How to Advertise in the Attention Age

Did you ever visit Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square in the heart of London? All those bright neon lights! Actually, these days most of the neon has been replaced with gigantic LCD and LED screens, but that’s another story. I mention Piccadilly Circus because it’s the perfect example and exaggeration of what we all face in our day to day lives — wall to wall advertising, all competing for our attention.

The thing is, how many of those ads do you remember? All that money spent on them, and for what? Maybe it makes the business owners feel good, and it certainly puts dollars in the pockets of many ad agencies. The irony is that most of the usual “in your face,” confrontational advertising out there is outdated, ineffective, and costly. But most small business owners don’t know that. They’re throwing their hard-earned money away on advertising methods that simply don’t work.

Look, the world is changing. People are being bombarded by advertising at every turn, and they don’t want to be sold to.

Think about that. People don’t want to be sold to, but they do like to buy.

So how can we let them know about our products and services in a way that makes them open to considering them?

Well, we have to be different. We have to stand out from the crowd. If we do what everyone else does, we’ll blend in with everyone else, and we’ll be throwing our marketing money away.

On one occasion when I visited Times Square in New York City (which, of course, is the U.S. equivalent of Piccadilly Circus), I found myself ignoring the billboards because something completely different caught, and held, my attention. Some enterprising person had arranged for dogs to carry promotional messages in little pouches on their backs.

It was clever, because they used small dogs of unusual breeds that caught people’s eye. Each dog had a handler (obviously), and four or five of these “teams” roamed Times Square. Passersby stopped in their tracks, usually crouching down to “say hello” to the dog, patting it, and so on. They were then presented with a leaflet for the product, a new brand of dog food.

A highly effective way to stand out from the crowd. Maybe you can brainstorm some creative ways to do the same in your business.

[Ed. Note: Andrew Lock is a maverick marketer and the presenter of a popular weekly WebTV show that helps small business owners get more done and have more fun ( Originally from the UK (Surrey), he now resides in Salt Lake City.]