Bad Advertising Traffic & Conversion

More Bad Advertising – Keyes Motors

Do you know what the single biggest problem is with almost all the marketing that I review, critique, and come across? It’s that marketers often think that their prospects will connect the dots, or fill in the gaps at the places where their advertisements are not 100% clear. It’s when marketers create their ads without […]

Do you know what the single biggest problem is with almost all the marketing that I review, critique, and come across?

It’s that marketers often think that their prospects will connect the dots, or fill in the gaps at the places where their advertisements are not 100% clear.

It’s when marketers create their ads without their prospects in mind.

Here’s what I mean.

It’s an extremely self centered and egotistical approach to think that ANYONE will take even an extra millisecond to try and figure out what you’re trying to say in your ads.

Nobody cares about what YOU’VE got to say unless it benefits THEM.

If every word doesn’t appeal to your prospect’s innermost desires, if your copy doesn’t flow smoothly into the conversation already going on in your prospect’s mind, then your advertisement is being discarded.

Either physically or mentally.

A good ad (when I say "ad" I mean anything from a website, sales letter, email, blog post… any form of communication between you and your prospects) puts your readers in an almost hypnotic state, where their interest level is so high, and your message is such a greased chute, that they can’t help but continue reading.

When your ad can accomplish this, you are on the right track.

In contrast, any part of your advertisement that forces your prospect to stop and think — or have to figure something out, BREAKS this trance, and interrupts their blissful reverie.

Doing this will almost certainly kill the sale.

Some marketers are at the level where they recognize how important this principle is, and so they work at eliminating any obscure points in their ads that don’t trigger the emotions of their prospects.

Other marketers and businesses are completely clueless when it comes to this concept.

Here’s an example of that:

Here in Los Angeles, in the San Fernando Valley to be exact, there is a chain of auto dealerships called Keyes Motors.

Keyes Motors has been around for 20-30 years, and is a well known company in this area. And Keyes has a jingle that goes, "Keyes-Keyes-Keyes… Keyes on Van Nuys!" — sung to the tune of the Beach Boys song "Barbara Ann".

It’s cute, it’s catchy, and it’s fun to sing (if you work there).

Everybody who’s ever heard the jingle — knows it. They know that Keyes is there on Van Nuys Boulevard.


It’s a typical image/brand building type of strategy that does absolutely nothing in terms of pre-selecting an already interested target market, grabbing their attention with a bold promise, tickling their emotions with strong copy, crafting an irresistible offer, then eliminating all risk with an ironclad guarantee.

Fine. Not everyone uses direct response.

But a couple of weeks ago, on a cloudy day in the San Fernando Valley, the people at Keyes outdid themselves.  

On this day I looked up to see an airplane flying around the area with a banner that simply read:

"Keyes Keyes Keyes… Keyes on Van Nuys"

That’s it. Take a look:

Bad Advertising - Keyes Motors Airplane Banner

It didn’t say, "Go buy a car at Keyes". It didn’t say, "Keyes has really good Toyotas," or "We’re having a sale," or "The old model year is out — let’s make a deal!"

It simply said, "Keyes Keyes Keyes… Keyes on Van Nuys".

Okay, let’s take a look at what Keyes is trying to accomplish with this airplane banner.

Most likely they’re tying to get new customers to come into the dealership, right?

So let’s break this down into two parts.

Those who have heard the jingle and those who haven’t.

People who’ve heard the Keyes jingle

Everyone who’s heard that jingle a few times knows what it is.

I suppose that anyone who knows the song and saw the banner that day would be reminded of Keyes.

But remember, the objective of the airplane banner was probably to get NEW customers.

This ad only makes sense to people who’ve HEARD the jingle.

And if they’ve heard it before, and are reminded of Keyes Motors, and they don’t already love Keyes, a huge, expensive airplane banner won’t change that.

Maybe there’s a fraction of a chance that — at that moment — you ARE in the market to buy a car. And you were desperately wracking your brain for that catchy jingle you heard on the radio about that car dealership, sung to the tune of that one Beach Boys song.

And glory halleluiah, suddenly here comes that plane with exactly what you were looking for…

Sure, this could happen. But it’s highly unlikely.

Bottom line: The airplane banner only makes sense to people who have HEARD the jingle, but at the same time, it won’t do anything to change how they feel about Keyes. A lose/lose situation, and therefore…


So what about those who have no idea who, or what Keyes is?

For someone who has no idea who Keyes is, or what Keyes is, this banner is simply confusing.

Imagine, hanging out at the park, or stepping outside to get the mail, and you see this huge airplane ad. "Keyes Keyes Keyes… Keyes on Van Nuys".

What’s going on in your mind?

It simply doesn’t make any sense.

What is Keyes? Is that a person? A place? Did they misspell "keys?" It STILL doesn’t make sense.

What you have here is an extremely common mistake from advertisers who are so full of themselves, that they believe that all they have to do is put their name on a banner, fly it around the area, and customers will fall over themselves to come to the store.

Guess what?

Nobody is the center of the universe, and all roads do NOT lead to you. It’s only by focusing on the desires, needs, and fears of your PROSPECTS that your advertising will work. You can’t focus on yourself.

So… Bad Advertising winner of the week is "Keyes Keyes Keyes… Keyes on Van Nuys."

So go take a look at your own marketing. Does any of it operate under the assumption that your target market will make some leap, or dig back into some ripe old memory? Are you expecting your customer to do the work that your ad didn’t?

