When Ugly Works

Here’s a banner ad that caught my eye recently:

Hoovers Banner Ad

Oh sure, it’s ugly. There’s virtually no “concept” to speak of, or even design for that matter. However, what Hoovers have accomplished is a very effective illustration of “sell the offer, not the product.” (An article I wrote almost 10 years ago made the same point here.)

Hoovers could have developed an edgy, multi-frame, animated ad and used it to sell you on the virtues of how you should use Hoovers to find names of target accounts. But no. Instead, they asked the question: why do people need our product? And what is a prospective customer looking to improve that would betray a likely need for that product?

Answer: better cold-calling. Solution: create a compelling offer (in this case, a white paper) that appeals to the very audience segment most likely to be potential customers for Hoovers – salespeople and their managers looking to improve the effectiveness of cold-calling. Develop a simple, striking ad that only casually mentions the brand but focuses on the offer. Capture names and e-mail addresses, send them information on your product, and include a follow-up offer (say, a free trial) as an incentive to take action.

Now that’s what I call beautiful.

2 thoughts on “When Ugly Works

  1. Ruth P Stevens

    Hoover’s does it again. I am constantly impressed by their excellent marketing communications. Benefit-driven headlines, strong calls to action, compelling offers—these guys really do it right.


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