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Chris Graham: The Lessons of Super Bowl Messaging

Marketing and strategyAs much attention with the Super Bowl is put on what goes on the TV screen during breaks in the action as what we see when the game is going on, and for good reason.

The Super Bowl is by far the most-watched television show of the year, and advertisers go all out to get their messages out in front of the one audience a year that encompasses virtually every social and demographic subgroup.

Most of us reading this have no hope of ever being able to afford an advertising spot during the Super Bowl, even the local breaks that the networks provide to their affiliates.

That doesn’t mean we can’t learn a thing or two from what the Big Boys do around the Super Bowl.

And what is it about Super Bowl ads that we can all learn first and foremost?

In a word, stickiness.

For the Big Boys, it’s imperative that they make their ads sticky because they’re spending so much money just to place the spots in the first place. If you’re committing a million or two on a single 30-second spot, then you better make sure that people remember it, right?

Well, for the rest of us, we may not be committing a million or two for an ad, but if we’re spending a thousand on a set of TV spots, or two thousand on a radio package or three thousand on a newspaper or magazine ad, that may seem like a million to us.

So do what the big boys do. Make your ad memorable.

– Funny is good in general across the board. Humor, good humor, is by definition sticky.

– Have a hook. Some sort of call to action is a must. Make me feel like I need to pick up the phone or go to your website.

– Don’t sweat the technique. It doesn’t have to be perfect. You’re not Madison Avenue. The imperfections can actually add to the stickiness, so embrace them.

– Repetition of message. One ad in one newspaper or a handful of spots on TV or radio will do little for you. People need to be exposed to your message multiple times across multiple platforms. Assuming you have a website and Facebook page, make sure your ads are on display there to get more bang for your bucks. Include them also in email newsletters. Use the hook from your ads in your voicemail and on invoices to customers.

As I type this, I have a jingle in my head from an early 1980s ad campaign for a karate studio in Northern Virginia whose hook was, “Nobody bothers me.” That kind of stickiness comes from a message repeated over and over and over and over and …

Chris Graham is the president of Augusta Free Press LLC, a full-service web-, graphic and marketing-design firm based in Waynesboro, Va. More information online at

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