DID I GET IT WRONG LAST TIME?
If you were paying attention to the last screed, we left halfway into answering a question from Chris Pollard, champion radio creative director in Ontario, to wit: "How do we move the needle?"
He's asking how to get affordable training for the people on his staff so they can create better radio advertising.
One of the first things I said was: Even if you don't care about radio, stick around. This is going to be worth it.
And I still stand by that. Thank you for being here.
However, last time, my first recommendation to anyone wanting to create better advertising was to become a geek for advertising.
It doesn't matter what kind of advertising you do, you need to understand techniques and history.
DID I JUMP THE GUN?
In preparing for this follow up, I realized: Uh-oh.
Did your relentless scribe put the cart before the horse?
Last week, I invoked the name of the father of Guerrilla Marketing, the late, great Jay Conrad Levinson. Back in the day, he had the good fortune to be hired and then fortuitously fired by Howard Gossage, the brilliant eccentric and marvelously creative ad man who ruled advertising from atop a converted firehouse in San Francisco during the '60s.
The delightful quirk that drove so much of Mr. Gossage's work no doubt rubbed off on Mr. Levinson, who offers a directive in his bible of guerilla marketing.
And that directive is blindingly important in this whole question of how to create better advertising.
He said, "Get people's attention."
WELL, DUH. OF COURSE YOU WANT TO GET PEOPLE'S ATTENTION.
But wait there's more.
He went on to say something that so many people creating advertising never stop to consider.
"People do not pay attention to advertising."
People do not pay attention to advertising?! Why should they not be interested in the brilliant words that come streaming forth from my word processor!
Why not, indeed. As Mr. Levinson continues, "...they pay attention only to things that interest them. Sometimes, people find those things in advertising."
Getting their attention does not mean yelling, "Free beer!" And then saying, "Now that I have your attention, I'm selling this horse."
It means something else.
"TO BE INTERESTING, BE INTERESTED."
No, that is not Mr. Levinson speaking.
Nor is it David Ogilvy, as the internet meme machine would like you to believe. I can guarantee this, because the quote appears two thirds of the way down page 88 of that grand old chestnut of persuasion, How To Win Friends And Influence Peopleby Dale Carnegie.
If people pay attention to what interests them, and you wish them to pay attention to your advertising, it becomes necessary that your advertising is interesting.
And this takes us to a very basic element of writing great advertising.
It's not about advertising.
IT'S ABOUT PEOPLE
And this is where we should've begun the discussion.
Not at becoming a geek for advertising.
But at becoming a geek for life, the universe and everything.
Anyone can explain the basic mechanics of creating an advertisement.
But what can't be taught is a curiosity about the world outside the advertisement.
And that's something you find in all the great advertising writers who have come down the pike.
To a person, they are interesting--but more importantly, they are interested.
And I guarantee you that when Mr. Pollard in his office in his radio station in Dryden in Ontario in Canada at the top side of North America hears this, he's going to wonder what the heck has happened.
ALL THIS MAN WANTED WAS ADVICE ON RADIO TRAINING
He's received commentary on advertising geekdom, is now being told that an interest in life, the universe and everything is really what every writer needs, and what on earth is he supposed to do with that?
I feel your pain, Mr. Pollard. It's frustrating for me, too.
Don't worry, we will get back on topic.
But first, we need to beat this mule some more.
Too much thinking in business (and in life) is channeled and labeled and siloed and stratified and packaged and otherwise rigidly defined.
There is no room for anything that isn't categorized.
EVERYONE WANTS WELL-DEFINED ANSWERS AND SOLUTIONS
Here's the problem with talking about training people to create better advertising.
There's no on-off switch.
You can't just send someone to a training program and come out with a top-notch copywriter or a genius voiceover performer.
It's all a process.
And the process begins a long time before someone walks into a radio station or an advertising agency or even your business and says, posing with arms akimbo, "I am writer!"
Instead, they've spent their lives, walking around and bumping into things, wandering down the road less traveled, wondering "What the heck?", and asking questions.
AND THIS IS KEY
Good advertising writers are interested.
They have curiosity.
