Photo credit: Julian Hanford
Photo credit: Julian Hanford
A view from Dave Trott

A view from Dave Trott: The law of advertising

There's a basic flaw in the police approach to drug dealers.

The people willing to inform on them are law-abiding citizens.

But they don’t know who the drug dealers are.

The people who know who the dealers are are the people who buy the drugs.

So they won’t inform on them.

The problem is: those who would help can’t and those who can help won’t.

What’s needed is some creative thinking.

Sheriff Jessup, in McIntosh County, Georgia, realised the police were targeting the wrong audience.

They needed to target the people who knew the dealers.

In fact, they needed to target the dealers themselves.

So he has offered to help drug dealers get rid of their rivals.

He’s running ads with the headline:


Then the subhead: 

"We offer a FREE service to help you eliminate your drug dealing competition."

Then the copy:

"Report your competition to us:

My competition is __________

My competition lives at __________

My competition’s phone __________

My competition sells during the hours of __________

My competition sells to __________

My competition sells at _________"

Finally, at the bottom of the ad, is the County Sheriff’s logo and the address and phone number.

So you can either fill in the form and post it or just phone up anonymously.

Either way, that’s got to be a tempting offer.

Your first thought is to get your competition off the street.

Your next thought is: do it to them before they do it to me.

The campaign ran as small-space ads, and posters on trees, lamp-posts and walls where the dealers operate.

It cost virtually nothing.

In our world, it makes perfect marketing sense.

One of the main problems drug dealers face is oversupply.

Too many dealers supplying a limited market means supply is greater than demand, so prices must fall.

And too many competitors means a smaller market share for each dealer.

Like any small business, the first issue to address is market share.

Decrease the amount of competition and your share goes up.

That’s good news for any drug dealer.

So Sheriff Jessup found a way to encourage the more entrepreneurial drug dealers to take their rivals out of circulation.

He turned a law-enforcement problem into an opportunity.

Of course, he didn’t express it like that.

Sheriff Jessup didn’t have a complicated communications strategy.

But he did understand his market.

He said: "They are cut-throats and will turn on each other all the time."

As Bill Bernbach said: "Marketing is the study of simple, timeless human truths."

Dave Trott’s new book, One Plus One Equals Three, is out now