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
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.