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In advertising: Do not waste your first impression by stating the blindingly obvious.

May 14th, 2019

Precriptions are our specialtyI came across this ad on a wall for a local drug store, today: The wording stunned me so much that I had to take a photo.

You have one chance to make a first impression

Almost everyone knows about one of the most common rules of advertising, which is that you have but one chance to make a first impression with someone who has never seen your business or messaging, before. As this ad shows, there are more than a few who are not aware of the very next rule:

All babies must eat food

Depending on the agency you've worked at, or the school you attended, you may have heard different variations: "Everyone eats food", "All horses drink water" and so on: The message is the same: There are certain things in life that are blatantly obvious and not only should not have to be stated, but *definitely* should not be stated in the precious thirty seconds or less that you have to make a first impression with someone who is seeing your business or your messaging for the first time ever.

In this example: The ad is for a pharmacy: I have blurred out the name and contact info, because my intent is not to embarass anyone. So: Not only do I expect a pharmacy to be able to fill prescriptions, I expect their first specialty, ability and priority to be able to fill prescriptions.

The dictionary definition of "pharmacy":
[ fahr-muh-see ]
noun, plural phar ma cies.

  • Also called pharmaceutics. the art and science of preparing and dispensing drugs and medicines.
  • a drugstore.
  • Pharmacies are ubiquitous; They are everywhere. This sign is akin to seeing a sign for a grocery store that says "Groceries are our specialty" or a mechanic that says "Fixing cars is our specialty"

    Why are you different or why should you shop with me ?

    Unless you are selling something that is quite literally unique, with absolutely zero competition, the chances are overwhelmingly near 100% that what you are selling is similar to millions of other businesses around the world and quite possibly hundreds or dozens of other business local to you.

    There are two, primary, purposes of an advertisement:

    1. To let the public know that you exist, where you are and what you sell
    2. To convince the public to buy from YOU and not from your competitor
    That's it. That's all. One can argue that it is to promote sales and specials and what-not, but that still falls down to "Why should I buy a product from you that is on sale, rather than your competitor, who also has (or will have) a sale ?"

    In this example, the business owner has gone to the expense of putting up a sign on a busy, main street in my town. The sign, for all intents and purposes, says this:
    "We are a pharmacy.
    We sell prescription drugs."
    In other words, not only did they state the obvious, but they stated it twice. The business name ({identity} Drug Store) tells people right away what they sell. The byline/slogan repeats that by saying they specialize in what they sell. Given pharmacists are highly regulated it is a fairly safe assumption that they should specialize in what they sell.

    In my town, there are at least three pharmacists - all within a ten minute walk of each other, or less than three minutes, by car. This advertisement literally gives no reason to shop here, rather than at the other two.

    Remember that, in your own advertising: When someone is giving you that chance, by reading your ad, THAT IS YOUR OPPORTUNITY to convince them why to use you, instead of your competitors.

    Don't waste it by telling them that all babies eat food.

    As always: If you have questions or commentary, feel free to email me at or comment on the CanadianISP Facebook page at

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