In one study, researchers Alan Gray, Brian Parkinson, and Robin Dunbar had pairs of strangers sit together for five minutes and watch a movie clip. Half watched a blooper reel from a popular TV comedy—one that had been pretested to get lots of laughs. The rest watched an emotionally neutral clip—think a nature channel documentary, or the lesser-known “Fifty Shades of Grayscale.”
When researchers asked participants to write a message to the person they had just met, the pairs who had watched the blooper clip disclosed significantly more personal information. And when a panel of observers watched these pairs converse, they rated their reactions between the blooper clip pairs as 30 percent more intimate than the ones between the pairs who had watched the neutral clip.
I suppose if I had to pick a favorite rule, I would paraphrase a man with a particular genius for scattering the alphabet on the page, W Somerset Maugham: there are three rules for copywriting. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.
Likewise, Roddy Doyle’s quip about keeping your thesaurus in a shed or behind the fridge – ‘somewhere that demands travel or effort’ – is a handsome piece of copywriting advice. Doyle’s belief that the word you think of first is most often the best is reinforced by the kind of anxious copy that reads as if every word has been ground through the synonym sausage machine.
Next Diemand-Yauman wanted to see if the same effect would true in a more realistic setting. He took the study to a high school Ohio in the United States) and tested 220 students. He screened classes for those where the same teacher had been teaching at least two classes of the same subject and difficulty level and with the same learning material. The experimenters took all the worksheets and PowerPoint slides and changed the font. (The experimenters did not meet the teachers or the students or visit the class.)
Classes were randomly assigned to either a disfluent or a control category. The disfluent classes used material that was switched to one of these fonts:
Comic Sans Italic
In the control classes, no changes were made to the fonts. Teachers and students didn’t know the hypothesis that was being studied. They didn’t know whether they were in a fluent or disfluent group. The Material was taught the same way it normally was taught. No other changes were made in the classrooms or the instruction. Students in the disfluent condition scored significantly higher on their regular classroom tests. On a survey asking if they liked their course or course material, there were no differences in these preference ratings. There was no difference among the different disfluent fonts.
Self-praise is no commendation. (If I say I am the best copywriter in Britain, you wouldn’t listen, if Dan Wieden said so, you might be fooled into believing it.) Also, raw statistics are more convincing than polished opinions. (A car that does 68 MPG sells better than one that’s “outstandingly economical”.) Beware of adjectives. They don’t always do what you think. (You’re all concerned about kitchen cleanliness but would you fancy a snack bar called “The Hygienic Café”?)
Excerpt from: D&Ad Copy Book by D&AD
- When it comes to ads, though, remember that real people don’t much care about them. So negative effects are rare.
- We know of no evidence of any advertising that has had a negative effect on sales.
- Don’t worry about ‘alienation’. Negative effects among existing buyers but not new buyers or vice versa won’t happen; we can’t think of any examples.
- So don’t hold back from bold, provocative ideas through fear of alienation. You should be much more fearful of indifference – and that’s wonderfully liberating creatively.
Marketing and advertising people can talk a load of nonsense at the best of times. But if you want to hear them at their worst, ask them to talk about social trends. The average social trends presentation is a guaranteed mix of the obvious, irrelevant and false.
Recently, we were listening to a conference speech about changing lifestyles’. Life nowadays is faster than ever, said the speaker. We work longer hours. We have less free time. Families are fragmenting. Food is eaten on the run..
We’ve been listening to this bullshit for 30 years. And it’s no more true now that it was then. The inconvenient, less headline-worthy truth is that people have more free time than ever. Economic cycles wax and wane, but the long-term trend in all developed economies is toward shorter, more flexible working hours. And longer holidays. People start work later in life and spend much longer in retirement. Work takes up a smaller percentage of our life than it used to.
Related myths about pressures on. family time are equally false. Contrary to popular belief, in developed economies parents spend more time with their children these days. Not less. Research shows the amount of time families spend eating together has stayed remarkably constant over the years, As has the amount of time they spend together watching TV.
Read this paragraph:
First you sort the items into like categories. Using color for sorting is common, but you can also use other characteristics, such as texture or type of handling needed.. Once you have sorted the items, you are ready to use the equipment. You want to process each category from sorting separately. Place one category in the at a time
What is the paragraph about? It’s hard to understand. But what if I give you the same paragraph with a title:
Using your new washing machine
First you sort the items into like categories. Using color for sorting is common, but you can also use other characteristics, such as texture or type of handling needed. Once you have sorted the items, you are ready to use the equipment. You want to process each category from the sorting separately. Place one category in the machine at a time.
