THE shortest and most obvious definition of effective advertising is "advertising that brings results." The effectiveness of our campaign advertising is to be judged ultimately by what it achieves. To broaden this definition for the purposes of advertising our campaigns, let us think of "effective advertising" as reaching as many people as possible, as often as possible, in as many ways as possible.
In order to achieve something approximating to this ideal with our advertising, we must realize that it is not as simple as it appears. Modern techniques project a thousand voices into our consciousness today. And when we enter the highly specialized field of advertising to tell people of our meetings, we have to remember that we are talking into the confusing background of those other voices. In order to make an impact on the minds of the people our advertising media must successfully encounter all this opposition. Let us consider a few points that will help to make our advertising effective.
At the head of the list we must put "quality." If we want our advertising message to get across, we must equal or excel the standard of all the other advertising that is clamoring for attention. If ever the saying that "only the best is good enough" is true, it is true here. The public are discriminating, and they are not impressed or persuaded by second- or third-rate advertising material. The quality of any product is subconsciously judged by the advertising material, and our meetings will be judged by the standard of our advertising.
"The character and importance of our work are judged by the efforts made to bring it before the public."—Evangelism, p. 128.
If that statement was true in 1886, how much more true it is today when the standard of all public advertising is so much greater. It is impossible to say how important this principle is. If the people receive advertising material that is of a poor standard or that is sensational or cheap or that gives any unfavorable impression at all, how can we expect them to come to our meetings?
The second important factor in making our advertising effective is the message it carries. What does our advertising say? Is it persuasive, or poorly thought out? Is it well stated, or overstated? It has been said that advertising consists of three factors, "What to say," "How to say it," and "Where to say it;" and without question the most important of these factors is the first, "What to say." The whole purpose of our advertising is to make the message reach the public, and to make people act upon it. However, it is not only important to know what to say, but it is just as important to know what not to say, for it is possible to say too much, to overrate and overstate and give the public the impression of insincerity.
Whether or not we use a film to open our series, the time will come when we have to advertise our first subject. When that time comes, let us bear in mind a principle as vital today as ever—the title of our subject is the most important item in our advertising. That title represents the reason you want people to come to your meeting. It must interest. It must appeal. It must pull. A good title is worth many hours of thought. We may have the best hall in town, but if we don't have something that people want to hear, then they will not come.
I was interested in the hundreds of titles recently published in THE MINISTRY. There were many excellent titles in that list but at the same time I felt there were many that would never attract a large audience. Especially in the opening weeks of a series are "pulling titles" essential. The second factor in effective advertising, then, is a message that is well worded.
Having decided on what we are going to say, how are we going to say it? What media are we going to use to tell people of our meetings? J. W. Hobson in his book The Selection of Advertising Media gives some interesting figures, which to my mind prove conclusively that the most effective media of advertising, excluding television, are newspapers, handbills, and posters. Some may disagree here, but I believe that to be really effective our advertising message must be projected through as many channels as possible—call it "blanket coverage" if you like. While some media are undoubtedly more effective than others, it is nevertheless true that the more media we can use, the better will be the effect. If a person sees the same thing three times in a day, and in different places, it will make far more impression on him than if he sees it once only. Something else worth bearing in mind is that the duration of our advertising campaign is very short, a week or two at the most. In that brief period we have to tell everybody in town about the opening meeting of our series. Thus to advertise our meetings effectively we need to use at least three and preferably four or five different media.
Finally, in the preparation of our advertising copy let us incorporate techniques that are up to date and that make for attractiveness. Among these I would mention three, the first of which is the use of color. Color is being widely used today in every sphere of life. National newspapers are introducing color. We are rapidly moving toward the era of color television. Let us use color in our advertising to attract attention in a color-conscious age. Second, the kind of type faces we use gives character and appeal to our advertising, especially in handbills. Nothing will negate the impact of a handbill more than old-fashioned type faces that belong to a past generation. And third, and perhaps most important of them all, let us be modern and attractive with our advertising layout. It is worth a great deal to get away from old stereotyped layouts and designs, and to try out new designs. There is room here for the unusual, without being cheap or sensational. The front of the handbill is of vital importance. It must not raise hostility, apathy, indifference, cynicism, or mirth in the mind of the reader, but it must make the person holding it want to look inside. An attractive layout can do much here, as it can also to create an over-all impression that is favorable.
Four Basic Principles
What, then, can help us to advertising that is really effective? Of all that could be said in answer to this question, we will do well to remember these four basic principles. Effective advertising is advertising that has a note of quality about it, advertising that presents a clear, persuasive message, advertising that uses the blanket coverage, and advertising that has a modern, up-to-date appeal. Incorporate these principles into your advertising and it will almost certainly be effective and ensure a good congregation to hear your message.
In conclusion, let us ponder the significance of these statements from the book Evangelism: "Men are needed who pray to God for wisdom, and who, under the guidance of God, can put new life into the old methods of labor and can invent new plans and new methods of awakening the interest of church members and reaching the men and women of the world."—Page 105. "Means will be devised to reach hearts. Some of the methods used in this work will be different from the methods used in the work in the past."—Ibid.
This is a great challenge facing all who are engaged in public evangelistic work and who carry the responsibility of reaching the public of this generation with the Advent message. May God help us to meet this challenge and devise means and methods that under the blessing of the Holy Spirit will bring about the finishing of the work in our day.