A Report on "Why Bad Ads Happen to Good Causes"

Publishing a report on lessons for improving public interest advertising

A June 2001 study by the research firm Roper Starch Worldwide (now RoperASW) found that readership of 195 public interest ads appearing in national publications in the years 1990–2000 had been dismal. The study, commissioned by communications consultant Andy Goodman, and funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts, relied on analyses already in ASW's database estimating the ability of print ads to capture a reader's attention, hold his or her interest and establish the name of the advertiser.

This grant to Cause Communications, of which Goodman is the director, helped support the production and distribution of an in-depth report—based on the 2001 study—that provides clear, simple and proven guidelines to help public interest organizations create more effective print advertising.

Key Results

  • The report, Why Bad Ads Happen to Good Causes, was published in 2002. It draws on data from the 195 ads and poses an in-depth analysis of 26 ads. It offers seven guidelines to help public interest groups create more effective print ads:
    • Capture the reader's attention like a stop sign and direct it like a road map.
    • Make an emotional connection before attempting to convey information.
    • Write headlines that offer a reason to read more.
    • Use pictures to attract and convince.
    • If you want people to read your text, make it readable.
    • Test before, measure after.
    • When everyone zigs, it's time to zag.