What do you think of Keyes’ big banner ad? Agree with me? Disagree? Let us all know.

To Your Success


13 replies on “More Bad Advertising – Keyes Motors”

The ad you talked about made me laugh… and it seems that there are many incredibly wasted advertising opportunities. I have got no clue about advertising except that I’m a consumer (like everybody else on the planet) but it never ceases to amaze me how much money must be wasted and how many opportunities are thrown away on advertising that leaves you wondering what the hell that was about!


Mark, you’re so right.
Some of the ads I see just make me go what?
They are long on innuendo and short on specific action.
I think you have to spell it out.
The product must have value to your customer, and your ad must be a call to action. Otherwise, you’re wasting your time and money.

This is quite funny because my clients are automobile dealers and many use my direct response marketing. As a matter of fact, Keyes is a new client of mine. I don’t work with the Van Nuys stores at the moment but that will change. I have provided some of my expertise to the Woodland Hills Pontiac Buick GMC franchises. They had a good response with my mail pieces but car dealers never like to step outside their comfort zones. Most dealers around the country have similar concerns and if they decide to go with a new look and feel with there advertising it had better work extremely well or they are off in another direction. Some will listen and use what you tell them but most want to tweak it a little to what they think is better. It usually pulls less than anticipated and, of course, its our fault the piece didn’t do as well as the reference you gave them said it did. Auto dealers don’t test their adveertising, they just advertise and you are right when you said they like to stroke their own ego’s and expect the customer to figure it out. I don’t complain to loudly because auto dealers spend millions of dollars on advertising and most is wasted on poor marketing. I have many auto dealer clients that just want someone to do the marketing for them and if only they would listen to people like yourself and me and maybe Dan Kennedy or Bill Glazer would they find good marketing in the 21st century would boost their sales to new high’s.
Sorry, I just realized how much I was rambling. Thanks for you email.

Man whats up with car dealers.. They
are the worst advertisers on the planet,
and its like that all over the country.
What gets me is the cost for that usless
stunt… I mean where I live you could
do that for 3-500 hundred… But in La La
Land your in the thousands.

Great Post Mark

That was right on, Mark. I totally agree.

For those of us learning more about copywriting, it is amazing how much advertising out there is almost pure junk. In other words, a big waste of money.

The Keyes problem, first of all, is that they haven’t defined who their customer is. If they can figure that one out, they might be able to come up with a great headline that would attract the right customer. The problem is definitely not the airplane.

Hmm… Let’s make sure there isn’t a confusion between between “Advertising”, “Marketing” and “Publicity” in the above before slating the plane banner. While I would conceed it is a bad ADVERT, it may well be a valid element of a longer term campaign to raise name / brand awareness, immediately before a roll out of more focussed advertising. E.g. British Gas’s “Tell Sid” campaign in 1986 – arguably early viral marketing as everyone talked about it but didn’t know what on earth it was about for a week or so.

For the most part I do agree with you on this commentary.
The banner on the plane itself is useless.
However there is one consideration that is not taken into account here and that is the fact that sound is one of the most powerful advertising mediums. Did you know that a simple sound like a pop or snap will stay in the listeners head for a minimum of 5 seconds? This is why, when done right, radio advertising can be very effective. I do not live even close to that area but when you were describing the jingle I couldn’t help but hear it in my head.
So I believe that the banner on the plane was simply to reinforce the radio ad. If someone who heard the ad saw the banner they couldn’t help but hear it in their head.
True, this is more of an image ad than anything else, but you do know they exist and with the proper newspaper ad it can tie into a larger picture.
Not effective for the small business but if you happen to have a boat load of advertising money and want to create an image for your business and attach a “feeling” to that business it’s the way to go.

That’s a great example of egocentric, clueless advertising. The best example of wasted money I’ve seen lately is from doubleclick – a full page, full color picture of a geekish young lady with a “benefit statement” that says –

“Our deeper understanding of the human variable strengthens every equation.”


A small paragraph at the bottom was all “we, we, we” with no real specific benefits listed. The funniest part of this is that the ad was in Target Marketing aimed at direct marketers.

I love this topic. Keep up with the good examples.

I know where Keyes is, and if I saw that banner, I would say, “What the ____?”

A car ad I heard 20 years ago that did make sense, said, “Hyundai, rhymes with Monday.” Maybe they went on to say “Make it a fun day, drive a Hyundai.” But what was cool about the ad was teaching people how to spell the name of a new Korean import.

My observation is people won’t talk to you if they don’t know how to say your name. Unless you’re a perfume, or perhaps a faux fancy cuisine, either change your name or teach your customers.

I could go on and on with examples of good and bad names, and leave it to your original point: connecting with the consumer! Way to go.


I think you missed the point.

You’re comparing DM to Broadcast and Branding. It’s like a watchmaker standing at a body shop and saying, “Look at that stupid moron hitting the side of that car with a hammer – every jeweler knows you can’t use a hammer to fix a watch!”

Different jobs for different tools.

The ads you’re talking about are not for the people who are on their way to buy a car that moment – they are designed as reenforcement. Then, when someone is ready to buy a car (6 mos, a year…) Who do they think of?

Keyes Keyes Keyes on Van Nuys

By the way, it’s getting a bit ridiculous in the Valley. It’s almost to the point now where Keyes is the ONLY dealer on Van Nuys – they seem to be buying out their competition… you know, the guys W/O the radio jingles and airplane banners.

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