Local advertisers: stop writing we-wee and start getting a decent ROI

Just over three years ago we published about the we-weeing problem in marketing material, and much as most pro writers like me bang on about it, it’s still raging away.

Local advertisers we-weeing on their customers HTWB

This historic little guy, Manneken Pis, has been we-weeing on people in Brussels, Belgium for 400 years. Fortunately this is good, for his business.

The reason why I am throwing the toys out of my pram this time is because I feel sorry for the ever-constant stream of local magazines that set up in all good faith, sell advertising space to local businesses, and go out of business themselves within a couple of years.

Why? Here’s my theory and it’s not their fault … it’s the fault of the we-wee local advertisers who, because they we-wee, don’t get the results they should from their advertising and so eventually abandon the local magazines as not cost-effective. Naughty, naughty and frankly, bloody ignorant.

Local advertisers: stop writing about how wonderful you are

(NB: After my rant, you’ll find 10 Tips on how to do it right, below!)

As you may have gathered from a lot of what we write about here on HTWB, successful marketing/advertising copy is not about “we” but how “you” (the customer, consumer, stakeholder) will benefit from buying “our” product or service.

Sounds reasonable, OK? But there’s nothing like a full page ad space in a local magazine to light the self-congratulatory fire in a local advertiser’s belly.

Without professional guidance local advertisers tend to make the classic mistake that nearly always leads to failed ad campaigns … self-congratulatory, subjective advertising copy that’s all about “we.”

And these local magazines and other local media seldom have the b*lls to tell their advertisers that writing their ad copy in we-wee terms ain’t going to work. But they should, because with well-written copy the ads will pull better results for the advertisers and so keep the local publications going.

Some prime examples of local advertisers’ we-wee writing …

We shared some reasonably painful examples in the earlier article with some suggestions on how to improve on the goofs. However this time we really let rip so that local advertisers reading this article are left in no doubt whatsoever that we-weeing sucks.

Names and locations have been excluded to stop me getting sued, all 5 tires on my car being let down flat, or my house burned down.

Here are some peachy verbatim excerpts; some may not shriek the word “we” too often but imply it just as heavily…

Conservatory Roof Replacement
Our reputation is built from our first-class products, high standards, quality workmanship, and recommendation from our customers.
Bully for you and your self-righteous bragging. Why should I take your word for it if you don’t even say something about me in the first line? What’s in it for me?

Local advertising copy on HTWB

Your local kitchen specialists…

Your local kitchen specialists
Designed and manufactured in the UK
So glad your specialists were designed and manufactured in the UK. Even having corrected your syntax, what difference should that make to me?

Letting your heir down?
Britons are ignoring estate planning tools that could help them to pass on more of their estate to the next generation
Ha, ha, very droll. Bet that was suggested by the Senior Partner amidst sycophantic guffaws from all the minions.
Britons? What about me? What if I’m not British? Get your heads out of your pompous butts.

(Name) & Co
(Name) & Co is an independent company specialising solely in Residential Lettings and Property Management and consisting of a team of highly motivated property professionals.
Based in XXXXX the company operates over a wide area including YYYYY, ZZZZZ, and AAAAA.
OK, that’s what and where you are. Now, what can you do for me? A classic example of how features (what a product/service is) get in the way of benefits that sell (what that product/service does for customers).

The (City) lawyers working for you
Call 01234 567890 and start building your future.
HUH? Building my future? Considering you are not a construction company or careers consultancy, and you’re not recruiting staff, what on earth do you mean?

The (Name of Hotel)
The perfect place to relax
Stylish brasserie
40 comfortable ensuite bedrooms
(Name) pub
Relaxing lounge and bar
Free function room hire
Ideal for wedding receptions and parties
No, it’s not the perfect place to relax. I know where it is and it’s on a busy main street with all the local rowdies in the bar every night.
And, er, do you realise that your “free function room hire” is self-contradictory?
Next time, proof-read the small stuff.

writing local advertising on HTWB

…and, your local security experts. Oh, wait…

(Name) Your Local Security Experts
Domestic and Commercial Systems
For peace of mind, call us on 01234 567890.
(followed at the bottom of the page by what services they offer.)
Good to know when I need some 7 foot heavyweight goons to keep the drug dealers out of my teenagers’ next rave or to kick the drunks out of my office Christmas party.
Oh, wait … you mean burglar alarms and stuff? Why didn’t you say so?

