AD INDUSTRY STILL DOESN'T KNOW WHICH HALF OF AD BUDGETS WASTED

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What we don't know about what makes advertising work could fill a book. Or at least a column. So here goes.

We don't know: Whether emotional ads or hard-sell ads work best; whether ads aimed at younger people or older people work best; whether TV works better than print.

Our front-page story the other week on the continuing controversy over hard sell vs. soft sell had the ad community divided into two camps. Nobody seemed ready to acknowledge the need to blend both techniques into ads that sell.

My friend, the retired agency man, as usual, cut to the heart of the matter. He wrote me that our piece "clearly points to two schools of creative; 'poets vs. killers.' "

"How about the grand old school of 'head and heart,' which believed that most good advertising was a careful blend of the key rational and emotional benefits of a product or service? The nature of some products dictated a heavier dose of 'rational' while others were best served up in a cloak of 'emotional.'

"But generally there was a well thought-out, subtle balance of the two. And that resulted in campaigns that connected to the consumer through 'head' and 'heart.'

"Think back to some of the classics: Ajax cleaning power (rational) delivered to the housewife by the (emotionally) engaging, rescuing White Knight; Morris the (emotionally) finicky cat who succumbs to the (rational) great taste of Nine Lives; Volkswagen with its great emotional/rational simplicity; and Clairol's (emotional) reassurance, 'Does she or doesn't she?'

"These were big ideas that got to you through a studied and calculated mix of rational/emotional. And a lot of it is still working and doing even a better job, thanks to improved production and careful evolving. Hard-sell ads can be disarmingly emotional and soft-sell ads can be instrusively convincing. That's what makes the business so challenging and rewarding."

Unfortunately for the advertising business, today's ad practitioners don't seem to acknowledge the need for both schools to interact in a seamless way to make a strong and compelling sales point.

What better example can there ever be than Bill Bernbach's great ad, "Have you ever wondered how the driver of a snowplow gets to the snowplow?"

On the subject of TV vs. print, I thought consultant Erwin Ephron made an excellent point in our pages Dec. 1. The perception that magazines work slowly to build brand awareness "may be quite wrong." If ad buyers used the same weight for magazines as they do for TV, magazines would do every bit as well as TV.

Mr. Ephron concludes: "Print effectiveness is not a parochial issue. The perception that print works slowly is bad for magazines and worse for advertising."

Another bad thing for advertising is the notion that younger buyers are more valuable than older buyers.

USA Today says, "The practice could be way off target. Advertisers might be wasting billions of dollars by paying high prices to target young adults. Their ranks are shrinking. Meanwhile, the growing number of older viewers are more affluent than ever -- and are unquestionably the leading consumers for many of TV's most heavily advertised goods and services."

Poor neglected baby boomers -- advertisers don't want them. As Jerry Della Femina told the newspaper: "They're wealthy. They're powerful. And they're out of the loop."

Back when retailer Henry Wanamaker made his famous statement about half his advertising being wasted, total ad spending for the entire country only came to a few million dollars. Now I see that total U.S. ad spending this year will hit $187 billion.

Pretty soon that will add up to real money, and the ad industry still hasn't