How Missing Ad Copy Sunk a Rock Band Reunion

This is a story about missing ad copy. 

Ad copy that, by its absence, blew a crucial opportunity to drive ticket sales for a rare and expensive public event... a rock show.

The story takes place in Seattle, early summer 2016.

That morning, as I was crossing the street, a bus drove by.

On the side of it was this poster:

ad copy DOA

Huh? What?

It was surprising... curious... perplexing.

I didn't know what to think.

But... I didn't think about it for very long!

Ad copy without details?

AIDA is an acronym for a model that helps copywriters communicate with their target audience. It stands for Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action.

The creative minds behind the ad copy certainly got my attention. Good on them.

Interest? Not at all.

How could they? I was crossing a busy highway… pushing two squirming kids in a stroller… on the hunt for coffee!

In other words, I was multitasking, like so many people do during their waking hours. That “rapid toggling” between tasks carries a switching cost.

Meaning, my brain’s processing ability was diminished.

The ad copy creators were probably hoping to intrigue me enough so that I would pull out my phone and look up the hashtag. Had I done that, I would’ve learned that Guns N' Roses were reuniting for a concert tour. With a little scrolling, I'd see they were playing Seattle.

I could then... and only then... buy a ticket.

They were asking me to make a LOT of connections, no?

Most people don't have that kind of bandwidth… not today, in our “one-click” world.

Remember when Will Rogers said you'll never get a second chance to make a first impression?

The same logic applies to bus ads.

Always, always, ALWAYS include the important details. Put them at the TOP of the ad. Emphasize them with fonts and layout.

Why? First, so that the viewer sees them. You want him or her to take action, especially if seeing the ad was a fluke.

Second, standout details help prevent viewer "blindness." Without a date or time, twice-daily commuters can easily overlook a bus ad.

Had the creatives behind the GNR ad put the Who, What, Where, and When in the ad copy, both problems would've been solved!

Branding for Deeper into the Funnel

Guns N' Roses were massively popular starting in 1988. 

Their songs were on the radio nonstop. They were tabloid darlings because they behaved like... well, rock stars (drugs, fights, arrests). They sold truckloads of albums, concert tickets, and T-shirts.

Then, in 1993, it came to a screeching halt. No explanation given.

Band members left to form other bands.

Music fads changed and evolved.

The original fans, like me, got older (and balder). We found other hobbies to spend money on. GNR songs migrated from pop to classic rock stations.

Which begs the question...

If the creative team behind the bus ad couldn't get me – their target demographic -- to show mild interest, how would they get anyone else interested?

Had I not already been a serious fan who recognized the abbreviation, I would've guessed the ad was graffiti art -- nothing more.

After all, the City of Seattle is always spending money on similar cultural "enrichment" projects. The usual location for such art? City property -- like its bus fleet.

Regardless, without knowing what "#GnFnR" meant, the opportunity to sell a concert ticket would’ve passed -- like fumes in the wind.

Here’s what the ad copy writer should’ve done: provide context.

 Starting with the what, where, and when. Something like…

ad copy improvement

In terms of a sales funnel, the mysterious, sparse imagery of the bus ad should have been reserved for those fans who knew about the reunion!

Proof of knowledge? Opting into the G N' R newsletter, clicking a display ad, or a webpage visit.

After 25 years of silence, it was an arrogant stretch to assume former fans were staying up-to-date on the band's activity. For all the ad copy writers knew, former fans are now listening to Kenny Chesney!

Now, the revamped ad does lack the stark, mysterious quality of the original. But it does a much better job of selling the concert. If I were a concert promoter, that's the only thing I'd be interested in.

Which brings up this point...

Err on the side of urgency

Urgency in ad copy comes in two forms.

The first is a standard call to action:

"On Sale Now!" "One Night Only!" "Get Your Tickets Today!"

The second includes a bribe:

"Win a chance to meet the band!" "Free download with ticket!"

Remember, a static bus ad cannot be split-tested. What goes up, stays up!

If you've only got ONE chance to sell 50 to 60,000 tickets priced at $59 - $279,  doesn’t it make sense to be explicit in your instructions?

What's crazy is the ad itself wasn't cheap to produce. It probably cost a mint. 

Why do I say that? Because the company behind the tour (Live Nation) had to bid for the promotional rights. That means, they invested millions of dollars upfront in the hopes of making a fat return on the back end.

And when millions of dollars are made available for an ad campaign, something weird happens. Costs rise proportionately!

The point I'm making is that lavish spending does not ensure strong ad copy.

Doesn’t matter what the product is -- concert tickets, space heaters, or accounting software.

Your copywriter must be able to relay crucial information in the simplest, most digestible way possible.

Otherwise? You’ll be left with losses.

In this case, empty seats.

Ask Guns N’ Roses. They sold only 40,000, or 2/3 of the tickets available for Seattle.

All because of a foolish mistake: choosing image over direct response copy.

Whatever you have in mind for your next copy project – dense, sparse, eloquent, or blunt copy -- I can help you get the win.

Click this link to schedule a no-obligation convo conversation.

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I share copywriting tips for complex products. By "complex," I mean products, services, and causes that require explanation, demonstration, and proof. 

In other words, NOT concert tickets but lots of other products that make the world go round!

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