Reality In Advertising by Rosser Reeves

by Paul Simister on August 18, 2011

Reality In Advertising by Rosser Reeves is the famous book credited with popularising the concept of the Unique Selling Proposition.

It was first published in 1961 so can a book that is fifty years old have anything to teach us about advertising and marketing?

You bet it does.

Reality In Advertising starts with perhaps the most powerful statement I’ve read in a business book.“It cost $1,000,000,000 to write this book. We Spent that much of our clients’ money and made many mistakes to isolate these principles.”

One billion dollars – in 1961! Who knows how much that would be in today’s money.

Who Was Rosser Reeves?

Rosser Reeves was the chairman of the Ted Bates & Company advertising agency which under Reeves stewardship became the fourth largest in the world.

He died in 1985 and if you are interested in the author, you can read more at Wikipedia.

Reality In Advertising

First, Reality In Advertising is a delight to read. Rosser Reeves has a way with words and whilst the language may seem a little quaint in places, the chapters are short and the content very interesting.

I get the impression the book was written for three reasons:

  1. To get the best practices of marketing and advertising into the hands of business owners and managers.
    .
  2. As a rebuke to the charlatans who peddle the myths of advertising and cause businesses to waste a fortune on publishing ineffective marketing campaigns. The sort who think advertising is about creativity rather than selling. Worrying this still happens today and small businesses get a very bad impression of advertising from the huge brands.
    .
  3. As a defence of advertising to its critics who see the waste caused by the mad men in point two and believe that all advertising is a waste of time and money.

The Role Of The USP

Reality In Advertising is most famous for its emphasis on the USP.

I’ve written about the USP before – Rosser Reeves and the USP – so I won’t go over old ground.

The original aim of the USP is to plant one main idea into the mind of consumers and a clear proposition (this is what you’ll get) that is different from what’s available from competitors but is powerful enough to motivate people to buy.

There isn’t as much in Reality In Advertising as I was expecting about the USP and how you can create or craft a compelling one. To that extent the book was a disappointment but it made up for it in the power of the other ideas.

Other Insights From Reality In Advertising

There are two critical measures to focus on:

  • Penetration: The percentage of people who remember your current advertising.
  • Usage Pull: The percentage of customers among people who remember versus don’t remember your advertising. This can be negative for a bad ad – see my blog article on Anti-Marketing.

You get marketing leverage when both measures work in your favour rather than for competitors.

Poor penetration means that few people remember your advertising. Just take a minute a think about what adverts you saw last night on TV. Tough isn’t it? I take an interest in advertising and often I’m confused what they are selling while the advertisement is playing.

Poor usage pull means that you’ve created a memorable advertisement but it’s not doing you any favours. It’s not converting non-customers into customers and is a clear indicate that you either don’t have a USP or it’s not being communicated effectively.

I’m not intending to summarise Reality In Advertising but in the book, Rosser Reeves then goes on to explain how you can improve your penetration and usage pull.

Buying Your Copy of Reality In Advertising

Reality In Advertising appears to be out of print at the moment as Amazon.com don’t offer a new option.

Can You Get A PDF Copy Of Reality In Advertising?

I got my copy of this Rosser Reeves book as one of a series of classic marketing books I bought as pdfs and you may be able to get one too.

Paul Simister is the business strategy coach who helps business owners to differentiate their businesses and develop winning strategies. Get your free copy of the ebook The Six Steps Profit Formula.

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