Saturday, September 01, 2007

Why Do Some Businesses Prosper and Others Don't?

Successful businesses accept change by initiating new ideas. They recognize new buying trends and develop profitable objectives.

Successful businesses use innovative marketing techniques.

Successful business respect the buying public.

Is anyone still reading? I wouldn't fault anybody for clicking onto more stimulating content after reading this. The words (and the headline) are taken verbatim from an advertisement I happened to randomly see in the back of the Yellow Pages. I've always enjoyed looking through the Yellow Pages for odd categories, so when I got my hands on a phone book for Sheboygan County, I set out to do just that. However, I was stopped in my tracks by a page with a huge pot leaf and the accompanying text "It makes you respond to 'hey stupid' ten seconds slower." Paid for by the partnership for a drug free America. It should also be pointed out that this page was located in back of the main section, and relatively difficult to stumble upon. I believe I've read in the past that studies have been conducted which showed that anti-drug advertising has been a waste of taxpayer money. I'm not sure which is more disturbing, the idea of a lethargic government worker indiscriminately buying ad space because that's their job, or the idea of an earnest government worker doing their best to prevent drug abuse and thinking that this ad was a good idea.

Curious to see if there were any more bad ads to be found, I flipped the page and was greeted with the above text regarding successful businesses. I don't even know where to begin to assess it. Apparently, business owners are supposed to be drawn in by the rhetorical question, then follow the line of argumentation. However, not only is the language overblown and empty of signification, not only is it borderline insulting in its tone, it is incredibly boring. Here's the pay-off (italics theirs):

Yellow Book Directory Advertising Can Help Your Business Prosper!
Telephone Directories are Recognized as a Successful Tool for Creative Marketing Techniques

Yellow Pages are Used by 3 out of 4 People

The Yellow Book is Preferred by Customers 2 to 1*
*According to Research Conducted by McGladrey, Hendrickson, and Pullen, Certified Public Accountants

Wow. Just wow. The statistics have the potential to be compelling (though the second needs to be clarified), but no normal person is still reading by the time the statistics are revealed (and yes, I realize what this says about me).

So why is this noteworthy? Is it noteworthy? I'd argue that the meta-ad is more disturbing than the anti-drug ad, which we would almost expect to be comically bad. The concept of a meta-ad, or an ad for advertisement, failing on so many levels, is worrisome in its implications. In a world where information is being disseminated in new ways, the traditional modes and mediums are being accused of "not getting it," not understanding what they need to change, or alternately, not exploiting the advantages they possess. This ad may be indicative of a dying medium, and it's own rhetoric is an eerily ironic self-indictment.


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