5 Reasons Your Ad Campaign Is Failing

Don’t you love it when the Internet blows up over something silly? It could be a dress with two colors, and only one them is the right color. It might be a grumpy cat, or it could be an epic public relations fail — that usually happens when a company totally gets it wrong about something they’re trying to sell.

Before any type of advertisement goes out from a large corporation, there is a small army of company executives, ad executives, designers and underlings who see this work. It is scrutinized at all levels in excruciating detail. Finally, everyone signs off, and they hit “send.” Then it all blows up in a matter of seconds. What did they miss? Here are five reasons why an ad campaign could be headed for an epic fail:

Reason #1: You’re Clueless about Your Audience

Not to pick on anyone, but a while back, Victoria’s Secret launched a new campaign featuring all of their latest models clad in sexy lingerie. What’s the harm in that, you might ask? Well, the tag for the photo was “The Perfect Body.” As you might imagine, there are millions of folks who took exception to that description and made their voices heard. The company had to do a fast about face and change the concept to “A Body for Every Body.” That might need a bit more tweaking.

Although Victoria’s Secret understands half of their demographic population might appreciate this ad, the other half they’re attempting to sell to might not buy up to those high standards of what they think the perfect body should be. There are really two groups of audience targets you need to think about: those who get it and everybody else. On some level, you need to think more about “everybody else” in order to avoid a misstep and create an epic ad fail.

Reason #2: You Didn’t Have Anything to Share

The ultimate goal of an advertiser is to get a Super Bowl commercial. The added benefit in this instant-access age is those commercials that only get one airing during the game instantly become viral as websites are clogged with lists of Super Bowl ads and rankings.

Well, that’s nice if a company has several million dollars to throw around. However, many don’t. They have to hope their ad will be shared instead. The upside to this is that it’s easy for a potential customer to click “share.” In a millisecond, your ad could be posted on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. It then gets picked up and shared again. Done!

Not quite. That’s the ideal theory, but it doesn’t exactly work that way. The technology is the easy part. The challenge is to give those customers something worthy of a share. The number one way to make something go viral? Make it funny.

Reason #3: Your Audience Missed the Ad

The irony about the aforementioned Super Bowl ad is that most often, everyone watching the game takes the commercial break to run off to the bathroom or to load up on chicken wings. They could miss the commercial completely. That is why the viral component is so vital. A lack of “planned frequency” could mean your target audience has missed out all together.

Your ad needs to be played multiple times in order for it to be reinforced. You can’t have everyone copping a catch phrase with one viewing. This also holds true for online and print advertising. The more times someone sees an ad, the more likely they are to response with a click through. Then you’ve captured their attention on the other side. Mission accomplished.

Reason #4: There Was No Call-to-Action

Speaking of click-through, another reason why an ad fails is that there is no call to action. This is more relevant to online advertisements, but it also applies to all ads. When there is a strong call-to-action, there is a sense of urgency as well. The implication is if a customer doesn’t do what you’re asking them to do, their entire world will collapse — dogs and cats will start living together, mass hysteria or words to that effect, etc.

Take this example from Square. It’s good landing page with a strong call to action:


This particular example is very specific to business owners, but it does the trick.

Reason #5: You’re More Focused on the Product than the User

At the core, an effective ad presents a problem and then offers a solution. For instance, you have a cold — here is what you should be taking. You spilled something on your carpet — here is how you can clean it up. If you’re just presenting pretty pictures that feature your product, it’s not going to stick. You aren’t giving the customer any reason to become motivated to make a purchase or get more information.

A good example of an ad that works are all those “as seen on TV” commercial products that blast across the airwaves late at night or during local programming. These are the spots advertising things like the Snuggy or the multiple water balloon filler up attachment. You could get through life without a Snuggy, but after seeing it in action, you can’t imagine another cold night without one. Note: Before you laugh at the Snuggy, consider it has sold over 35 million units with revenues passing half a billion.

Timing is at the Heart of a Good Ad

Even if you follow all this sage advice, your ad could still fail — if for no other reason than it came out at the wrong time. So when exactly is the right time? If there were an answer to that, then someone would be making a fortune handing out time slips.

In the meantime, do your homework and put your best creative effort forward with something that’s funny and useful. The rest is up to cyberspace.

Lexie Lu is a designer and writer. She enjoys researching trends in the web and graphic design industry. She writes weekly on Design Roast and can be followed on Twitter @lexieludesigner.