In the late sixties, Alka-Seltzer famously spent millions on memorable yet ineffective ads. The catchy jingle and fun commercials did little to grow the antiacid’s bottom line. Which begs the question, what makes a message effective? Your goals may vary, but ultimately, it’s a function of reaching the right folks with relevant information that increases the odds they´ll do something you want. It doesn’t have to be pretty, it just has to work. Which brings me to a tow truck company in the small town of Oña, Ecuador. They painted the word “tow” followed by their phone number every few feet down a 40 mile stretch of highway. By my estimates, it must have cost them roughly $1,650*. If a car breaks down on that stretch of highway, guess whom they´re calling. I´d be willing to bet several cars break down that winding, pothole ridden, mountainous road with poor data coverage every day. Pretty? No. Effective? You betcha!
Of course, ideally you want to get style points whilst raking in results. It’s like a donut shop serving ugly, albeit delicious donuts. They might lose their shirt if they sat across the street from a competitor using the same recipe to produce impeccably decorated donuts. Substance is king, however style also has an important role to play.
*The math. If you consider they painted 125 or so ads per mile for twenty miles on either side of the town where the tow truck is based and you assume it takes 5 minutes to paint each ad, it would take about two and a half months working full-time to complete. At Ecuador's fully loaded minimum monthly wage of $525, the cost of labor would be about $1,300. As for the paint, if a gallon can cover 400 SF and costs $7, and the average ad covers about 4 SF, you need 50 gallons to paint the roughly 5,000 ads, or $350 in paint. That adds up to a $1,650 investment.