10 Questions to Ask About Your Advertisement

Ed Burghard

“Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted, and the problem is I don’t know which half.”

– Lord Leverhulme




  1. Is the advertisement focused on communicating your community’s promise?
  2. Does the advertisement make you want to learn more?
  3. Do you feel rewarded for having invested the time to read the advertisement?
  4. Is the advertisement distinctive so you’ll stop to read it?
  5. Does the idea focus on the benefit of your community’s promise?
  6. Is the advertising idea meaningful to your target audience?
  7. Does the advertisement make you think AND make you feel something?
  8. Is there drama in the advertisement that brings the benefit to life?
  9. Does the advertisement visualize the benefit?
  10. Does the advertisement include an authentic reason to believe the benefit will be experienced?

Here are some additional information resources on creating great advertising for your community:

Why do print advertisements fail?

Multiple posts on the topic of how to promote communities for capital investment.


Let’s take a look at some actual ads to determine the general quality of advertising in the economic development industry. I’ll present the headline, main claim and tagline statement for each. Whenever the location name is used, I will replace it with [Location X] in an attempt to protect the identity of the location. You evaluate the information from each case against the above criteria as best as you can (I recognize some of the 10 criteria will be impossible to evaluate without a visual). Then, you provide a comment on your overall assessment of the “quality of advertising” in economic development.


Headline – The horsepower in [Location X] is as strong as ever.

Main Claim – We off some of the nation’s lowest industrial electricity costs, a competitive tax structure, and an ideal location within 600 miles of two-thirds of America’s population.

Tagline – Unbridled Spirit


Headline – Life. Less Taxing.

Main Claim – Best taxes under the sun.

Tagline – Life. Less Taxing.


Headline – In [Location X], You’re One Tank of Gas From 1/3 of the US Population.

Main Claim – Complete transportation network with major highway, air, rail and waterway systems that offer access to 42% of the US population within a 550-mile radius.

Tagline – A Natural for Business


Headline – Momentum.

Main Claim – Despite the economic downturn, [Location X] has it all.

Tagline – Where Business Grows


Headline – The Strongest Bond in Biotechnology.

Main Claim – [Location X] continues to rank among the top [locations] for biotechnology.

Tagline – Wide Open For Business


Headline – When it Comes to Breakthroughs, We’re All Business.

Main Claim – World leader in biotech research with more than 400 companies and the highest concentration of PhDs.

Tagline – Land of Opportunity


Headline – We Have What You Need, [Location X] Everything …

Main Claim – Businesses across all industry sectors find what the need to grow and prosper in [Location X].

Tagline – None


Headline – His grandparents saw the first rocket. His parents saw the first space shuttle. What will he see first?

Main Claim – Pro-business government, central geographic location, world class workforce, nine of [Location X]’s largest communities ranked at the best place to do business.

Tagline – Life Changing

Your Opinion?

Which of the 8 cases does the best job of meeting the criteria of a good advertisement? Based on these 8 cases (recognizing that is not the sum total of advertisements run by economic development organizations), what is your overall assessment of the “quality of advertising”? What examples come to your mind when you think about great advertisements in economic development? Please leave a comment with your thoughts.

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11 Comments so far

  1. Al Jones

    August 22, 2011

    They’re good questions Ed. Most of the ads for locations I’ve seen either presume the reader is pretty sure what they’re looking for in key factors already and just trying to come up with towns/developments to look at closer (not quite as rare as unicorns) or that decision-making will be hyperrational (i.e. logistics, comparative costs, taxes, etc.). Assuming customers are going to make fact-based, deeply research decisions is usually going to disappoint you and assuming people are more rational with their business decisions is B-school profs’ wishful thinking. I’m still not sure how we got some of the ones we did, those I think I know were for far from the stated reasons, like any B2B sale. Sadly it would probably be most effective to list the total amount the community was willing and able to pay for each job (at what pay rate) with a 100 or 300 or 500 job minimum and leave it at that…it was the only numbers I kept seeing carefully noted by prospects and where most of the questions revolved after we’d established we didn’t happen to have their ideal building, fully equipped and ready to go, sitting there empty and available for free forever. I don’t find the operating managers as having the time to do the search and they have the most rational questions about actually operating somewhere (I’ve been that guy too in the deals, having to live with what the community actually has for years of operations to come is a very sobering realization.)

