OH, NO, ANOTHER SUPER BOWL COMMERCIAL?
You are here not for the news of the moment, but for the big-brand insights, techniques and tips that can inform your own small-business marketing.
And this week, we have a stunning example of how to do institutional advertising the right way.
In other words, how to show your brand cares without coming off as a crass, opportunistic jerk.
In case you're unfamiliar with the term, institutional advertising is different from product, promotional or brand advertising in that it doesn't sell a product or service.
Instead, it sells the feeling that an advertiser is a good member of the community.
For instance, Chevron product advertising typically talks about things like how good their gasoline with Techron is for your talking car.
But their institutional advertising talks about things like their oil rigs as fabulous, artificial-reef homes for lots and lots of colorful fish. "See? No pollution! Pretty fish!"
INSTITUTIONAL ADVERTISING IS DESIGNED TO MAKE US FEEL GOOD ABOUT THE ADVERTISER
So often, small-business advertisers try to do it right, but end up doing it wrong.
The worst example, and arguably not even an attempt to do it correctly, is infamous in radio advertising circles. In the wake of 9/11, a jeweler ripped off a famous 1960's recording about U.S disasters, and used it to "honor" Americans before making a pitch to buy jewelry as a smart investment in uncertain times.
Cynical, tone-deaf, calculating, and incompetent are all words that fail to adequately describe this effort.
Fortunately, efforts like that are rare. More common is just an uncertainty about how to drop the sales pitch and go institutional.
And this year's Super Bowl provides a vivid and tear-jerking example of how to do it the right way. And with a simple story.
THE ROOM IS DARK
A middle-aged woman is asleep in bed. A single, tense chord is playing underneath. A cell phone is heard vibrating.
Her husband rolls over. He sits on the edge of the bed. Listens. He says, "I'll be right there."
The tense music bed continues, and builds, as the man drives his luxury SUV through the wee morning hours, across a truss bridge over a substantial body of water.
His car radio is tuned to a news report about a storm that is "Still affecting thousands of families in desperate need of aid."
THE SUV PULLS INTO THE EMPTY PARKING LOT OF AN ENORMOUS BUDWEISER BREWING PLANT
The music becomes Skylar Grey's soulful rendition of Ben E. King's spiritual-inspired, "Stand By Me."
"When the night has come/And the land is dark/And the moon is the only light we'll see."
The man from the SUV is walking through the plant. Freshly-packed cases of Budweiser are speeding along the line.
A title appears, identifying the man as, "Kevin Fahrenkrog, General Manager, Cartersville Brewery." As the crew gathers around him, he says to a guy in a red Budweiser shirt, "Where we at?" Unintelligible conversation ensues. "Stand By Me" continues. "No I won't be afraid, no I won't be afraid/Just as long as you stand, stand by me."
Someone presses a button. The bottling machinery stops. The needle on the dial of a pressure gauge drops to zero. The unfilled Budweiser cans rolling along the line come to a halt. A lone man working the line is standing and waiting. "Just as long as you stand, stand by me."
Somebody at a control panel labeled "Brew Zone 3" switches from a diagram of a red brewing tank to a tank that is pale green.
THE BUDWEISER CANS ON A CONVEYER MOVE FORWARD
As they advance, they open a gap, revealing a new row of cans. These cans are white, and have one big word printed on the label: "Water."
A giant steel tank is filling with fresh, crystalline water. Men on the line begin connecting hoses. Water can be seen running through the lines. Freshly-filled cans of water start running along the conveyor.
Mr. Fahrenkrog, wearing a hard hat and safety glasses, watches freshly packed cases of water coming along the line. A fleet of forklifts carries pallets of water to a waiting convoy of red Budweiser trucks, which speed away into the morning sun.
The music continues. "No I won't be afraid/Just as long as you stand, stand by me."
Someone is watching a TV news report of cases of water being handed off a truck. The footage is captioned, "Breaking news. Disaster relief efforts in action."
Cut away to reveal the woman who, in the first shot, was lying in bed asleep.
SHE LOOKS ACROSS AT SOMEONE WHOSE BACK IS TO THE CAMERA
Cut to a reverse shot of Mr. Fahrenkrog, General Manager, Cartersville Brewery, at home eating his dinner.
A small hint of a smile as he looks away and down at his dinner plate.
Cut to a long, aerial shot of a Budweiser plant surrounded by green grass and trees. A Budweiser semi is rolling away from the plant as the camera moves up and away. Titles drop in: "Texas." "Florida." "Puerto Rico." "California."
Cut to a shot of a Budweiser can against a white background. Except that, the label does not say, "Budweiser."
It says, "America."
A caption appears...
"WHENEVER YOU NEED US"
The can spins to reveal the white label that says, "Water," with an Anheuser Busch logo.
New caption, "We'll stand by you."
Fade to: Budweiser logo.
This is a veritable blueprint for how to tug at the heartstrings, make a convincing argument for how the business is a good community partner, and never once overshadow the institutional message with a pitch for the product.
The product is there. There are cases and cans of Budweiser in profusion, and the logo is on all the trucks and signage.
BUT NEVER ONCE DOES THIS ONE-MINUTE COMMERCIAL SAY, "BUY BUDWEISER"
Instead, pushes the Budweiser cans out of the way to make room for a desperately needed commodity for disaster relief.
And when you're producing audio or video media, never, ever underestimate the value of the right music bed.
