Procedural Drama Of An Ad

Do your ads speak to your audience_s procedural memory_

What do “I’m Loving It” and “Just Do It” have in common?

People can easily identify the brands behind them without actively squeezing their brains for information. I’m certain you’re not thinking of McDonald’s and Nike in your every waking moment, right? Still, they’ve managed to hit the spot in your brain that activates brand recall on command.

That’s called procedural memory

If your business advertising doesn’t work, it’s possibly because your target audience doesn’t remember you well enough. In other words, you have no foothold in their procedural memory to make them recollect your business on cue.

As a business owner, your goal is to have your advertising speak to your customer’s procedural memory. After all, the only way you get sales is when people actually think of you when they face a problem. Otherwise, you can spend thousands on advertising and get crickets in return.

So, how do you infuse procedural drama in your ads? That’s what we’ll find dig into in this article. Keep reading. 

What is Procedural Memory?

The procedural memory is a concept coined by one of modern psychology’s greatest minds, Dr. Alan Baddeley. If you dissect his scientific research and link them to advertising, you’ll see that there are 4 types of memory. Procedural memory is one of them, and we’ll cover the rest later.

Procedural memory is a kind of long-term memory because it deals with subconsciously recalling how to do things. For example, activities like riding a bike, tying shoelaces, and cooking your favorite dish. Once you’ve learned them, possibly through repeated practice, they become embedded in your system. 

Even when not consciously thinking about the activity, you know how it works and do the task on the spot. More often than not, even after a long hiatus, there’s no heavy refresher required to accomplish the said activity. 

However, what people often overlook is that procedural memory deals with remembering other things aside from motor skills. This classification of memory is also relevant in involuntarily remembering concepts like: 

  • Verbal qualities
  • Visual images
  • Emotional cues

Going back to the example earlier, hearing “I’m loving it” automatically triggers a verbal memory that reminds us of McDonald’s. A short glance at their golden arches also reminds people of them. Everyone knows how emotionally satisfying it is to get a quick whiff of their cheeseburger.

That’s the power of effective advertising and branding. They tap into people’s procedural memory that makes them impossible to forget. While your business may not attain the same popularity as household brands, you can also achieve a powerful brand recall. All it takes is advertising that targets your market’s procedural memory.

Wizard of Ads™ can make that happen. All it takes is a quick call, and your business becomes the frontrunner in everyone’s mind. Book a call.

4 Types of Memory4 Types of Memory

Humans are forgetful creatures. We often take for granted how easily we can recall information. Whether it’s a long-lost friend’s phone number or the words to our favorite song. Though have you ever wondered how we’re able to remember things?

The science of memory is complex, but understanding the basics can help you create better advertising. 


Because whenever you release an ad, you need to consider which memory channel it might fall into. This will encourage you to develop better ads that will engrave your business into a prospect’s psyche– procedural memory.

There are four general types of memory and we’ll explore each of them below:

Working Memory

Working memory is one of the brain’s primary executive functions. This is the type of memory that allows us to remember things for a short period– usually around 30 seconds. It’s also often referred to as our active memory because it’s the information we’re actively thinking about. The best way to think of working memory is like a cognitive sticky note that then gets lost in oblivion.

Working memory is important in advertising because it allows people to process or imagine new information. Ads that are attention-grabbing and incorporate story-telling make people experience the content. However, viewers will likely forget it soon enough.

Semantic Declarative Memory

This type of memory is all about meaning and understanding concepts. It helps us recall facts and general knowledge. However, you don’t remember when, where or how you learned the information stored in your brain. 

For example, you might use semantic declarative memory when you remember that the capital of France is Paris. However, where did you acquire that info? The school? The news? Scrolling through social media?

Episodic Declarative Memory

Like the previous point, this memory channel is also about acquiring and understanding facts. Although in this example, you remember when, where or how you learned the information.

One way you achieve this in advertising is when you publish an ad with a moving story. It’s so vivid that it sticks out to your audience and they remember every detail, including your brand.

Procedural Memory

As discussed earlier, procedural memory is involuntary and applies in the long term. It is beyond difficult to achieve in advertising, but when done right, the most powerful out of all four.

This is because procedural memory lasts a lifetime. It doesn’t matter if they see your ad once or 100 times. As long as you make an impact and carve your brand into their procedural memory, they’ll never forget you.