They want to know more.
They ask questions.
Then, when it comes time to write an ad, after they've asked all kinds of questions about what they're supposed to be selling, they have no problem sitting down writing endless awful advertisements for it.
ONE NEVER WRITES A GOOD AD BEFORE ASKING QUESTIONS AND WRITING CRAP
One big problem?
A lot of people stop at the crap.
They think it's good. They parade it around and people applaud.
Because maybe it's clever.
Maybe it seems like an advertisement.
But in reality, all it really is, is an ad-like object.
The world is filled with ad-like objects.
You see them and hear all the time.
And they make you feel nothing--unless they make you feel the wrong thing.
OFTEN THEY'RE FUNNY
And there's nothing wrong with funny advertising.
But funny is not the goal. Funny by itself makes the prospect feel the wrong thing.
The funny needs to be relevant.
The funny needs to connect with the sales message.
And this is one of the big challenges we face.
Especially in radio, there's a perception that advertising needs to be funny.
Advertising needs to be relevant.
That doesn't mean it needs to be a "buy now, but wait, there's more, there's never been a better time to buy this baloney!" pitch fest.
AN INTERESTED PERSON UNDERSTANDS PSYCHOLOGY
Not formal psychology. I took psych 101 in college. It was awful. And was obviously taught by somebody badly in need of a psychologist.
We're talking practical psychology, or whatever else you want to call it. Mindset. Thinking. Makeup. Sensibility. Consciousness. Attitude. Feeling.
Ah, there's that word. "Feeling." How does the advertisement make the prospect "feel."
The interested copywriter understands this.
The interested copywriter understands the feelings of the person to whom they are speaking, and how to hit the emotional trigger that makes that prospect feel, "Here's the solution to my problem."
THAT'S PART OF EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE
And that kind of emotional intelligence about the craft comes from spending life, walking around and bumping into things, wandering down the road less traveled, wondering "What the heck?", and asking questions.
It does not come from saying, "Hey, we're gonna write a funny ad that wins an award!"
Before anything else happens, the right person with the right attitude has to be at the helm of the great ship HMS Word Processor.
Fortunately for the indubitably frustrated Mr. Pollard in his radio station in Dryden, Ontario, Canada, North America, 49 degrees 47 minutes North, 92 degrees 50 minutes West, we will be getting around to a practical and concrete answer to his question next time.
Your Lean, Mean Creative Director in
"HOW DO WE MOVE THE NEEDLE?"
That's the question. It comes from Canada via Chris Pollard, Creative Director at 92.7 CKDR in Dryden, Ontario.
And even if you don't care about radio, stick around. It's going to be worth your while.
When we threw out the solicitation for your burning questions about branding and marketing, Mr. Pollard was first out of the gate.
He asked, "How do we move the needle?"
Normally, the phrase "moving the needle" is a reference to generating sales for a client. Creating advertising that sells more product is moving the needle.
But in this case, Mr. Pollard is talking about training his team in making better, more creative and more effective advertising.
He says, in part, "A lot of marketers out there...want to improve their skills. But training opportunities are sorely lacking. Is there something out there we're missing? My corporate cohorts and I have discussed it several times over the years, and our searches always come up empty."
I can guarantee you, the answer is not one he's expecting, and it's going to be more applicable across the board than you expect.
RADIO IS A VAST WASTELAND
With apologies to erstwhile FCC Chairman Newton Minow, whose famous "vast wasteland" speech to the National Association of Broadcasters in 1961 sent TV programmers a searing message about the quality of their content, radio has become a creative desert.
A fact of the business is that wildly talented and dedicated people get sacked because they're "too expensive." More and more, everything is run by beancounters lacking insight, employing low-wage bean counters who lack skill or intellect, supervised and trained by people who aren't all that great, either. or, who have just given up and do what they can with what they're given. (I am not painting Mr. Pollard's employers with this brush. They seem to be an exception.)
Mr. Pollard goes on to talk about the few, expensive courses out there, and the many affordable ones--many which have fallen by the wayside because nobody can get their stations to pay for them.
So the real question is: Where is the affordable training?