The paragraph is still poorly written, but now at least it is understandable.
Let’s put this in perspective. Abraham Lincoln inspired generations in a speech that lasted two minutes. John F. Kennedy took 15 minutes to shoot for the moon. Martin Luther King Jr. articulated his dream of racial unity in 17 minutes. Steve Jobs gave one of the most famous college commencement speeches of our time at Stanford University in 15 minutes. If you can’t sell your idea or your dream in 10 to 15 minutes, keep editing until you can.
Ideas don’t sell themselves. Be selective about the words you use. If they don’t advance the story, remove them. Condense, simplify, and speak as briefly as possible. Have the courage to speak in grade-school language. Far from weakening your argument, these tips will elevate your ideas, making it more likely you’ll be heard.
“There are always three speeches for every one you actually gave: the one you practiced, the one you gave, and the one you wish you gave.”
Among the film’s cast were three people who would all go on to become famous – in one case, notorious. The first was born Diana Fluck in Swindon; she had changed her name because, as she later said, ‘what would happen if they put my name up in lights … and one of the bulbs burst?’ She had chosen the name Diana Dors, and very soon was being touted as Britain’s answer to Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield.
So all humour, however broad and however universally understood, is implicit rather than explicit: an explicit joke is either not explicit or not a joke.
All good comedians, all good storytellers, all good makers of advertisements, entice their receivers into willing and constructive collaboration It’s a skilful, delicate and difficult thing to do – particularly in advertising where the pressures of committees and cost tend to favour the ‘explicit, the ‘unambiguous’, the ‘message that just can’t fail to be understood.
But the measure of a good joke is much the same as the measure of a good advertisement (judging it now purely in terms of its communications effectiveness). Has it asked enough, but not too much, of its selected audience? Has it allowed that audience to see something for itself? (Whether, in the case of the advertisement, what the audience comes to see is the most persuasive and relevant thing is clearly another question.) So the principles of humour and the principles of commercial persuasion are very close.
A PICTURE SPEAKS A THOUSAND WORDS
We are more likely to remember concepts if they are presented to us as pictures rather than words.
For example, one study of discharged emergency room patients provided half of the participants with text-only instructions to properly care for their wounds, whilst the other half were given both text and cartoon depictions of each step. Three days later, 46% of patients given illustrated instructions demonstrated perfect recall of the prescribed techniques, compared to just 6% in the text-only condition.
By adding pictures and visual context into your goals, meetings, or even briefs, you can help others digest and retain
Excerpt from: The Unseen Mind by Ogilvy UK
Finally, there are the words with inbuilt flawed assumptions. Step forward all those plans aiming to encourage ‘active engagement’, make ads more ‘persuasive’, ‘force reappraisal’, ‘strengthen the brand-consumer relationship’, ‘drive brand loyalty’, and so on. These words all sound harmless enough, but the assumptions and principles built into them are flawed. That means they knock marketing effectiveness off course. By and large, people don’t want to ‘actively engage’ or have ‘strong relationships’ with brands, advertising or even ‘consumer generated content’. And they don’t need to for marketing to be successful. Communication can work without ‘persuasion’ or ‘reappraisal. In fact, it needn’t actually ‘communicate’ much at all. And as we’ve said before, brand loyally is loudly an irrelevance.
2. Since facts are more believable than claims, it’s better to express claims as facts.
In advertising, claim is often a euphemism for lie. Many of these euphemised lies are specially constructed to wiggle past lawyers and network censors. You can’t say your peanut butter has more peanuts, not without a notarised peanut count, but you can say someone will be a better mother if she serves it. At your arraignment all you have to do is plead Puffery. All charges are dropped. Puffery forgives everything. To lawyers and censors, it’s okay to lie as long as you lie on a grand enough scale. To everyone else, a lie is still a lie, and it’s almost always transparent. That’s why, instead of just asserting that BMW was a good investment, a BMW ad used the car’s high resale value to prove the point. And it did so, not by comparing the car to other cars but to other investments people in that target audience might make: “Last year a car outperformed 318 stocks on the New York Stock Exchange.”
