It’s Only Common Sense: Yes, Virginia, Advertising Does Work (Sometimes)

While listening to the radio as I drove to the airport last Sunday, an ad came on for smoke and carbon monoxide alarms. I was only half listening and not really paying attention since it was not exactly a captivating subject. In fact, I was a little irritated because I always get irritated when I think about smoke alarms.

I don’t like them. Oh, I know they are definitely necessary, but I always feel slightly conned with the “change the batteries twice a year” pitch. When you change the clocks, you’re supposed to change the batteries in your smoke alarms at the same time. And since I live in this rambling old house with attics, cellars, and hidden rooms, I have a lot of batteries to change in a lot of alarms—10 of them. All of them take one (if not two) nine-volt batteries.

This means I have to schlep down to The Home Depot and buy about $30 worth of batteries twice a year all because someone said so, and it’s a rule in our house. I’m not sure the old batteries are even dead. I know that you can push the little button and the alarm will wail if they are not dead, but the ads have made me so paranoid, and that’s not good enough for me. The ironic thing is that I cannot bear to throw out the old batteries I remove from the alarms, so I keep them; now, I have a box full of them. Do you realize that once we were done with six transistor radios years ago, the need for nine-volt batteries went away except for smoke alarms?

And don’t get me started on hard-wired alarms. I have had my moments with those babies. Years ago, while staying alone at a friend’s house, one of his hard-wired alarms started wailing. It was hard-wired to the ceiling—a 12-foot high ceiling, I might add. After I checked around the house and determined that there was nothing to be alarmed about, I had to stand on a chair and hit it with a broom for a while until I finally broke it. Ironically, the new alarm my friend replaced it with did the same thing. So much for that type of alarm. At least with the regular alarms, you can take the batteries out, and it stops wailing.

Back to my ride to the airport. So, the radio ad explained how there are these new alarms that have a 10-year built-in battery. Also, these alarms detected both smoke and carbon monoxide. And get this, they shout the words instead of wailing, saying “Fire, Smoke,” “Gas,” or whatever the detected problem is. Plus, they have a turn-off button. Now, they had my attention. Now, I was listening.

I couldn’t wait to get home and go to The Home Depot to check these babies out. I don’t care what they cost; I’m in. If you do the math, $30 twice a year is $60 times 10 years is a whopping $600 savings in addition to avoiding all of the aggravation from climbing up staircases and ladders, finding all of my alarms, and replacing the batteries twice a year. It’s bad enough that on the same day, I have to change the time on about 30 clocks in my house too, not to mention in our cars, but that’s another story.

Now, to the part about advertising working. This story is a clear-cut example of advertising that works. This ad was telling me about a product that would solve my problems and make my life easier. From the very first time the announcer said, “10-year built-in battery,” they caught my attention. The reason was that this was something I cared about and wanted. It was something I had to have, even though five minutes earlier I didn’t even know I wanted it. Yes, Virginia, advertising does work at the right time, in the right place, and with the right audience made up of people who need the product being talked about in the ad.

The point is that if your product solves a problem that people deem important, they will listen to your ad, and will most likely buy your product without hesitation.

It’s only common sense.

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