I once had an argument with a commercial producer about a piece of music on a commercial.
The producer's argument was founded on the supposed fact that the music had the correct number of beats.
What the music needs to have is the correct emotional impact.
And Skylar Grey's rendition of "Stand By Me" has exactly what is needed to accompany the images and message of this commercial.
I ALSO HATE TO SAY THIS, BUT...
The Budweiser commercial works better and has a more profound impact than Ms. Grey's music video for the same song.
Because the music video is what's expected.
Yes, there are some poignant notes in the video.
But the Budweiser commercial is completely unexpected.
It is surprising and has a tiny story arc that you don't see coming from the world's biggest brewing conglomerate.
It is focused, and it is relevant, and it doesn't sell beer.
WHAT'S OUR TAKE AWAY?
It doesn't matter whether you're doing a multi-million-dollar TV buy or a local radio commercial or a YouTube video or a Facebook post or a print ad.
If you want to go institutional and promote your community-mindedness, you need to be relevant.
Tell a simple, emotionally evocative story. Budweiser's story is, "Here's how our people get fresh drinking water to disaster zones."
It also doesn't show the disaster. We've all seen enough of that. Instead, we see the story of one man being roused from his bed in the wee hours, and not hesitating to get to the plant to serve a higher purpose.
And finally, never, ever try to sell your product on the coattails of an institutional message. Because then, you just come off like an opportunistic jerk.
And nobody wants to be that.
If you'd like to see this commercial again (and we recommend playing it full screen with the volume up), visit https://youtu.be/CxGUmtRLm5g
And in a completely non-institutional, self-promotional effort, The CoupleCo podcast is rocking the entrepreneurial couple world at www.TheCoupleCoPodcast.com
Your Lean, Mean Creative Director in
CAN WE REALLY CONTINUE TALKING ABOUT THE SUPER BOWL ALL THESE WEEKS LATER?
Indeed, we can.
Because here, we are not about the hype and the glory.
We are about smart thinking, which is not fleeting and faddish, but timeless.
And sometimes, you get that timeless thinking in Super Bowl advertising.
And while, on the face of it, there may not be anything smart about it, we're going to say, "Dilly, Dilly!"
There is so much to be learned from Bud Light's ridiculous advertising campaign that originally began as a one-off celebration of the season premiere of Game Of Thrones, and has since become a cultural phenomenon--including epic Super Bowl glory with extravagant production, throngs of extras, and CGI effects.
What's to be learned?
ONE THING TO BE LEARNED IS COURAGE
How on earth did this thing happen?
And how did the People In Charge let it?
So far, there's not a lot of press about the creative process.
But you can learn a lot from a big, gregarious and amusing Portuguese gentleman by the name of Miguel Patricio, Chief Marketing Officer of Anheuser-Busch InBev.
When asked what "Dilly, Dilly" means, he replied, "It doesn't mean anything. We all need our moments of nonsense and fun."
Nonsense and fun?
THIS IS A C-SUITE-ER FROM A $258 BILLION COMPANY
And he has no problem recognizing the need for nonsense and fun?
But it gets better.
He says, "A lot of people ask me, 'How did you approve that?' We didn't expect it to be that successful. It didn't test that well."
OK. One of the world's most powerful Chief Marketing Officers is happy to go against the research.
People don't like it? I don't care!
THAT IS KNOWN AS GOING WITH YOUR GUT
And I applaud the man.
He further says, "Consumers will get it, especially with repetition. We have a chance here for this to become big. So, we went against the research, and we gave a chance to "Dilly, Dilly," and we are so happy."
And here's a phrase that matters.
Mr. Patricio says there's a test you can do. He went to Amazon and did a search and, without Bud Light doing any kind of merchandising, he found all kinds of "Dilly Dilly" related items.
He says, "It becomes cultural currency."
YOU MEAN, LIKE, "GOT MILK"?
Or, "We'll leave the light on for you"?
Or even, "Real men of genius"?
It was disappointing that Bud Light killed that latter campaign.
And yes, it was wildly successful, making the product a category leader and keeping it there for years.
But Bud Light seems to have a new cultural currency that has turned into another juggernaut.
But, there's also a really important question to ask.
IS IT SELLING ANY BEER?
That's hard to know.
But here's what we can tell you.
According to Ted Marzilli, leader of the BrandIndex global business unit of YouGov dot com, Bud Light's perception with men is at an 18-month high.
We just don't know what "Dilly, Dilly!" has to do with that, as there is other advertising running out there.
And as we all know, perception doesn't necessarily lead to sales.
THAT NOTWITHSTANDING, YOU HAVE TO ADMIRE THE NERVE
Selling beer is a multi-million-dollar proposition.
People live and die by tiny movements of the needle and in the balance sheets.
And to go with the gut in a situation like this is admirable.
Which, for us, is one of the solid takeaways from Señor Patricio: Having the courage to go with your gut is one of the unsung characteristics of emotional intelligence.
There are numbers that tell you it isn't necessarily the best way to go--and you go there anyway.
AND UNDERSTAND, WE'RE NOT TALKING ABOUT GOING WITH YOUR EGO
There's a difference.
Going with your ego is all about you.
Going with your gut is about the world outside you.
How can you tell the difference?
Going with your ego makes you feel good.
Going with your gut makes you feel a little nervous.
And it doesn't always work.
But it usually works better than going with your ego.
