Writers’ Tips from Bill’s Workshop Series II

The Essentials of Ads and Promo

Here’s something you might know. If not, let me share.

For some time, we’ve needed to see an ad multiple times before it resonated—stuck—sufficiently looping in our headspace to motivate us to act, in other words driving us to actually purchase the item being promoted.

In the earliest days of advertising a single placement could well result in action. People (prospective customers) hadn’t yet been desensitized to ads. When something was being communicated, we almost always took notice. Then Madison Avenue did it’s thing, long before we were watching Don Draper, and we began to become not only familiar with the advertising process but in fact take less notice of each iteration.

Music—a catchy jingle—helped, increasing ad “stickiness” and more effectively resonating with us. Most of us can still hum the jingles of products that haven’t existed for years. Mixed media has more impact, greater longevity, and increases the likelihood of resultant action, i.e., people buying stuff. As ads and marketing continued to find innovative ways to motivate us to buy, a stat that held true for a lot of years was seven times. We needed to be hit with an ad—tagline, jingle, visual—no less than seven times before it stuck. The result, an increased likelihood of us retaining the message and acting on it. Now it’s twenty.

Twenty times we need to see an ad or promo piece before we’re motivated to act, the result of us being desensitized to a perpetual onslaught of information, and promotional info in particular. Our defences have adapted to dampen, mute, and simply block out messages intended to make us open our wallets. (I realize this is a turn of phrase. Credit card info’s prepopulated into our devices, whether we want it there or not.) Obviously, ads and promo still exist and should exist. How else can a business communicate its product-shelf to us—to make and sell stuff, employ people and keep the economy chugging along? Irrespective of political leaning, it’s essential.

Every artist, every writer and creative is in fact a business entity. Most of us are sole proprietors, others are part of a cottage industry, and some are sizeable enterprises. Wherever you are in the spectrum, promotion is essential to let prospective buyers know you’re here, open for business, and have a worthwhile product on offer.

Back to our stats. You need to be communicating the fact you have something valuable on offer. And you need to do so not once, twice, or even seven times, but no less than twenty times before your potential customers will be motivated to buy. That’s a lot of ads and promo pieces. Is it a lot of work? Absolutely. But imperative to ongoing business viability. Combined with our knowledge of ads and promo stats, here are four personal favourites I’ve found particularly effective to increase your visibility as a writer/artist and create increased sales of what you have on offer.

  • Promote others. Yes, karma works. Generosity gets results. This isn’t the motivation, obviously. But it’s a lovely side benefit of doing good.
  • Keep writing and submitting. (Refer to my article on “ratios.”) Some writers mistakenly find the volume of submissions required to getting published discouraging, when it’s actually motivating. You can and will get published (and published where you want to be published) when you submit enough. Write as well as you possibly can. Then rewrite. Keep improving. Rewrite some more. Then submit. Don’t save it. Submit it. And write some more.
  • When you find an opportunity to do a reading, do it. Say yes, and try everything. The most horrific experiences result in the best stories. Which then get published! Trust me. I know.
  • Find a mentor and be a mentor. Wherever you are in your writing career, you’re experienced. There will always be folks with more, and less, experience. Each of us can learn from each other, and we all have invaluable insights to share.

Again, if you know all of this already, wonderful. If not, good. We’ve both learned something, and continue to learn. Which I love. It’s motivating. We are, after all, in this together. Happy writing, and promoting. I look forward to celebrating your continued success.

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Bill Arnott is the bestselling author of A Season on Vancouver Island, theGone Viking travelogues, andA Perfect Day for a Walk: The History, Cultures, and Communities of Vancouver, on Foot(Arsenal Pulp Press, Fall 2024). Recipient of a Fellowship at London’s Royal Geographical Society for his expeditions, Bill’s a frequent presenter and contributor to magazines, universities, podcasts, TV and radio. When not trekking with a small pack and journal, Bill can be found on Canada’s west coast, where he lives near the sea on Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh land. 

7 thoughts on “Writers’ Tips from Bill’s Workshop Series II”

  1. When I think of jingles that stick in my mind for decades, the first one that comes to mind is 8-doublezero-565-7421.

    Everyone over the age of 40 from the Maritimes knows this Stompin’ Tom jingle by PEI’s tourism.

    Twenty times, you say. That’s a lot of self promoting. Thanks for the tips.

  2. Lots of good advice here Bill, especially the promotion of others. Authors and bloggers have been so kind to me to help spread the word and I now have readers as far away as Great Britain because of their generosity.

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