Excerpt from: D&Ad Copy Book by D&AD
Several kinds of verbiage are perennial targets for the delete key. Light verbs such as make, do, have, bring, put, and take often do nothing but create a slot for a zombie noun, as in make an appearance and put on a performance. Why not just use the verb that spawned the zombie in the first place, like appear or perform? A sentence beginning with It is or There is is often a candidate for liposuction: There is competition between groups for resources works just fine as Groups compete for resources. Other globs of verbal fat include the metaconcepts we suctioned out in chapter 2, including matter, view, subject, process, basis, factor, level, and model.
While Kayak.co.uk searches the Web for your flight from London to Lanzarote, the site gives you a real-time update of the work it’s performing (now searching Iberia … now searching Aer Lingus … ). Research shows that waiting can increase satisfaction if customers get the impression that work is being done on their behalf during the delay. This “labor illusion” is so powerful that it leads customers to prefer services that make them wait to services that provide the same quality immediately.
And finally, imperfection can be aesthetically pleasing in its own right, as the success of Dove with its ‘Campaign for Real Beauty’ shows. The Japanese even have a word for this – wabi-sabi – a view that celebrates the allure of the imperfect and incomplete. The wobbly line, the cracked leather, the faded patina – all draw, rather than repel, us.
Standout, empathy, attractiveness and trust – these are all qualities that define successful brands. So maybe it’s time for brand owners to embrace the power of imperfection.
There are advertisers that get this, and their ‘bravery’ is rewarded by more powerful communications than their perfect ‘everyone looks awesome’ adland competitors. Think of the overweight construction worker pole dancer (Moneysupermarket), Southern Comfort’s Whatever’s Comfortable’ beach hero, or the sweating women in ‘This Girl Can’. Their imperfections draw us to them. The brands feel more authentic. And we trust them more because of it.
So where are the ‘flaws’ in the personality descriptors that we craft for our brand definitions? We seem terrified to consider them – tying ourselves up in knots and qualifications to avoid any chinks of vulnerability or imperfection. Aspirational yet accessible’, ‘Strong but warm’ – we’ve all written them.
Early in the ‘Love/Hate’ Marmite campaign, an ad showed a couple on a first date going back ‘for coffee’. After eating toast and Marmite in the kitchen, the girl returns to the sofa. They kiss. Her boyfriend retches violently at the Marmite taste.
Most people in research thought it was hilarious. But older Marmite users didn’t. You could say it ‘alienated them. But the ad ran. And the older users changed their view when they saw how popular it was. In fact, it turned out to be the ‘lift-off’ ad of the now-famous campaign, awarded for its creativity and for its results. Market research overestimates people’s resistance to change and boldness, and underestimates ‘herd effects’.
Alienation worry isn’t just wrong, it’s also dangerous. Because it can kill the bold, penetration-gaining ideas that you need for brand growth. So relax: it’s actually quite hard to win friends and alienate people.
Ephron still remembers the first day of her journalism class. Although the students had no journalism experience, they walked into their first class with a sense of what a journalist does: A journalists gets the facts and reports them. To get the facts, you track down the five Ws-who, what, where, when, and why.
As students sat in front of their manual typewriters, Ephron’s teacher announced the first assignment. They would write the lead of a newspaper story. The teacher reeled off the facts: “Kenneth L. Peters, the principal of Beverly Hills High School, announced today that the entire high school faculty will travel to Sacramento next Thursday for a colloquium in new teaching methods. Among the speakers will be anthropologist Margaret Mead, college president Dr. Robert Maynard Hutchins, and California governor Edmund ‘Pat’ Brown.”
The budding journalists sat at their typewriters and pecked away at the first lead of their careers. According to Ephron, she and most of the other students produced leads that reordered the facts and condensed them into a single sentence: “Governor Pat Brown, Margaret Mead, and Robert Maynard Hutchins will address the Beverly Hills High School faculty Thursday in Sacramento … blah, blah, blah.”
The teacher collected the leads and scanned them rapidly. Then he laid them aside and paused for a moment.
Finally, he said, “The lead to the story is “There will be no school next Thursday”.
Say you had the choice between two surgeons of similar rank in the same department in some hospital. The first is highly refined in appearance; he wears silver-rimmed glasses, has a thin build, delicate hands, measured speech, and elegant gestures. His hair is silver and well combed. He is the person you would put in a movie if you needed to impersonate a surgeon. His office prominently boasts Ivy League diplomas, both for his undergraduate and medical schools.