SO WHAT IS THE TAKEAWAY?
We've said it before and we'll say it again: Have courage.
Marketing can be a scary thing. You're putting a message out there in the world and you can't be sure how it's going to be perceived.
The more impactful the message, the more scary it can feel.
The first time I won a Radio Mercury Award, it was with a message that was scary--because I knew it was good enough to win a cutthroat national competition with a huge cash prize attached.
It was a sweaty palms moment. I was also afraid the client would reject it, making it ineligible. (They did not.)
AND WHEN YOU'RE DEVISING YOUR MESSAGE, FEEL FREE TO PLAY
We all need our moments of nonsense and fun.
Maybe your business can't market with nonsense and fun.
Like if you have a mortuary.
Of course, if you listen to the enormously impactful "Celebrate a life" campaign from Forest Lawn mortuaries, you can hear how fun really does have a place in marketing a business like that.
Not words you think of when you think of the mortuary business.
Unless you work in a funeral home, where I'm told the motto is "The first three letters in 'funeral' spell 'fun.'"
BUT I DIGRESS
Have courage. Go with your gut. Feel free to play.
And don't always believe the research.
It doesn't prove anything beyond what happened in the room.
If you focus group an advertisement with a hundred people, you can get 100 reasons why not to run it.
It helps to understand what they're saying and why they're saying it.
And it helps to realize that focus groups are unnatural.
Just because something doesn't test well doesn't mean it won't fly.
It could just be a sleeper.
I don't test well at all.
And I can fly. And I don't even wear a cape.
You know what else flies? The CoupleCo podcast, available at www.TheCoupleCoPodcast.com
Your Lean, Mean Creative Director in
CAN WE FINALLY TALK ABOUT THE SUPER BOWL?
Yes, we'll finally do it.
Now that the hoo-hah has died down;
Now that my die-hard Philly fan of a wife has been in an Eagles victory parade down Park City's Main Street with eight other cockeyed optimists in green jerseysand been covered in the local paper;
Now that the Valentine's Day launch of CoupleCo: Working With Your Spouse For Fun & Profit has happened and you may or may not have paid attention to it (here's the link: https://tinyurl.com/y73nu26g);
We can finally talk about the commercials.
And we're going to talk about what should be your personal favorite, even though it's probably not.
BUT FIRST, A DISCLAIMER
I know that it was also the favorite of Wizard of Ads partner Jeff Sexton, a brilliant copywriter the hem of whose garment I am unworthy to kiss.
I know Mr. Sexton has already opined upon this commercial.
I, however, have not yet read his missive.
I did not wish to be influenced, in whole or in part, by his writing.
So everything here is on me. We are not cribbing notes from his screed. (Though, that could be difficult. His screed is generally much more polite than my own.)
Here it comes:
Thirty words of announcer copy.
One single, 40-second take.
OPEN ON A LONG SHOT ACROSS A RIVER
Coming through tall, dry grass is a red Jeep.
The Jeep plunges over the river bank and into the water.
Announcer: "How many car ads have you seen with grandiose speeches over the years?"
There's a big a splash as the Jeep barrels through the river towards the camera, water up to the bumper.
Announcer: "Big declarations making claims to some overarching human truth."
The Jeep passes by the camera and heads towards a waterfall. It surges up a rock ledge.
Announcer: "Companies call these commercials manifestos."
The Jeep aims towards the cascading waters. It bounces across a series of rocks, climbs up the waterfall, and barrels away.
Announcer: "There's your manifesto."
Graphic: "The all-new 2018 Wrangler." Graphic fades to: "Jeep."
THE SIMPLICITY AND ELEGANCE OF THIS MESSAGE DEFIES SUPER BOWL MADNESS
It's been a long time since Super-Bowl-commercial mania dished out anything this refined.
It also belies a deep emotional charge that fuels the purchase of vehicles like Jeep.
And there's the fact that weeks after seeing this message just one time in a crowded, noisy room, it still resonates.
It may not resonate for you.
Speaking personally, my wife and I live 5 miles up a rutted dirt road with over a thousand feet of elevation gain.
We live a different kind of Jeep lifestyle.
Jeep is relevant to us. We owned a Wrangler for a while.
WE PRESENTLY OWN A 19-YEAR OLD JEEP CHEROKEE
That vehicle is a beast.
It, too, is red.
And it could have easily followed that all-new 2018 Wrangler up that waterfall.
And laughed. Ha!
This Jeep commercial is one of the oldest, most time-tested ways of advertising: The product demonstration.
It cuts, it chops, it dices, it slices, it gets out blood stains, it'll blend a Justin Bieber CD, an iPhone and a wooden rake handle, it even starts a car that's been left parked in zero-degree weather overnight with the lights on.
PRODUCT DEMONSTRATION IS NOT HIP, IT'S NOT COOL, IT DOESN'T WIN A CANNES GOLD LION
But it's arguable that this product demonstration breaks the mold enough that it could win all kinds of awards.
Because it is smart, refined, and has attitude up the wazoo.
"Hey, buddy. Ya know all the pretense that car makers love to throw atcha? We have no pretense. We just quietly kick ass. So there."
That Jeep commercial isn't really aimed at me or at the Fabulous Honey Parker, or at anyone else who lives a Jeep lifestyle.
People with an actual need for high-clearance, 4WD vehicles already know Jeep. They love it or they don't.
