Part Two in a series on the Marketing Equation. Part One, Occupy Marketing, introduced the Marketing Equation.
Amos Hart sings Mr. Cellophane

If you’ve dabbled on the Boards, watched a play, or haunted the comedy houses, you already know the drill: “What’s the most important thing in comedy?”


See? It doesn’t work on the written page. The rhythm of reading isn’t related to the rhythm of comic delivery. But you know what I’m referring to. The greatest joke in the world will fall flat if the timing of the delivery is off.

This advice seems pretty simple, but any professional comic will tell you it’s a fine art to get it right every time. Even Leno and Letterman bollix it up from time to time in their opening monologues.
What’s the most important thing you’ve got to do in marketing?


This, too, isn’t at all easy to accomplish. We are bombarded by more than 10,000 messages per day, all clamoring for our attention. That’s everything from the dog barking first thing in the morning to be let out, to billboards and radio messages vying for attention on your way to the office, to social media, magazines and news to …Letterman’s Top 10 List before you shut off all the communications devices for the day. How on earth do you get your business’ message out to your target audience and HEARD?

If You Fail Here, the Marketing Equation Fails Too

This is why the first step in the Marketing Equation is absolutely critical: If you don’t get the attention, nothing else matters.

It doesn’t matter if you spent weeks crafting an engaging hook to draw in your viewer. It doesn’t matter that you’ve got great solutions to Mary Jane’s problem with her insurance coverage. If you didn’t capture her attention, none of the rest of the equation matters a damn. She didn’t see you.

Remember the guy at the top? Mr. Cellophane. His biggest concern in “Chicago” was that no one knew he existed (something you don’t want happening to your business). Amos Hart (John C. Reilly’s character) famously laments about his predicament: “…Cause you can look right through me, Walk right by me. And never know I’m there!”

That’s should be your biggest concern when evaluating your marketing:

  • Is the headline catchy (and accurate) enough?
  • Has the visual got WOW factor?
  • Do your radio commercial’s opening lines grab the listener?

It’s easy when your audience is captive.

If you’re sitting on a bus for a long ride with nothing else to focus on, you’re likely to read all the ads on the bus’ ad rack out of sheer boredom. But most of the time your audience isn’t captive. You’ve got to fight for every last second of viewing or listening attention.

What exactly grabs someone’s attention?

I N T E R R U P T I O N !

Rule #1 – Get Their Attention!

You could jump in front of a speeding car to get the driver’s attention, but will that result in sale? Hmmm. Seems not. How you get your prospect’s attention is equally important to simply getting the attention. If you have to be rude, you are likely to lose the sale. (This is one reason door to door canvassing has a very low closing rate: We are turned off by the intrusion in our private homes.)

But fortunately, there are many ways to interrupt your target audience to gain their eyes and ears on your message. And the Master Marketer knows science has provided clear signals on what types of interruptions are most successful. These will give you a framework from which to choose what type of interruption will be most successful with your audience.

Familiarity – We are hard-wired to give our attention, first and foremost, to anything familiar to us: Your spouse, your dog, your kids. (Just try ignoring your spouse when he or she is clearly trying to get your attention. You’ll pay the price for ignoring your better half.) Therefore, if your spouse says, “Buy this!” the chances of the sale closing are extremely high. You’ll do it.

Unfortunately, however, the person up the street is far less likely to be easily interrupted by and give attention to your spouse. The familiarity just isn’t there. From a marketing perspective, it’s impractical to recruit everyone’s spouses to deliver our marketing message. However, this is the reason why celebrity endorsement is incredibly successful. We thinkwe’re very familiar with that star. We see him or her ALL THE TIME in magazines, TV, movies and more.

  • Can you put that to use on a smaller scale?
  • Is there a local celebrity who you can get to endorse your products or services?
  • Can you get a testimonial from this person? A radio spot? Picture in a print ad? Appearance at a trade show or fair where you will be hawking your wares?

Size – Size matters! (No marketer will lie to you saying, “It’s the quality of the ad, not the size that counts!” Bullsh*t!)

It’s possible you may find this discouraging because big ads cost more money. The bigger the ad, seen by a greater number of people, will cost significantly more than one of the same size with fewer viewers. But flying a big balloon above your store on Grand Opening day is much less expensive and, again, the size factor will draw attention.

