Going Back to Basics: How A Small Town Roofing Company Brought Me Back To Marketing Reality

I saw the most ridiculous ad of my life last night.

I pay attention to ads. I like recognizing which ads make me crave something, make me pause in my page-turning, make my mouth water or my fingers itch to grab my credit card. It’s like having a one-up on the advertising companies: Okay, Mr. Old Spice Man, you’re making me laugh and I feel a strange desire to give my boyfriend a bottle of Old Spice for Christmas, but don’t think I don’t know what games you’re playing here.

I am so on to you.

Old Spice Guy in a TowelImage: Dirk Houbrechts via Flickr

I appreciate a good ad as much as anyone else. Maybe more so, since I’m in the business of using words to sell or compel. I love funny ads, heart-warming ads (Folgers’ Son-coming-home-from-Africa commercial, anyone?), goofy ads, off-the-wall adsin short, any ad that can make me pause before turning the page or hitting fast-forward on my DVR.

But this ad? It made me pause, alright. And it made me maddeningly furious.

Roofs, Roofs, Roofs, Roofs, Roofs, Roofs, Roofs

It was in a local ad circular. I was mindlessly paging through it before throwing it in the recycling bin…and there it was. Page 19. Burned into my memory. Allow me to recreate it for you:

ROOFS, ROOFS, ROOFS

FLOYD’S ROOFING CO.

ROOFS, ROOFS ROOFS, ROOFS, ROOFS, ROOFS
ROOFS, ROOFS, ROOFS, ROOFS, ROOFS
ROOFS, ROOFS ROOFS, ROOFS, ROOFS, ROOFS
ROOFS, ROOFS, ROOFS, ROOFS, ROOFS
ROOFS, ROOFS ROOFS, ROOFS, ROOFS, ROOFS
ROOFS, ROOFS, ROOFS, ROOFS, ROOFS
ROOFS, ROOFS ROOFS, ROOFS, ROOFS, ROOFS
ROOFS, ROOFS, ROOFS, ROOFS, ROOFS
ROOFS, ROOFS ROOFS, ROOFS, ROOFS, ROOFS
ROOFS, ROOFS, ROOFS, ROOFS, ROOFS
ROOFS, ROOFS ROOFS, ROOFS, ROOFS, ROOFS
ROOFS, ROOFS, ROOFS, ROOFS, ROOFS
ROOFS, ROOFS, ROOFS, ROOFS, ROOFS
…AND ONLY ROOFS.

CALL FLOYD
555-555-5555

Seriously?

Here I am, scrapping out a meager living as a wordsmith, taking time to precisely craft each and every word, and Floyd goes and hits copy and paste six or seven times. And I read his ad.

That’s what kills me. The ad worked. I stopped to read Floyd’s ad. I know what Floyd is selling. I know Floyd’s audience. And I can’t stop thinking about Floyd’s stupid ad.

While I’m hunched over my laptop crafting sparkling prose, agonizing over which precise participial phrase to use, Floyd wrote this. And his ad worked just as well as anything I’ve spent hours writing.

I went through the five stages of Marketing Grief, ranging from denial (This can’t be effective) and anger (THIS IS THE WORST AD I’VE EVER SEEN AND I HATE EVERYONE) all the way to depression (I might as well give away my job to a trained copy & paste monkey).

I was still a long way from acceptance.

How Floyd’s Roofing Co. Stole Christmas

You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch.Image: SLWorking2 via Flickr

I felt like the Grinch at the end of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, where he realizes Christmas came without ribbons, tags, packages, boxes, or bags.

The ad came without pictures! It came without verbs! It came without marketing speak, selling propisitions, or blurbs!

Acceptance had finally dawned on this Who down in Marketing-Whoville. Floyd had done everything I try to do when marketing my own content– and what’s more, I think he had done it better.

The Floyd Roofing School of Marketing

Floyd’s Roofing Co. 1, Nicki 0. Here are four lessons I took away from my mental battle with my copy-and-paste-loving roofmaster:

  1. Stand out from the crowd. Floyd’s deceptively simple ad stood out from everything else on the page. It’s the only ad I remember from 31 pages of content.Look, I get about seven hundred tweets a day. I’m about 300 unread posts deep in my Google Reader— and that’s not even counting all the people I follow and like on Google+ and Facebook. Are your content blurbs strong enough to stand out from that crowd?
  2. Do something different– wildly different. Everyone else was offering coupons or vague promises of specials or discounts. Floyd Roofing Co.’s ignored the pictures, the prose, the bullet points, and the clip-out coupons and did something wildly different.Take a look at everyone else’s strategy. Identify what everyone else is doing– and don’t do that. Be a black sheep in a world of white ones.  
  3. Know your audience, know your style. Floyd does roofs. Floyd is very straightforward about roofs. I don’t feel like Floyd is trying to sell me on his roofing services. It’s a simple equation: I need a new roof, so I call Floyd. Floyd does roofs.It’s a simple market and a simple outlook, but it’s one that is incredibly effective. You want your marketing strategy to work the same way. Know your audience, know their needs. Meet that need as simply and straightforwardly as possible. Just like you know your audience, they should know exactly what they’ll be getting from you.
  4. Cause a reaction. I’m sure when poor Floyd wrote this ad, he had no idea some neurotic writer would spin this into a full-fledged blog post with Dr. Suessian morals and metaphors. But even if other readers’ reactions weren’t as strong as mine, I’m sure they reacted– a rueful smile, a chuckle, an eye-roll, etc. You can’t help yourself. It’s ridiculous. And it works.

That reaction is essential. Make people notice. Then make people care.

Ever Learned Anything From a Ridiculous Ad?

1-Family TimeImage: cmun_project via Flickr

Alright, readers, I’ve shared my roofing epiphany. It’s your turn.

What print ads or commercials have caused strong reactions in you? What are some of your favorite advertising campaigns? And would you buy a roof from Floyd’s Roofing Co.?

Leave your answers in the comments!

About the author

Nicki Porter