YES, WE ALL APPRECIATE THE BEAUTY OF THE PRODUCT DEMONSTRATION
But there's more at work here.
Brand is the one way the core customer should feel about the product.
And in this case, a company sold just shy of a million vehicles in North America in 2016 to almost nobody who needs to drive up a waterfall.
They mainly don't even need to drive five miles up a rutted dirt road.
You know where they need to drive? The supermarket. School. The office.
But all those Jeeps get bought because people feel like they're buying the power to control.
AND IN A TIME WHEN THE WORLD SEEMS OUT OF CONTROL?
The feeling of control is a powerful thing to be selling.
Moreover, in an overcrowded advertising environment, saturated with big and dramatic commercial productions that come at you throwing down rhymes and riding horses and breathing fire and kicking ass and taking names...
The ability to be heard above the mayhem...
With the power of a whisper...
Is a glorious thing.
It's too soon to know how well the Jeep commercial will do.
And this one message is a tiny part of a huge advertising machine.
Jeep has such an enormous product line, we may never know.
BUT HERE'S WHAT WE CAN TAKE AWAY...
It is mighty.
It makes a statement.
And it does so without pyrotechnics.
It takes an unsexy technique like product demonstration and gives it wings.
Or, rather, big tires.
And those qualities are available to any and all of us who have to create advertising on a micro-budget.
What we lack in budget, we get to make up for with talent and finesse.
Those two qualities can make even the smallest ad really, really big.
If you haven't yet been to iTunes for the CoupleCo podcast, it's filled with laughs, insights, and couples who are crushing it in business without crushing each other. Here's the link:
Your Lean, Mean Creative Director in
WOULD YOU BE WILLING TO PUT IT ALL ON THE LINE AND WORK WITHOUT A NET?
Your life together.
Working with your spouse could be a make or break undertaking, fraught with peril--or possibly filled with reward.
Yes, my loyal friend, it's really happening.
For the last year or so, you've occasionally heard that the Fabulous Honey Parker and I are working on a project called CoupleCo.
In our business, we frequently find ourselves working with or otherwise surrounded by couple entrepreneurs who are shaking it up and making stuff happen in the 21st century.
And this project called CoupleCo is starting life as interviews with such couples in a podcast called, CoupleCo: Working With Your Spouse For Fun & Profit.
And, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, this nutty little project goes live tomorrow: Valentine's Day, 2018.
WE'RE KICKING OFF THE FUN BY FOCUSING ON ANOTHER HUSBAND & WIFE ADVERTISING AGENCY
Long before Slow Burn Marketing was born on a defensible ridge at 8,000 feet elevation outside beautiful Park City, Utah, there was Whitney Advertising.
With big ad-agency chops from their careers in New York and Los Angeles, Jim & Robin Whitney have spent 20 years plying their trade in Park City.
Yes, 20 years ago, back in the dial-up '90s, the Whitneys left the big city and moved to a dinky little town in Utah and opened an ad agency.
Park City has a population of 7,000.
They moved here because this is where Jim comes from.
They could have moved to where Robin came from: Cleveland.
A CITY OF 400,000 WOULD'VE PROVIDED A LOT MORE BUSINESS
But, they instead chose a little town surrounded by ski resorts and cows. (Yes, there are cows. Many of them graze on land that is luxury-resort adjacent.)
The Whitney's story is interesting, engaging, and a lot of fun--augmented by the fact that Robin Whitney is adorable and often speaks in sound bites. Jim is the handsome, low-key one who lays in wait.
Together, they bring a lot of heart, laughter and insight.
But wait, there's more.
Because it doesn't stop there.
The first two episodes are the Whitneys.
Then, there's a couple who were profiled here in the screed back in November: Crystal and Ryan Waugh of Waugh Family Wines.
WE INTERVIEW THEM IN THEIR WINE CAVE IN SODA CANYON
Their winery narrowly escaped the devastation of the Napa Valley fires, and they were good enough to take us into the cave at their winery, serve samples of their wines, and talk about the synergy that catapulted Ryan's micro-winery business--which began in a rented garage--into a micro-empire of in-demand and hard-to-get product sold to a nationwide customer base that is much like an extended family.
The Waughs appear in episodes three and four.
And then, for the third couple, it's back to Park City for an in-depth discussion with Trish and Jared McMillen of McMillen Galleries.
The McMillens used to be commercial photographers together in Vegas before moving to Park City and shifting their business model: they are now fine-art photographers.
When you consider the creative egos involved in a pursuit like shooting landscapes with a large-format view camera and turning them into enormous, wall-filling works of art, you have to ask yourself: How on earth can two artists work together as one? How do they not kill each other? How do they not have a marriage counselor on staff?
BUT THEY DO IT-AND THE RESULTS ARE STUNNING
You'll hear them talking about how they built this business using a style of creative cooperation that is useful not only for any married couple, but for any two people required to cooperate in a creative undertaking.
And, of course, as with Whitney and Waugh, there are plenty of laughs.
Every one of these interviews comes with a degree of fun and love that is refreshing and revealing.
These are passionate people who have merged their marriages and their businesses, meeting life on their own terms, and they are crushing it.
MARRIED OR NOT, YOU CAN BE A PART OF IT
Here at the screed, we rarely self-indulge in shameless plugs.
This is one of those times. Lucky you.
The goal here is to launch the podcast into the New & Noteworthy section of iTunes.
