How to stand out in the advertising crowd

What the hell is that?

It’s the greatest source of frustration for business owners. You pay a pile of money, provide a great valuable offer and you get little to no response from your advertising. Is it the advertising venue’s fault? Is it the wrong time to do this? Is it that you didn’t spend enough money?

It’s probably because your advertising did not stand out enough to be recognized as relevant to your target market. In short, while they may have seen it, they didn’t SEE it.

Here are several ways to increase the visibility of your advertising, signage, street presence, online visibility, etc. in order of general effectiveness:

Surprise your audience. It’s human nature to stop and try to understand things we don’t expect (as demonstrated in this brilliant SNL skit). The back of a truck painted to look like the doors are open and a guy inside is waving at you is a good example.  It’s “eye catching” when you’re following that truck. Other ways to do this include

  • Turn the text of print ads on its side (rotate 90-degrees). Your’s will be the only ad like this. May not be a good idea if you’re selling intelligent expertise (lawyer, doctor, accountant) since it may look otherwise.
  • Rotate the whole ad layout some unusual amount (e.g. 38-degrees, maybe even upside down?!) or see if the print venue will let you use a triangular or circular ad space with their editorial wrapping tight around it. The goal is to not look like any other ad in the publication.
  • Self-deprecation is rarely seen in advertising. If your ad headline reads “Don’t Waste Your Time Reading This” people are likely to stop and wonder why not. It’s so unexpected that it creates curiosity. One of my favorite book titles is, “Don’t Waste Your Time in the North Cascades.” It’s a book about the hiking trail system in the North Cascades.
  • Some of the most effective online ads have a picture of people making strange faces, looking surprised or embarrassed, or who simply appear unusual. The message in the ad has nothing to do with the person in the picture. The picture was just a means of getting you to wonder “what the hell is that?

Use motion. It’s no secret that if you don’t want to get caught while playing hide and seek, breaking out of prison or trying not to get called on in class your best bet is to stand still as much as possible. The human brain spends more time processing things in motion than things standing still. It gives priority to things in motion. This is why it has been effective marketing to tie an enormous balloon to your business’ roof, use flags, reflective strips and banners that will flap in the wind. Other ways to do this include

  • Billboards are perfect locations to inject motion since 99% don’t. A coffee cup emitting a real cloud of steam, a car with rotating wheels, a person who’s arm swings back and forth as if waving are all time tested billboards. Check your local municipal code though. There’s been more than one vehicle accident blamed on an eye-catching billboard.
  • Give the appearance of motion (time and space) in print or web ads. Explosions, elements appearing to fly by, and inventive use of shadows and perspective to create 3-D effects are all good ways to accomplish this.
  • Draw a crowd. A smart night club operator will always let in just enough people soas to leave a healthy line outside. This not only displays popularity but the line has motion which catches the eye.



Babies, animals and sex. There’s a long-standing marketing adage that to get people’s attention you merely need to include a baby, a cute animal or sex in your advertising. Check around and you’ll see a lot of advertisers are still following this advice. If it didn’t work, they wouldn’t do it.





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Use whitespace. It’s easy to find the advertiser who is trying to squeeze every dollars’ worth out their advertising. They fill every morsal of ad space with something. It makes the ad appear too busy and cumbersome to deal with. If you leave generous amounts of whitespace, your advertising will appear more easily digested, thus more inviting. As the ad to the right demonstrates, your product can be in only 1% of the ad space and still be effective.




Of course, there are a million other methods, most are specific to the target market and the advertising venue. But you can start incorporating some of the above inside your business, in your street presence, on your business cards, in your paid advertising, and in your direct marketing and see what happens.