AIDA had its heyday in the post-World War II decades, when the primary media were television, print, and direct mail. Ads of that era are famous for their attention-getting lines, such as: “Take it off, take it all off” (Noxzema shaving cream) or “Mother, please, I’d rather do it myself” (Anacin). In general, these ads progressed through the entire AIDA sequence.
A good example from advertising history is a 1960 ad for Goodyear tires that was shot in a film noir style. Please note: By today’s standards, it will come off as being extremely sexist. But it should be viewed as a product of its time.
The ad begins with a tight shot of a woman’s hand placing a signal flare next to a badly punctured tire. The voiceover says: “This flat tire needs a man. But when there’s no man around... ” At this point, they definitely have your Attention.
Next the camera pulls back to show the woman huddling in her winter coat. It’s a rainy night, and she walks across a deserted parking lot to a phone booth. This creates Interest. It feels like a nightmare scenario if this happened to you or to someone you care about.
In the Desire segment, the voiceover continues, “When there’s no man around, Goodyear should be.” Now the Goodyear jingle plays, signaling a rescue is at hand. We see a perfect new tire running smoothly, and the voiceover explains how Goodyear’s “tire-in-a-tire keeps on going” even if the outer layer is punctured.
The Action element is a soft close. The voiceover says, “Next time give her a second chance.” Of course, since you don’t know when the “next time” might be, you’d better buy the Goodyear tires right away.
In the print version of the ad, the four elements of AIDA appear simultaneously instead of in sequence. However, graphic designers have well-established techniques to control a reader’s eye movements across a page. (Again, please remember that this is a vintage, classic ad being used as an example – it is a product of its time.)
To grab your Attention, the slogan, “When there’s no man around…” appears in white type reversed against a dark field, which is actually the underside of a car that’s up on a jack.
Your Interest in the subject is engaged by the large photo showing a well-dressed woman on her knees in the dirt, struggling to change the tire.
Then your eye travels down the page to find the body copy and a close-up of the tire itself. Desire ensues as the copy explains the benefits. Clearly, if you want the safest tire in the world, you’d better buy those Goodyears.
Again the call to Action is pretty soft. As a big national brand, the advertiser is able to close with the Goodyear slogan and logo. Readers will know where to find a local dealer.
Incidentally, retail-direct mail pieces use AIDA in a similar fashion to the strategy described above. The strategy for attracting Attention is usually a free offer of some kind. Then, Interest, Desire, and Action follow, similar to the manner described above.
Business-to-business (B-to-B) marketing often takes the form of a campaign, which could be in four parts that correspond to the AIDA structure. In many cases, businesses providing services to other businesses are usually trying to establish a relationship, rather than to make a single sale. Thus, the B-to-B sales process can occur over an extended period of time, and marketers need to provide sales people with a series of marketing pieces that they can use to keep in touch.
The Attention-getting piece can be an offer for something free, as in a direct-mail campaign. However, the fulfillment of the free offer is likely to be in the form of another marketing piece such as a case study or a white paper. This makes sense in a knowledge-based economy, where this kind of proprietary information truly is a form of added value. Case studies frequently satisfy the Interest requirement of AIDA, as they show the prospects you’ve worked with, customers who have problems similar to theirs.
The third piece in the series could be a classic marketing brochure that induces Desire by explaining the benefits of your product or service. The final piece attempts to close the sale by prompting the prospect to take Action. The nature of this will depend on what business you’re in and the way you’re comfortable communicating with prospects.
For example, if you’re a consultant, you might send an overview of pending regulatory changes, with a gentle reminder that a compliance overhaul would be a good idea within the next 90 days. But if you’re selling the last few condos in a hot building, you can get away with a postcard that shows a picture of the property and a headline such as “Only two left and they won’t last long.”