MooseXingIn the late 1980’s, the most successful radio campaign of all time was the Motel 6 radio ads. You remember the ones with the folksy announcer, Tom Bodett, who always ended the spots with the famous line, “we’ll leave the light on for you.” The Richards Group, an advertising agency in Texas hired Bodett to perform on the spots, and even write many of them.

During the amazing run of that campaign, Mr. Bodett was asked why he thought the radio ads were so successful. Mr. Bodett, who lived in Alaska, and I believe still does told the following story:

“You see back in Alaska I lived for years down a long dirt road that wondered along a river and through the trees and there wasn’t hardly a day that went by where I didn’t see a moose standing in the river or on the road or walking down a ditch like it was nobodies business. But then on September 1st, Opening day of moose season, I could walk two days through the woods and never even smell one. Why? Because in this business, they’re what we call a target audience . . . and they know it just like a consumer knows when they are being fingered and they don’t stand still for it.”

So what does this have to do with the phenomenal success of his radio commercials? Tom Bodett thought if people knew advertisers were targeting them, they would go and hide, too. So he found a way to advertise to a targeted audience without them knowing they are being targeted, using very clever and fun copy in his ads.

If you’re a fan of Tom Bodett, and are interested in advertising, here is an excerpt from the talk he did for the Radio Industry back in 1991.

Of course a lot has changed in the advertising industry since then. But I doubt Mr. Bodett at the time had any idea how relevant his concept would still be today.

In fact, what Mr. Bodett taught us was the importance of not just avoiding the fact that advertising is targeting consumers, but that it must be fun. Thus, he hit on the essence of what really makes social media work. We have seen businesses use Facebook just to post ads with relatively marginal success. These businesses may have a core audience that does not mind constant advertising in their newsfeeds. But when businesses only post ads or promotions, they are seriously limiting the potential of the medium.

A good example of the difference between just posting advertising and posting fun stuff can be seen when we compared two businesses in our market here in Central Pennsylvania. One business has about 1,100 fans while the other has almost 4,600 fans. The business with 1,100 fans posts fun and interesting information for their fan base that gets lots of Comments, Likes and Shares, while the business with over 4,000 gets just a fraction of the interaction the business with the 1,100 gets. This is an important distinction, because the more interaction you get, the more people see your brand in their timeline. That means more impressions.

In conclusion, if you want to get the most out of your advertising, whether it is traditional media like radio, or social media like Facebook, content makes a huge difference. Do not be lazy and just post your latest print ad or give stuff away to get people to like you. Take the time and effort to look for fun and interesting stuff like cartoons or pictures that your fan base would find fun or interesting. Get involvement by asking questions (can you guess what this picture is?) Then, not only will you retain your base, but will get better results when you do advertise a special sale or event.