To which I say: It's all around you. Just do it.
Become A Geek For Advertising
Not just radio, but all advertising.
I'm routinely shocked how many radio people do not have any comprehension of how advertising works, what constitutes good advertising, and how they know nothing about advertising history.
Radio has its uniqueness, for sure.
But it also shares commonality with all advertising in that it's a form of persuasion.
It doesn't matter what kind of advertising you do, you need to understand techniques and history.
If you say "John Caples" to most advertising (and radio) people, they look back at you with all the comprehension of a Labrador retriever.
IF YOU MENTION CAPLES' MOST FAMOUS HEADLINE?
You might get a smattering of more comprehension.
The famous headline is, "They laughed when I sat down at the piano--but when I started to play!"
It's an ad for at-home music courses, and it is famous in advertising to the point of being a cliché.
The ad taps into the emotional desires we experience as humans. It features a cliffhanger headline that makes the reader say, "Tell me more!" It makes the pitch with a human and real sounding story from a happy customer.
It's a brilliant lesson in how to make an ad work--and it was written almost 100 years ago.
Caples also wrote a landmark book called, Scientific Advertising. Caples had no patience for funny advertising, and he's very dry. But the book has valuable lessons.
There's even an awards competition named in his honor that requires entrants to prove how well their advertising worked.
Besides Caples' book, there are also plenty of other books available to anyone who's interested in understanding the history and fundamentals.
Yes, times and fashion change.
FUNDAMENTAL HUMAN PSYCHOLOGY DOES NOT
That's why so many books on advertising, while being out of date as fashion goes, still provide a killer education in advertising.
Just for example...
Ogilvy On Advertising
One of those old chestnuts about the business, it too provides important information about how to craft advertising. And if you read it, you will learn why Ogilvy loved radio and called it, "The Cinderalla medium."
Bill Bernbach's Book
An incredibly expensive book because it's out of print. But it's a lesson from a man who changed the face of US advertising almost singlehandedly. It's filled with simple and pithy advertising that provides brilliant examples of conceptual thinking that make you stop and say, "Wow." The ojne ad you probably know: Vollkswagen "Think small."
When Advertising Tried Harder
Like the Bernbach book, this is also out of print and expensive. But it provides a litany of pithy, in your face ads that, again, helped change the face of advertising.
Hey Whipple, Squeeze This
Luke Sullivan's "Classic guide to creating great ads" is funny and potent and irreverent and will make you spit chocolate milk out of your nose. Well, maybe not the latter. But it's an excellent guide.
Wizard Of Ads
If you haven't read Roy Williams' first book, get it. Now.
AND ONE OF MY PERSONAL FAVORITES...
The Book Of Gossage
This is an enormous and heavy trade paperback about a cult figure in 1960s San Francisco advertising, Howard Luck Gossage. This is the man who coined the phrase, "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade."
Gossage had his ad agency in a converted firehouse. He was an intellectual eccentric who once fired a junior copywriter by the name of Jay Conrad Levinson.
Yes, the father of Guerrilla Marketing worked for Gossage, and one day after submitting a copy assignment, Levinson got it back with a note that said something to the effect of, "There's nothing more I can teach you. You're fired."
Levinson has a chapter in the book. Jeff Goodby wrote the introduction.
If you don't know who of either of those people are, you're way behind the curve.
YES, ALL OF THE BOOKS ARE ON ADVERTISING IN GENERAL
And they are useful informative, and important.
Each of them, in their own way, leave you thinking, "Wow, that's good."
At Slow Burn Marketing, we have always maintained that small business advertisers can take many cues from big advertising agencies.
And these books are just part of the legacy that Big Agency Advertising has to offer the small-business advertiser--even one who works in radio.
This rant is going to go on into next week. There's too much more to say and not enough time in which to say it.
But once again, if you want to create better advertising, stick around for next week. It'll be worth it.
Your Lean, Mean Creative Director in
Blaine Parker is prone to ranting about any and all things related to brand. In many ways, he is a professional curmudgeon. While there is no known vaccine for this, the condition is also not contagious. Unless you choose it to be so.