And the way that happens is when someone like you goes to iTunes and subscribes to the podcast.
Yes, the podcast is free, but you do need an iTunes account. If you did not know, you do not need an Apple device to have an iTunes account. iTunes also runs on Windows.
But why would you want to this?
Well, other than doing a small favor for your relentless screedmeister here, these first three interviews comprising the first six episodes of CoupleCo: Working With Your Spouse For Fun & Profit could be really interesting for you.
THE PODCAST OFFICIALLY LAUNCHES TOMORROW, VALENTINE'S DAY 2018
You'll be getting a link in a special, Valentine's Day email tomorrow.
But why are we even doing this, and why iTunes?
We're doing this because it's a labor of love, and this is a market that is vastly underserved. There just aren't a lot resources available to folks who are willing to put their businesses and their marriages on the line in order to create a life that's the way they want it to be.
And iTunes is one of the easiest ways to reach people.
So, whether you're in business with your significant other or not, whether or not you plan to take your partner onto the wire without a net, join us for the fun.
Or just download it and pretend you listened. We won't check up on you. But we will be eternally grateful.
Your Lean, Mean Creative Director in
CAN WE FORGET THE SUPER BOWL FOR JUST A MOMENT?
If you've been around for at least a year, you know that we here at the screed do not touch Super Bowl commercials for at least a week after the game.
We talk mainly about big-brand thinking for small-business marketing.
And we are champions of the thoughtful process.
So, we wait for the dust to settle. And when all the pundits are done clamoring over the public's "favorite commercials," which means nothing, we move in.
We talk about actual, sales-inducing, ROI-generating tactics and strategies.
So instead, this week, we're talking about the smallest thing that could possibly be on your radar.
RHODE ISLAND TOURISM LIVES!
That's right, Rhode Island, the state that brought you the spectacular failure of a tourism slogan in 2016, along with a tourism video featuring footage of Reykjavik, is back in the news!
Over a year and a half ago, Rhode Island unveiled the baffling slogan "Cooler & Warmer" to great and immediate derision across the nation.
At that time, an old friend of mine named Bob Holfelder, who lives in Rhode Island, commented publicly that he had a much better slogan for the smallest state in the nation.
And since Mr. Holfelder is a professional trombone player, you can be certain that his slogan comes with equal amounts gravity and profundity.
The Providence Journal liked it so much, they spoke to Mr. Holfelder and published his suggestion on April 4, 2016.
WE HERE AT THE MOUNTAINTOP MARKETING FORTRESS APPLAUDED HIM IMMEDIATELY
It was genius.
And it didn't go unpunished.
Last week, scandal ensued.
Rhode Island has a new tourism slogan.
It is (drum roll please): "Fun-sized."
That's right, Rhode Island moved from a nonsense tourism slogan to a plagiarized one.
Mr. Holfelder immediately took to social media to decry his lack of credit, payment, acknowledgement, or even a pat on the back.
WHAT IS GOING ON IN RHODE ISLAND?
They spend a gazillion bucks on "Cooler & Warmer," then don't have the nerve to stand behind it, but they do have the nerve to rip-off a new and better slogan from a resident without so much as a phone call.
"Hey, Bob. Love your idea. We can't afford to pay you. But here's a six pack of Narragansett lager. Which, by the way is probably being brewed in Rochester, New York. But hey, it's still fizzy and yellow. 'Bye."
Mr. Holfelder was understandably chagrined, but journalism to the rescue!
A reporter from the Providence Journal got back in touch with him, and turned his tale of woe into further news.
In the article, the reporter speaks to Mr. Holfelder, as well as to the state's chief marketing officer--who credits Nail Communications with the campaign.
SEEMS THEY THINK NAIL NAILED IT
In the meantime, Mr. Holfelder said to the Journal, "It would be nice to at least get recognition, if not some compensation."
The state's CMO said, "If we make a profit on it, we could certainly give it to him."
That is about the worst public case of indefinite pronoun usage to a reporter imaginable. "Give it to him."
"It" being what?
This does beg a question, though.
Did anyone really swipe that slogan?
It's hard to know.
My guess is, not consciously. We get so much information flying at us every day that it's possible to hear something like that, sublimate it into your unconscious, and then later on spit it back out as something you just came up with.
And, it could have just been independently barfed up by some other writer with a wit equal to Mr. Holfelder. I've certainly written down ideas only to have due diligence reveal that I'm not the first genius to barf up that idea.
What Mr. Holfelder has going for him is that he's on the record in the state's newspaper of record using the phrase.
So, maybe he'll get something. And he deserves it.
And I'm not saying that just because I still owe him money.
In the meantime, this all points to a much greater problem for people, especially non-professionals, who need to create advertising.
"THIS IS THE LAST IDEA I'LL EVER HAVE!" SYNDROME
The difference between actual writers and non-writers creating advertising?
Actual writers forget more original ideas than non-writers ever come up with.
When the Fabulous Honey Parker and I write names and taglines for a business-branding project, we can easily generate two-hundred ideas for each.
When a non-writer tries the same thing, they often quit at the first mediocre idea they come up with.
Then, they're surprised when someone else comes up with the same idea.
If this happens to you, it means you means you haven't worked hard enough yet.
You can do more.
And you can probably do better.
BUT NEVER, EVER SHOULD A WRITER STEAL SOMEONE ELSE'S IDEA
That's the lowest of the low.