(Name) Paving and Landscaping
Specialists in all types of patios, artificial grass, block paving, fencing, decking, turfing and hard landscaping
(Name) Paving offer a full service from first visit to completion of the project, with meticulous attention to detail and wide range of finishes (Name) Paving are the first choice for your project.
Now let’s see … reading between the lines, you think because you offer a full service you should be the first choice for my project. Sorry to be pesky, but WHY?

New Conservatory or Garden Room?
High quality, made-to-measure PVCu, timber and aluminium windows, doors and conservatories
(List of services, including jargon most consumers wouldn’t understand)
Our reputation is built from our first-class products, high standard, quality workmanship and recommendations from our customers.
(And finally, the name of the company…)
Oh, it’s that pompous “our reputation” again. Tell you what: I’m going to add to your reputation by saying that your advertisement is full of bland, jargony drivel that’s about as appealing as congealed grease.

(Name of company)
The largest window, door and conservatory showroom in our area
Helpful staff here to discuss your window, door and conservatory requirements
Come and visit us at our fabulous (City) showroom. With 6000 square foot of inspiration for your home, we have the largest window, door and conservatory showroom in the area. Our helpful and knowledgeable team are on hand for any questions you have and can advise on all the latest trends. (etc…)
Actually, 5 out of 10 for trying, but the stuff that you’re so proud of just doesn’t do it for me-the-customer. I know you must have mortgaged yourselves up to the teeth for that 6000 square foot showroom but frankly I don’t care if you have that or work out of your neighbour’s garage. All I’m interested in is why I should buy your products, rather than those of the other clowns above.

(Name of company)
We’ve been cleaning carpets, upholstery, curtains, leather and tiles since 1998 with over 7000 local satisfied customers…
Family owned business
Fully trained, CRB checked employees
ISO 9002 certified
Carpets dry in 2 hours, not days
Powerful truck-mounted equipment (etc.)
You know what, there is only one line in this copy that hints at why I should use your services rather than your competitors’, and it slinks in way down at number 6 (carpets dry in 2 hours.) The rest of it is just self-congratulation.

Local advertising on HTWB

Love the quaint old pickup truck in your photo. Was its owner a customer of yours?

(Name) Garage
Family run garage serving the local community for over 40 years
(photo of company exterior 40 years ago)
(photo of company exterior recently)
List of services
Congratulations. What difference does that 40 years in the local community mean to me? Is it 40 years’ experience or one year’s experience repeated 39 times? I love the old pick-up truck in the photo though. Really quaint, as I suspect your business is.

(Name) wheels (car wheels)
Our attention to detail is what sets us apart.
Everything you would expect from Britain’s leading wheel refurbishment company.
I would expect attention to detail from any company refurbishing wheels. And who says you’re Britain’s leading company? Where’s the evidence?

(Name) Furniture Makers (half-page ad)
(unclear images of room sets)
Craftsmanship with compromise
Phone number
Address and contact details
What the hell does “craftsmanship with compromise” mean? Where’s the “what’s in it for me?” And if those horrible images of dreary-looking furniture are what you call craftsmanship, you really are wasting your money on this advertising.

(Name) Property Refurbishment Ltd
is a well established local company and we pride ourselves on our reputation.
Should you require a new kitchen, bathroom, ensuite, extension, garage conversion or decorating work we are happy to supply you with a fixed price quote.
Our experienced in house team endeavour to look at your whole project and foresee any issues that need resolving to give you the whole picture in advance of starting work.
And it’s another one that prides itself on its reputation! You guys should get together and start a mutual masterba…hmmmm, let’s not go there. Anyway it’s great to know that you’re happy to provide me with a fixed price quote – so does everyone else. It worries me a little, however, that your experienced in-house team only endeavour to look at my whole project. I’d feel more comfortable if they actually did it.

10 quick tips on how to write effective local advertising

  1. Start with what your business can do for you, the reader (the benefits)
  2. Make it clear how you achieve that (features here to back up quality of service, etc.)
  3. Pull out additional benefits to customers that show why you’re better than your competitors
  4. Never bang on about how you pride yourselves on whatever. It’s a very, very old cliché and no-one takes it seriously
  5. Instead, get some genuine, short testimonials from happy customers and use 2-3 of those
  6. Avoid long lists of services – instead summarise what they achieve (e.g. more than 20 technical checks to make sure your car runs perfectly)
  7. If you use images, make sure they are relevant to what you do for customers, not to your ego
  8. Do a reality check before publication: would your friends at the pub know what you mean? Also use my SO WHAT? test
  9. Proof-read every line backwards – that’s the best way to catch mistakes
  10. State the name of your business clearly and give clear contact information and directions

What experiences have you had with the success/failure of local advertising? Please share your thoughts…

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