"Half-cocked" is an expression that goes back to the days of flintlock muskets (ahhh...good times, good times). Its origin has to do with a technical glitch in which the flint fails to strike the priming pan with sufficient force to ignite the charge and...oh, who cares? What it means nowadays is to do something lamely...with insufficient resolve. And usually prematurely.
So here's how it relates to the subject of this blog, which (I'm beginning to regret) has to have some relevance to advertising, or marketing, or commerce:
An ad campaign that goes off half-cocked is one that has insufficient resolve in its execution. Very often an advertiser, particularly one who hasn't advertised before, will just try out a single, small-space ad in the cheapest medium and "see how it goes." They'll run a spot on cable after midnight. Or a tiny banner on a website nobody goes to, something cheap. And lo and behold, they don't get the response they hoped for. It's as if they bought one lottery ticket at a 7-11 and, oh pooh, came up with squat.
Okay, bad simile. I'll stick with the flintlock allusion.
The advertiser then looks at the weak response from the tentative little ad and concludes, "Advertising doesn't work."
It is true that a campaign that has entertaining creative will do better against one that's dry as powder (come o-o-o-o-on, metaphor!). But there has to be a critical mass of impressions for it to make a spark at all. Much less hit its target.
That's enough musketry. You get my point.