And, worst-case scenario, that writer can get sued.
It's OK to be inspired by other work. You just can't copy it.
I've been inspired by plenty of other advertisements throughout my career. But you can never draw a line between the work that inspired me, and the work that came from the inspiration. It's completely different.
It's easy to be original.
It's even easier to be merely competent.
But either requires spending a lot of time writing down a lot of crap on a blank page, and then being astute enough to recognize a diamond in the rough.
Got a writer who can't give you anything original? Tell that writer, "Do not fear the blank page. Embrace it. And despoil it with lousy writing. That's what it's there for. And that's how one's writing becomes worthy."
Your Lean, Mean Creative Director in
HAVE I PAINTED MYSELF INTO A CORNER?
Something happened last week.
It gave your faithful screedmeister here a wakeup call.
I may be in trouble. You may get to witness the unraveling of everything that has happened here since January 16, when we unleashed the madness of "They All Laughed When I Tried To Write Better Advertising..."
The title is an allusion to the classic John Caples headline for a home-study music school: "They laughed when I sat down at the piano--but when I started to play!"
As you know, if you've been around for the last two installments of the weekly screed, we've been indulging in a protracted answer to a question from Mr. Chris Pollard, a radio creative director in Dryden, Ontario.
HE WANTS TO KNOW HOW TO GET AFFORDABLE TRAINING FOR HIS CREATIVE STAFF
Many of the affordable alternatives that used to be available have fallen off the edge of the earth.
So far, the dubious counsel we've given is that his people should become geeks for advertising, as well as geeks for life, the universe and everything.
This is nail-on-the-head advice for anyone in any situation who wants to create good advertising.
Last time, the promise was made that a more practical and concrete answer to Mr. Pollard's question would be forthcoming.
Then, last week, an email arrived.
It came from Brian Tepper, Mr. Pollard's compatriot at Acadia Broadcasting.
SEEMS THIS SERIES OF MISSIVES IS CAUSING A STIR
People at the company are paying attention.
Mr. Tepper also told me about many of the things that are being done to make their copywriters better.
And some resources I was going to suggest have already been put into play.
Eegad! What have we done?! The build up to this week's concrete answer is shot to hell!
Your faithful scribe has painted himself into a corner from which he cannot escape!
Just maybe, there are more answers that none of us had anticipated.
And here's why I say that.
MR. TEPPER ALSO REVEALED SOME SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES
It seems their company has some unwitting copywriters.
During a round of layoffs--which became epidemic in radio a few years ago and have persisted--some traffic people were let go from the traffic department.
But they were allowed to assume the mantle of copywriter.
This is truly impressive and unusual.
I compare it to someone who's been working in air traffic control. They've had a career telling the planes where to land when. It's a fairly rigid environment--there are limited options for creating success. It's all very detailed and well outlined.
ALL OF A SUDDEN, THAT AIR TRAFFIC CONTROLLER GETS LAID OFF
And that person is told, "But, now you're going start designing and building airplanes."
Someone who has always worked within a specific range of parameters with limited options for creativity is suddenly thrust into a job that is completely the opposite.
There are no limits beyond the length of the commercial.
And now, without ever having designed a plane, this person has to figure out how to build wings and take flight!
Red Bull might give you wings, but a sugared-up caffeinated energy bomb is not going to solve this one.
But here's the good news: unlike with planes, at worst, if they fail, nobody gets hurt.
And at best, I still believe it is entirely possible to make this work in ways that nobody ever anticipated.
THESE PEOPLE DON'T BRING THE BAGGAGE OF HAVING ALREADY BEEN PROFESSIONAL WRITERS
One of the problems with writers, especially young ones, is often they feel they have all the answers.
I know. I was one of those writers.
The creative ego can run away with things.
When rejected, the ego-fueled writer says things like, "They just don't understand my genius."
Well, sometimes that writer doesn't understand what he's doing. Too often, he's just amusing himself at the expense of the client's advertising budget.
But when the writer starts to realize that his oh-so-amusing unbridled creativity isn't the only thing that the job requires, and that there are so many technical and psychological underpinnings that actually make a radio commercial generate results, things evolve.
And the writer becomes better and more effective.
THE TRAFFIC PEOPLE PROBABLY DON'T SUFFER FROM WRITER'S EGO
But what they do have, typically, is an ability to use a left-brain approach to things.
They understand order and details.
They haven't spent their careers trying to fill up a blank page with words that inspire people to action.
They've spent their careers keeping things organized and running smoothly.
So now, the trick is to give them new skills to help them fill up that blank page while trying to bring order to the daunting chaos it represents.
All kinds of wild and crazy things can happen on that page.
At some point, however, the things that happen there have to be tamed.
And a left-brain sensibility can be useful.
DON'T LET THE LEFT BRAIN SQUELCH THE RIGHT BRAIN BEFORE THE GOOD STUFF HAPPENS
This isn't a unique challenge.
It happens to everyone who isn't a writer.
They sit and stare at a blank page, and experience fear and loathing.
And the sensible left brain says things like, "Oh, that'll never work. You can't do this. That's a crazy idea. Let's go get some poutine."
Then, the writer gets loaded up on carbs, needs a nap, and nothing gets done.
THE PAGE REMAINS BLANK
Fear of the blank page is common.
Getting over that requires the courage born of realizing that this fear is pointless.