The Law of RepetitionThe Law of Repetition

The thing is, procedural memory-hitting ads don’t just happen. They’re often a product of repetition. Repeatedly exposing your market to the exact branding, messaging, value, and culture is the key to accessing procedural memory.

Roy H. Williams had the perfect equation to describe this:

Procedural memory = Salience (impact or relevance) x Repetition

Keep in mind that repeated exposure in itself won’t cut it. Show your audience mediocre and forgettable ads and it won’t get you anywhere. Your ads require salience or messaging that’s impactful enough to remember in order to be relevant. 

Here’s the rub. If your messaging packs a solid impact, lesser repetition is needed before it carves into their brain. That’s what you want because repetition costs money. Can you imagine running the same mediocre ad campaign on Facebook and getting little to no engagement?

The goal is to create a message that’s powerful, impactful, and moving enough to be easily remembered by your audience.

Short-Term Goal of the Direct Response Ad Writer

Direct-response ad writers look for one thing: conversions. 

That’s good, right? Well, we can’t really say conversions are bad but there’s more to business than just quick wins. 

When you’re a direct response copywriter, you’re after immediate actions from your customers. You write ads that speak to their working memory because you’re not after being remembered, you’re after conversions. 

When you speak directly to their felt needs (money, energy and time), you get the sale. If your product soothes an eminent pain point or satisfies an immediate pain point, you get the sale.

Basically, you’re reaching out to people for a quick sale.

Short-Term Goal of the ‘Future Needs’ Ad Writer

Future needs ad writers, on the other hand, are investors. They invest in creating tasteful, moving, and powerful ads today so they can be remembered when future needs arise. 

What does this mean? 

It means ads must not only target working memory but remain long enough for storage in episodic declarative memory. The goal for the short-term of future needs ad writers is to disrupt the audience’s system of belief. If your prospects are devoted to another brand, you need to shatter that devotion and pull them to you.

The only way you could achieve this is by triggering their emotional states through advertisement. You need to make the readers, listeners, or viewers feel all sorts of things like: 

  • Smile
  • Laugh
  • Cry
  • Nostalgia
  • Fear
  • Mad

Why? Because…

Emotion Triggers Adrenaline

Emotions make your business easier to recall. Since we’re dealing with the short-term, you don’t have much wiggle room to build rapport. All you can do is tug their emotional triggers and facilitate adrenaline production. 

Adrenaline is a hormone that causes your heart to beat faster, lungs to breathe deeper, and brain more alert and receptive. They act as a biochemical adhesive that helps the brain acquire pieces of information more effectively than normal. This helps store vivid memories in long-term memory a.k.a. episodic declarative memory.

There’s just one problem: It’s still not as good as procedural memory.

The Long-Term Goal of the ‘Future Needs’ Ad Writer

The Long-Term Goal of the ‘Future Needs’ Ad Writer

A long-term future needs ad writer thinks of tomorrow more than a short-term future needs ad writer. They have more room to build rapport and relationships so they’re willing to play the long game. While adrenaline enhances the memory process, there’s no guarantee that information remains for a long time.

That’s where long-term future needs for ad writers come in. They specialize in creating memorable, and digestible ads that are repeatedly bombarded to customers until they sink in. The more salient and consistent the message behind every advertisement, the stronger its hold in the procedural memory

Consider Morris-Jenkins’ Bobby and Mr. Jenkins commercials. There was no sense of urgency. You won’t find any hard-hitting CTAs. Just a 30-second ad of Bobby being a bubbly, curious tech and Mr. Jenkins portraying a wise old sage. 

However, this type of advertising got them to 4.9 stars and almost 17k Google reviews and counting. I bet you if anyone’s HVAC or plumbing breaks down in Charlotte, they’d call no one else but them.

That’s the power of creating ads that speak to procedural memory.

Procedural memory is like muscle memory. It’s unconscious and effortless, something that’s done without thinking about it. 

Procedural ads are all around us. They’re the ads that make us want to buy something specifically from someone, sometimes without even knowing why. Procedural ads are designed to create an emotional response associated with your brand, inviting people to choose you over others.

If you don’t have procedural advertising in your business yet, you need one and I can give you that. Book a call.

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