  2. Bruce Specter

    August 23, 2011

    Advertising in EcoDev is akin to the aroma of a meal, where the meal is the location. Advertising is the enticement but the proof is when your target sinks their teeth into the product. Like most restaurants, markets can only succeed by the tangible benefits of that product. These eateries, like the associated markets, only excel based on the actual experience. Word gets around. Too many marketing campaigns provide a lot of sizzle, yet meal leaves much to be desired.

    The Reno area is an example of a market that may have waited too long to re-create itself. For too long, it has been a place to play but not stay. The advertising sizzle may get prospects in the door, but you have to keep them at the table. What’s on your business development menu that will keep them there? What about real-world endorsements from the private sector? Is the wait staff (the public sector EcoDev team) attentive and knowledgeable?

    EcoDev teams the country over are going after pieces of an ever-decreasing pie. What are

  3. Chris Donnelly - Designer

    August 23, 2011

    On first read I like the bond and biotech idea, because it plays with the idea of money as well as chemical bonds… and thus the solvency of the industry. (no pun intended.) That said, I couldn’t evaluate any of these ideas until I saw how great the imagery and design production was. A terrific advertising idea – poorly executed – is usually hard to understand as an ad, and can leave people shaking their heads. A simple idea, well executed, will at very least be legible and easy to understand. Hard call to make based on titles and without an idea of what imagery will be paired with these ideas.
    (Spoken like a true designer?)

  4. Della Rucker

    August 23, 2011

    Nice, Ed. I always love the “400 miles from 2/3 of the US population” type ads. So are you and 3,000 other places, buddy…..

    Cases 5 and 6 I think come closer to working than anything else here. At least in terms of messaging, they at least say something that might make me take a second look.

    Going off of what Bruce said, let me turn a little radical for e moment: as he pointed out, a lot of conventional economic development methods are turning into a fight for a piece of a smaller and smaller pie. There simply aren’t a whole lot of companies on the relocation market (I would argue that there probably never really were a lot). It is my increasing conviction that what the economic development community needs to focus on is growing what it can grow from within itself — from its own asset base. Chasing the big game is admittedly more fun than raising your own herd, but you’re a lot less likely to starve if you’re growing your own from your own resources.

    Given that, however, I am a planner and analyst, not a branding whiz….I’d be really interested to hear your perspective on the potential and best practices for marketing internally — building enthusiam and can-do attitude and supporting people within a community who want to make something happen. I don’t know if there’s a correlation to the work that a lot of large corporations do to build their esprit d’corps or not. But for many communities, I think that’s the current low-hanging fruit.

  5. Derek Perkins

    August 24, 2011

    Based on my own experience and supported by empirical evidence in DCI’s Winning Strategies 2008 report, I’d believe the most important question a location should ask when advertising is: ‘is this the best marketing tool I can use?’

    In the Winning Strategies report, senior executives perceived advertising as one of the three least effective marketing approaches (the other two were telemarketing and direct mail) used by economic development organizations.

    If locations feel they must advertise, it should only ever be on the basis that they have the stomach (and the budget) for a long-term campaign and that they have (and use) a methodology to monitor responses and results.

  6. Ed Burghard

    August 24, 2011

    @Derek – In my experience, market research that directly asks respondents what influences their behavior needs to be interpreted with caution. It assumes the respondent is aware of what drives his/her action. When I was working at P&G, physicians would consistently claim sales calls had the lowest influence on their behavior. Yet, every heavy-up sales call test we would run in market quantitatively demonstrated just the opposite versus a valid control group. I would not be surprised if the same dynamic were true in this case. Having said that, I totally agree with your point about the time required to make an impact and the need to measure ROI. I’d also throw in the need for adequate investment to deliver threshold levels of reach and frequency, and the need for a solid strategic rationale.

  7. […] The blog post I wrote on features versus benefits received a lot of attention, so I followed it up with a little exercise and a reprise of an earlier blog post on assessing advertising. […]

  8. 10 Questions to Ask

  9. Weronika

    April 30, 2019

    Wow… nice post here, Who Are You? Where are you from? I ‘d like to read more to your next post.Please keep continue.thanks Form David

  10. Edward

    April 30, 2019

    You can learn more about the project in the About section.

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