The fear of jumping out of an airplane, crossing an ocean in a sailboat, stepping backwards off of a rock face with a rope in your hands, those things are all legitimate fears based on the action and its potential to end your life.
Where does the fear of a blank page come from?
"If I write the wrong words, I could explode!"
The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy BLAMMO!
Not gonna happen.
I BELIEVE IT'S THE FEAR OF FAILURE
The fear of not being good enough to do it.
The fear of being judged.
All kinds of imagined social disappointments are conjured up by the prospect of filling that clean white page.
It ain't gonna happen.
And the only way to understand that is by actually following the advice of noted journalist, novelist and suffragette Mary Heaton Vorse: "The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair."
That's how you start. "I can't do it" is no kind of excuse.
And when you learn how simple it is, and how there are rules for making it all better, it stops being daunting and starts being a delight.
BUT THIS DOES NOT ANSWER THE QUESTION!
Where is the affordable training?!
I'm about to answer that question. But first, know that this discussion about how to write better advertising, is going to continue. There's just too much ground to cover. We might be brand-focused obsessives over here, but we are also writers and are obsessive about that, too. So we're going to talk more about writing and how to be on brand with effective copywriting.
In the meantime, as discouraged as I am by the fact that the gents in Canada are already using the resources I would've suggested, there are a couple more.
FIRST, EVERYONE NEEDS TO KNOW THAT THE BLANK PAGE WILL NOT HURT YOU
It is not a loaded gun.
Second, for a practical solution to training writers, the Radio Advertising Bureau has a program that they developed with Dan O'Day. It's called CPCC: Certified Professional Commercial Copywriter.
I find the CPCC a less than perfect solution for the non-writer, because it's specifically about creating radio advertising. Copywriters need a foundation beyond radio. But in an age when corporate needs to justify the expense from the perspective of ROI, this is a good solution: a certification program that gives the writer a credential, which can be shown to the client as a measure of authority (and can help close the deal), and in which a true expert in the genre imparts his wisdom in a practicable and easy-to-understand fashion.
I've known and worked with Dan O'Day for 20 years. We occasionally have healthy differences of opinion (like the veracity of Bud Light's "Real Men Of Genius" campaign), but we agree on most things. And when it comes to training Dan is a rock. This is important stuff. http://www.rab.com/public/academy/onlinecourses-sales.cfm
NEXT, BECOME A LISTENER
Listen to all kinds of radio, not just advertising.
But definitely, listen to award-winning radio.
Go to Radio Mercury Awards dot com and listen to the winners. Among other things, understand why the Richards Group continues to crush it in this competition, especially with the 30-year juggernaut of Tom Bodett for Motel 6. Not all of the advertising you hear there is necessarily good or effective, but it does give you an idea of what is possible with nothing more than a few words and some music. Occasionally, some sound effects. It helps you to think like a radio pro.
I have a lifetime of thinking like a radio guy. When I was a little kid, my parents would wax poetic about the impact of dramatic radio shows, so I would find them and listen. Then came Cheech & Chong records which, 1970s dope humor aside, had some excellent production value. Later, The Firesign Theater, which had some of the most absurd writing and mind-bending production around.
But it was the Radio Mercury Award winners that really upped my game. Not to mention entering the Mercury Awards and not winning upped my game. It's an important bar to have. When you have skin in the game and you lose, it give you a perspective unattainable in any other way. And that is how I finally became good enough to win my own Radio Mercury Awards. Twice.
BUT SOMETHING ELSE HAPPENED
I also lost interest in awards.
Because ultimately, it's about something more.
It's about performing for the client.
And when you start getting good enough to win, and you also start generating ROI, it changes everything.
The client entrusts us with their brand. They rely on us to do something they can't do.
It's up to us to work the game and develop the chops required to make their customers sit up, take notice, and respond.
And when you get to develop a juggernaut of a campaign based on a solid brand (that you may have also helped define), it's a little like famous ad man Jerry Della Femina once said: "Advertising is the most fun you can have with your clothes on."
Your Lean, Mean Creative Director in
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
WHY ARE YOU EVEN DOING THIS?
As a faithful follower to this weekly screed, you have some kind of interest in advertising.
Whether you create advertising for yourself or for someone else, you have some vested interest in "Getting your name out there."
Which, frankly, is a really weak goal for advertising. "You gotta get your name out there, kid."
There are plenty of names out there. Do you care about them all? Any of them?
What names do you care about?
You care about the names that make you feel something.
HOW DO YOU MAKE PEOPLE FEEL?
This screed makes you feel something.
Some people love it. I have the fan mail to prove it.
Some people hate it. Sometimes, when I write things that don't toe a particular party line, people feel insulted and they unsubscribe.
So it goes. Their loss.
But feelings are at the root of everything we do in creating advertising.
Creating an effective advertisement requires understanding how to make a single, defined individual feel the right thing about that which is being sold.
THERE MUST BE A RELEVANT ELEMENT OF ART, POETRY, SHOWMANSHIP, FINESSE, SOMETHING
An advertisement can't just be a Post-it Note that says, "Yeah, we sell that, too!"
And, unfortunately, that is what so much advertising is.
"Hey, we sell this for all your fill-in-the-blank needs!"
Which brings us to why I'm even on this tear.
Something happened over the holidays, and it represents a great loss to many people, including those of us with a fondness for smart radio advertising that means something.
