? People? The little X factor you were talking about in your excellent piece.