I’ll save the tips on ad size and placement for another newsletter. But suffice it to say there’s a reason full-page ads cost the big bucks: You get your viewer’s undivided attention. There are no competing ads on the page to draw their eyes away. Sometimes it is a waste of your hard-earned money to buy small ad space because you become Mr. Cellophane. You may be there, but no one sees you.

Loud – Big sounds get heard. (Just ask my dog who is frightened of ALL big noises.) Congress recently passed laws forcing advertisers to reduce the volume of their commercials to match those of the program they interrupt, removing a tool marketers had used for decades to gain TV viewers’ attention.

New options to marketers using audio include short recorded ‘welcome’ messages on businesses’ home pages. Many businesses are also creating short podcasts made available to their prospective customers and target audience.

Holding webinars and videos also provide opportunities to use sound to convey your message.

  • What audio innovations can you add to your marketing mix?
  • Don’t be rude! Give your visitors the option of clicking a Play button to hear your message instead of blasting it loudly the moment they land on your webpage.

Movement – It almost goes without saying (but I will), YouTube as a marketing medium continues to grow at an astronomic rate. When the Harry Potter movies first came out, the idea of showing moving pictures in The Daily Prophetnewspaper was considered ‘magical.’ Today it is a reality online. Several studies have been conducted showing website page views and visitor counts jumping dramatically with the addition of video to a site. Most importantly, these same websites show significantly higher conversion and sale rates with the inclusion of video on their pages.

  • Can you add a ‘welcome’ video to your home page?
  • A simple explanation about each of your products or services?
  • Are your paid banner ads on other websites animated?
  • Remember, you are no longer relegated to squeezing your message into X number of column inches (online or off). Whenever possible, use an animated or video message.

Juxtaposition – Huh? Yup, I pulled out a big word. Lots of syllables. In short, I refer to putting two very different things side by side. It makes viewers do a double-take. The easiest way to see how juxtaposition works is on the road, specifically: a gaper’s block. Just look at how many folks ‘interrupt’ their driving by slowing down to a crawl to gape at an accident. Why? Because it’s something they’ve never seen exactly that way. But each one is unique (if unfortunate). It’s human nature to stop and stare at the highly unusual.

In the advertising business, we look to put together things you wouldn’t expect to see together. That’s what forces our audience to stop and pay attention. I highlighted several of the best of these ‘juxtaposition’ ads last year in Part 2 – The Elements of Good Design, Made You Look, including print ads from Loctite, Volvo and Burger King. I also put this rule into practice for my clients with a series of ads juxtaposing wild animals with home improvement products.

For an excellent example of ‘made you look’ juxtaposition ad content, look no further than Verizon’s current commercial(video) for the LG Spectrum smart phone. This commercial successfully got me to unmute the sound and look up from a book. It combines all of these elements of successful interruption:

  • R2D2 (Star Wars)
  • Size (an R2D2 unit doesn’t fit well in your back pocket)
  • Sound (Star Wars soundtrack, he-llooooo!)
  • Movement (ok, it’s a commercial.)
  • Juxtaposition (R2D2 vs. LG smart phone – definitely not the same!)

Poor R2D2 looks like he’s ready to sing the Mr. Cellophane lament by the end of it….

  • What can you juxtapose against your own products or services?
  • What characteristics of your products or services can you draw attention to by showing the opposite of them?
  • If your product is elegant and sophisticated, can you contrast it with something common or rough?
  • Are there phrases you use to describe your product for which there are contrasting statements you could amplify to show you are the opposite of that?

So there you have it, in order to successfully interrupt your target audience long enough to gain their attention, you must hit one or more of these notes. Of course, they can be combined (as in YouTube videos). And conveniently, this broad Rule applies to any medium you are considering using in your marketing strategy.

Just remember: has your kid ever gone, “Daddy!…Daddy!… Daddy!…Daddy!…”? Or “Mommy!… Mommy!… Mommy!… Mommy!…”? (I have a dog. Her interruptions are face licks.) And was that interruption met with anger and frustration on your part?

You wouldn’t want your prospective customer to feel that way, right? Then make sure that your interruption has positive qualities: Make it fun, unusual, pleasantly surprising, and, if possible, enlightening. The interruption must make them want to learn more. Thus, next week we’ll be discussing Engagement (Rule #2) in the Marketing Equation. It’s the balloon that keeps your Interruption afloat!