ON CHRISTMAS EVE, WE LOST A LEGEND
The radio advertising genius Dick Orkin went to the great Radio Ranch in the sky.
Dick was 84.
And he was perhaps one of the single best minds ever in advertising.
His specialty was radio, but his brand of thinking informed advertising at large for anyone willing to pay attention.
His brand of thinking is especially useful now, in our age of not-too-deep thinking and information overload.
Dick was no dummy. He had a bachelor's degree in speech and theater from Franklin & Marshall, a master's in clinical psychology from the Phillips Graduate Institute, and studied for his MFA at Yale.
DICK KNEW THINGS
One of the things he knew, and which informed everything in his work, was how to matter to the listener.
His Famous Radio Ranch was known for developing funny radio campaigns.
The Radio Ranch had a wealth of advertising trophies backed by an abundance of impressive, results-producing campaign credits for businesses across the nation and even across the ocean.
Long before I knew who Dick Orkin was, I knew his work.
It leapt out of the radio, grabbed you by the ears, made you listen--and made you care.
When I was eventually working in Los Angeles radio, I had the good fortune to learn from Dick at industry seminars, and later in private sessions and classes at his home in Toluca Lake.
DICK WAS A THINKER AT A DEEPER LEVEL
One of the things that so many radio advertisers want to have is a "funny commercial."
There's a kind of conditioning that has come with Big Agency Advertising, and it's the (sometimes) misguided notion that advertising needs to be funny.
In past screeds, we've dismantled that notion and proven that funny doesn't sell. Relevance sells. It doesn't hurt if it's funny. But it must be relevant.
Dick was happy to explain how to be funny, and how to make it relevant at a deeper level than most slap-dash comedy radio commercials ever reach.
DICK ALSO SHARED THE UNDERPINNINGS OF HIS PARTICULAR BRAND OF GENIUS
In searching for examples of Dick's work, I came across a YouTube clip.
It was posted by Dick's good friend, radio guru Dan O'Day. For years, Dick and Dan worked together, training radio professionals in ways to make better radio.
One of the Dick Orkin presentations that Dan sells as an info product is called, The Architecture Of Comedy. In the YouTube clip, before we get there, Dick has been playing radio commercials for the audience, and discussing how the comedy works. He then says, in part:
[The] fact that sex and death are
the basis of so much humor, including
some of the materials that you've
heard in the commercials here, is
because these are things largely
out of our control.
If we could control them, of course,
life would go swell, because everything
is in our control. It's a perfect world.
But we know it's not a perfect world.
Everything human is pathetic. As long
as a person takes themselves seriously,
there will be humor in the world. Because
we're taking ourselves seriously in the
face of an imperfect situation and an
imperfect world. Only man has dignity.
Only man, therefore, can be funny.
THIS IS NOT STANDARD COMEDY INSTRUCTION THINK
Dick goes on to talk about pomposity, ego inflation, ego deflation, the comedy of Type A versus Type B personalities, the awareness and the capacity to understand living in a world where things go wrong and you can laugh at them, the sense of maturity and self-worth required for that, and how a sense of humor is the ability to avoid getting caught in mind ruts where you can't see the opposite.
This is somewhat different than the standard "comedy rules" type of instruction that often comes from comedy experts--things like "Use The Comedy Rule of Threes."
There are all kinds of technical rules that help make comedy work.
But rarely does any guru talk about the human condition and the underpinnings of life that need to be understood before trotting out those rules.
DICK PROVIDED SOMETHING THAT IS SORELY LACKING RIGHT NOW
He provided thoughtful insight into that which lies beneath the craft.
He had a depth of knowledge in performance and psychology that he was readily willing to share.
In the present info-overload culture, the kind of depth that Dick brought to his how-to insight are sorely lacking.
Tools and tricks and surface features are often all anyone gets.
They get only the tip of the iceberg.
The iceberg's foundation--the 90% of the substance that makes it possible--is hidden beneath the surface.
Dick was great at revealing the foundations and making them relevant and useful.
And without relevance and usefulness, where are we?
Dick Orkin has left the ranch.
Long live Dick.
Your Lean, Mean Creative Director in
IT'S A NEW YEAR--WHAT ABOUT THE NEW YOU?
Presumably you had a fabulous last night of 2017, celebrating the fact that we all still have a planet and that nobody with their finger on the button did anything rash.
Happy New year, indeed.
So, now that the holidays are behind us, what's on your mind, branding- and/or marketing-wise?
What burning question is nagging at you for the new year?
As I do every year, I throw this question out to you, inviting you to pitch your query my way.
What is on your mind for 2018?
Is it about how to enliven a stagnating brand?
Is it about how to harness social media for fun and profit?
Is it about the fallacy of saying your business's name in the first seven seconds of any radio commercial?
Maybe you want to know how to establish a de facto brand for a radio advertising client on your air.
YOU HAVE A HIGH-PRICED SMALL-BUSINESS BRANDING CONSULTANT AT YOUR COMMAND!
This week only!
I will answer your question here in the screed.
Just send your email to submissions at slow burn marketing dot com.
Here's to plenty of water under your keel in 2018.
Your Lean, Mean Creative Director in
Blaine Parker helps people sell their stuff. An advertising Creative Director and Copywriter at Slow Burn Marketing, he specializes in big-brand thinking for small-business marketing. He has the voice of a much taller man.