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Magazine Ads; The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

The latest espionage thriller I had picked up at the airport bookstore was anything but.  So
I grabbed the US Airways in-flight magazine from the seatback pocket in front of me,
disentangled the vomit bag, and started my search.

The search, like Monty Python on his never ending quest for the Holy Grail, is my boundless
pursuit of ads that communicate their message the moment you look at them.

“Positioning” –the technology of correctly tying your product to something that is already
in the public’s mind – enables an ad to do this.

By way of example, positioning is often used in the PR of politics – Obamacare is a train
wreck, NSA spying is like 1984.

Finding ads that communicate instantly is a little like following in the footsteps of that
original California homeboy, James Marshall, who discovered a gold nugget at Sutter’s mill
in 1848. [It was James Wilson Marshall a carpenter from Missouri who had come West in 1844
and wound up building a sawmill for John Sutter on the South Fork of the American River
above present day Sacramento. On the cold winter morning of January 24, 1848, Marshall
noticed “shiny flecks “of gold in the millrace {A channel for the water flowing to or from a
water wheel is called a mill race.} It was Marshall’s discovery that started the California
Gold rush. The state has never been the same.]

James Marshall I’m not, and the US Airways magazine is light years from being an advertising
gold mine. But here are a few ads worth commenting on.

1- I like this first one. The school of sharks attracts immediate attention – particularly
with the tagline, “Your competition is circling.”


It doesn’t communicate instantly as you have to read the copy at the bottom, which, because
of the circling sharks, I did. And the product and its description at the bottom should have
been bigger, but this is an excellent example of positioning the competition with a school
of sharks.“

2- This next one could have been great if they would have somehow shown his office with the
door closed instead of saying it in text. Take a look; you’ll see what I mean.


3-If you can figure this one out, you have better intuition than I do. I looked at this ad
endlessly trying to figure out what it is they sell. The graphic is of three exotic women –
one African American, two Asian. The text carries what seems to be a sexual innuendo. But
there is no way of knowing what they sell.


I have no idea why someone would pay for a half page ad in a magazine and not tell the
readers what it is they are selling.

Take a look at the ad and then click on the brand in the digital mag here and it will take
you to the website and you’ll see what they do (note, however, that the readers of the print
magazine on the plane are not able to click through to the website.)

4- This final link demonstrates the power of PR. Here is a two-page article, filled with
great pictures, about one of the top steak house chains in America.


Clearly Smith and Wolenski have some kind of deal with the magazine, but this article comes
across as straight news, not an “advertorial.”

It’s a PR world and this kind of “third party endorsement” is priceless.

Positioning should be the key element of your marketing and PR programs. It is the single
most important aspect of your overall communication strategy.

It takes surveys to properly position a product or a brand, something we have been doing for
more than a quarter of a century.

Positioning today is fast and very affordable.

If you would like to know how we would approach this for your company, give me a call.