Make Your Advertising "Rise" Above The Clutter

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Jul 6, 2022 by Sean Luce

According to research from "Advertising Age" magazine, back in 2013, a typical consumer encountered between 254 and 5,000 advertising messages per day in one form or another. That number includes signage on cars, t-shirts, radio, TV, newspapers, and so on. If a business is going to be remembered, the advertising message must rise above the daily clutter of messages. In 2022, it is estimated that a typical consumer encounters between 5,000 to 12,000 advertising messages per day in one form or another. Even more reason to create messages that are on top of the clutter.

This following story is one of the best examples that I have encountered of an ad rising above the clutter. This week I am consulting for a media company in Ricky Land, Missouri. Ricky Land was made famous by the business owner who calls everyone "Ricky" to keep things simple. While in Ricky Land, I traveled to Mountain Grove, Missouri which is home to Southern Missouri Financial Investments owned by Jim Bukowsky. Like me, Jim does seminars but in the financial field. We were comparing traveling notes and some small talk before we got to the meat of the call.

We discussed the meaning of rising above the clutter in advertising, and how to make one's message memorable. Jim told me that his best rise above the clutter of advertising consisted of a billboard advertisement he did once showing the business name, his name, and a photo of himself. I thought that sounded like a fairly typical ad for the investment industry.

One day Jim was in his car listening to the local radio station and he heard the talk show host discussing how terrible it was that a local billboard had been defaced. The host continued to talk about how degrading this act was, and how he felt so badly for the local business owner who was advertising on this billboard. Jim certainly agreed. The host then said it was Southern Missouri Financial's billboard. Jim slumped in his car seat in utter shock. He then drove over to his billboard to see that an artist had climbed up the billboard the night before and put a mustache thick with curls on his face. It was the perfect Doc Holliday mustache.

The story gets better.maybe. Also on the billboard, the artist had drawn on top of the photo of Jim's head an obviously phallic representation. Jim said it kind of looked like a hat drawn on his head to go with the mustache.

Needless to say, it was graffiti on Jim's billboard. However, Jim said it was the best advertising that he has ever utilized. Several local radio stations interviewed him about the graffiti on his billboard. In one case, he was interviewed for 20 minutes and had a chance to plug his business while talking about the "terrible" thing that had been done to his billboard. Jim was the talk of the region which stretches about 100 miles in any direction. To the billboard company's credit, they called the next day and told Jim they could take it down immediately and replace the billboard for free. Jim thought about it, and he said that he wanted to review the offer. I asked Jim how long he was able to keep it up (no pun intended). He said he was able to keep the graffiti billboard up for three weeks before the company insisted they take it down and restore it back to its original design. Jim knows something about helping his business' message rise above the clutter.

I highly doubt that Jim was the one who climbed up the billboard and defaced his photo. I also doubt that one of his competitors did it. To this day, no one has 'fessed up to the great artistry that was laid on Jim's billboard. However, keeping it purposely in place for three weeks, Jim understood more than most business owners about the concept of "rising above the clutter."

I am not suggesting that business owners conjure up something disgusting for their advertisements. My point is that to be different it has to be memorable. Since 99.9 percent of what a consumer encounters every day is washed and forgotten, the message must stand out in a crowd. Try asking a group of 10 consumers how many advertisements that they remember from yesterday. Out of 10 people, maybe one person might remember one advertisement from the previous day. In my seminars, the usual response is about three percent of attendees will remember one ad from the day before. For business owners, make sure your message is there every day, all day, over and over again. Building top-of-mind awareness does not happen overnight.

As we wrapped up the meeting, Jim, and I discussed the possibility of a "slogan" for his business. Jim is a clever guy. He said, "It could be Southern Missouri Financial Investments -- the place where you can hang your hat on your investments." Hmmm..maybe Jim did climb up that billboard after all!

NOTE: If you have rise-above-the-clutter ads that you would like to share, please email them to I will feature the best stories in a future article.

Sean Luce is the Head National Instructor for the Luce Performance Group.

As seen on Radio Ink Headlines April 1st, 2013

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