A Monday Morning Memo from The Wizard of Ads
(This story has been told and retold so many times that I am beginning to doubt it ever really happened. In any event, here’s how I heard it.)
The year was 1992 and George Bush seemed to be riding an insurmountable wave of popularity following Operation Desert Storm. The national media was laughing at the Democratic party’s “no name” presidential candidates, having labeled them “The Seven Dwarfs”. Perceiving little chance to win the presidential race, the democrats tossed the governor of Arkansas into the ring, much like the Romans had once tossed the Christians. The governor however, had the good sense to seek the advice of an unconventional strategist who had a reputation for ignoring imaginary boundaries. “Mr. Stephanopolis, is there any way to win this election?” asked the governor. “What should I answer when I’m asked about foreign affairs?” “What should be my platform?” “How should I respond to the accusations that I’m a womanizer?” The list went on and on. Stephanopolis listened carefully and told Clinton to return the following day when he would outline his answers to all the governor’s concerns.
The next day Governor Clinton was escorted into the empty office of Stephanopolis where he immediately spotted a massive banner hanging behind the desk which screamed three simple words…“The Economy, Stupid!” During the course of the next several months, when Clinton needed answers to the complex questions with which he was challenged, he would return to the office of his advisor who would invariably lift a finger to the banner which hung above his desk.
Clinton’s willingness to follow a strategy of three, simple words had a powerful effect on his speeches, his statements to the press, and his answers in debate. Regardless of the question or issue being discussed, Clinton would phrase his answer into a statement about the economy. Previously a non-issue, the economy soon became the focal point of the entire race and the American people elected Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton to be the 42nd president of The United States of America.
In the consulting offices of Williams Marketing, my associates are asked an amazing assortment of questions on a daily basis. “Which type of advertising works best?” “Which words are the ones people cannot resist?” “How do I get rich using direct mail?” “What music works best in radio ads?” “What color combinations have been proven to be most effective?” “What are the secrets? I want the secrets.”
The secrets? Here they are: 1. Decide what you have to say. 2.Create a hundred different ways to say it. 3. Say it convincingly. 4. Say it again. 5. Keep on saying it.
The effectiveness of your ad campaign will be limited only by your commitment to your message, and the persuasiveness of your ads. How the message is delivered is completely secondary. In a phrase, “It’s what you SAY,______”
(I just can’t bring myself to call you “Stupid”.)
Roy H. Williams