Advertising Development and AdMaps

Many of my clients use advertising to build awareness of the products or services, and they often wonder if they could be doing a better job of developing effective advertising messages.

One tool I used way back in “big marketing” days at P&G and Coca-Cola was the AdMap. What this does is clarify the purpose of advertising and helps to define a measure against which a potential ad could be measured.

For many clients, the problem at hand is just making sure than potential customers know they exist, but beyond that, the problem is often more about how to differentiate yourself from the competition.

Say for example you are a plumber and you are trying to get the word out about your plumbing business. One obstacle is simply name recognition, but you may also discover that in your area most consumers believe that plumbers are unreliable, slow and eager to make more money at the consumer’s expense. In this case, you may also want to develop a message that convinces consumers that you are different and will actually show up when you say you will and accurately diagnose the problem.

The AdMap helps illustrate the core belief in the mind of your customer that you are trying to change. You have to know something about your customer to do this exercise, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. Here’s the basic layout:


When you see this, you can build the kind of advertising message that might change the beliefs, and thus the behavior, of your potential customers. The message has to be credible and truthful, and tap into a positive image of what it would be like to use your product or service.

One of the most powerful examples I know of appears in the latest Apple ad as part of the “Mac and PC” campaign ( I’ve designed an AdMap based on the ad, and some of the thinking that might be behind it:

Ad Map

Now, the ad is also humorous and well-designed, but it clearly plays on consumer beliefs about Microsoft and sows a seed of doubt about how likely Microsoft is to have really “fixed” their operating system this time.

The next time you develop an ad, try using this tool to analyze the message you are creating and the beliefs you are trying to change. You can practice on your favorite TV ads and see what a powerful way of looking at advertising this can be.