Do You Know How Advertising Works?

Connect with Bill A Johnston on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Bill A Johnston is a Funeral Home Facebook Expert and is available to speak at your next industry event.

As a 25-year veteran of the radio industry, I have vast experience in knowing how to make radio advertising work. It’s no different than any other form of mass media including TV, newspapers, and billboards. Every campaign should be properly written and adhere to Four Pillars of Successful Advertising (i.e., how advertising works).


You have to consider if the advertising campaign will reach enough people in the market that you serve. The key thought here is reaching a “critical mass.” According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are 863.8 deaths per 100,000 population per year (National Center for Health Statistics, 2019), so if you’re an operator in a market where there are 100,000 people, and assuming about 30% of the market is in our target demographic of adults 55+, and assuming they make the majority of funeral purchases, then your universe is around 30,000 people. If you’re buying advertising that reaches only 5,000 people in the demographic, then this is not a critical mass because theoretically, within that group, there would be only 144 death calls. If your funeral home does 500 calls a year, then 5,000 would simply not be enough. A critical mass in this example might be at least 20,000. The key thought here is you should feel confident that the number of people you’re reaching on a regular basis is large enough to “move the needle” in the direction of advertising success.


If the ad appears only once, it won’t be effective. In the old days of media, there was a “Rule of 3,” meaning that if you reached enough people at least three times in any given week, the ad would work. But today, when consumers are bombarded with 3,000 to 5,000 advertisements in a single day, the “Rule of 3” may not be enough. Still, it’s a great place to start. In the example in the “Reach” paragraph, if you reached 20,000 people at least three times in one week, that would be an excellent week of advertising.


This is the second biggest weakness in most local advertising campaigns. Far too often, advertisers will use “try and buy” advertising. They may think, let’s try this for a month or two and see if it works. However, if you want to reach enough people enough times a week, your campaign must continue for several months or, in the funeral industry, several years.


This is the biggest weakness in local advertising campaigns—changing copy on a regular basis to keep the ad fresh. In my radio days, we used a “Rule of 40,” meaning that when an ad ran 40 times, it needed to be replaced with a different ad. Changing ad copy is relatively easy on radio, but not so on television because of production costs. Changing copy can also be done easily in newspapers, but it’s very expensive on billboards—unless you’re using electronic billboards.

This was an excerpt from “How Facebook Works For Funeral Homes” written by Bill A Johnston. Order your copy on Amazon today! 

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