The second one looks like a butcher; he is overweight, with large hands, uncouth speech, and an unkempt appearance. His shirt is dangling from the back. No known tailor on the East Coast of the U.S. is capable of making his shirt button at the neck. He speaks unapologetically with a strong New Yawk accent, as if he wasn’t aware of it. He even has a gold tooth showing when he opens his mouth. The absence of diplomas on the wall hints at the lack of pride in his education: he perhaps went to some local college. In a movie, you would expect him to impersonate a retired bodyguard for a junior congressman, or a third generation cook in a New Jersey cafeteria.
Now if I had to pick, I would overcome my sucker-proneness and take the butcher any minute. Even more: I would seek the butcher as a third option if my choice was between two doctors who looked like doctors. Why? Simply the one who doesn’t look the part, conditional on having made a (sort of) successful career in his profession, had to have much to overcome in terms of perception. And if we are lucky enough to have people who do not look the part, it is thanks to the presence of some skin in the game, the contact with reality that filters out incompetence, as reality is blind to looks.
Here’s how it works. If you want to be a successful consultant or marketing guru you must to convince the hysterical and gullible (that’s us!) that things are changing dramatically and they danger of becoming irrelevant if they don’t understand the new type of human that is now changing the world. The only way to stay ahead of this curve is to rely on…hmm, let’s see… Us!…and our proprietary knowledge and expertise about this new species.
So every fifteen or twenty years they invent a new generation that’s completely different from the last. They have distinctive, mysterious characteristics that only the deeply connected and erudite (that’s Us!) can explain.
It’s all bullshit. It’s astrology. How can you possibly take an enormous component of the population – tens of millions of people – and say they all have this or that characteristic? The absurdity is thrilling.
Excerpt from: Advertising for Skeptics by Bob Hoffman
It is not only history that misleads us. The future also misleads us. If you attend a lot of conferences as I do, you have undoubtedly noticed that speakers love to talk about the future. In fact, it’s almost the only thing they ever talk about. Why? Because the present is too confusing, too complicated and largely incomprehensible. But the future is great. You can’t be wrong when you talk about the future. No one can factcheck the future. You can say anything you want and people will think you are brilliant. They will applaud you and quote you in the news.
And then 10 years from now when it turns out you were wrong, who cares? Nobody remembers.
Excerpt from: Advertising for Skeptics by Bob Hoffman
Here’s a cautionary tale of how ‘humankind cannot bear too much reality – especially in the world of women’s fashion. Despite what people in research might say…
Back in 2000, M&S were facing a slump in sales. Brand appeal was declining Women’s clothing was key to turning this situation around. In an attempt to be brave and zig against the zag of women’s fashion, M&S decided to celebrate the fit of their clothes – whatever women’s shape and size.
Their new ad broke in the Autumn of that year. It didn’t show any of the new M&S fashion range. In fact, it didn’t showcase any clothes at all. But it did show a real, size 16 woman. In the now infamous ad we see the woman casting off clothing as she runs up a sun-drenched hill. On reaching the top, she stands naked, arms outstretched, proudly shouting ‘I’m normal’ The voiceover tells us that M&S has conducted the largest ever survey of women’s bodies, and, ‘You’ll be pleased to hear that if you’re not average, you’re normal’.
In groups, women loved it. They were fed up with seeing women advertising fashion brands who looked nothing like them, they said. It was a great idea to instead show ‘someone just like them, they said. And with 68% recall soon after airing the ad clearly made a big impression
But sales in M&S women’s fashion tanked. And the campaign was replaced the next year by a new, more conventional fashion campaign featuring a stellar line-up of models including Twiggy. Lizzie Jagger and Erin O’Connor. They were all wearing M&S new fashion lines. And they were all several sizes smaller than a size 16.
So be very careful when people say in research that they want to see people like them. What they really want to see – especially in the world of fashion and beauty – is their ‘Idealised Self’: the person they strive to be. Them at their very best. Not the warts-and-all ‘Actual Self’ they see when they look in the full-length mirror.
Be careful with reality. And be careful with what people say in research. It might not be what they mean.
TIGER, TIGER WITH REFULGENT CONFLAGRATION
IN THE NOCTURNAL AFFORESTATION,
KINDLY PROVIDE DETAILS REGARDING
NATURE OF SUPERNATURAL DEITY
RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR DESIGN AND TECHNOLOGY
Excerpt from: The Art of Looking Sideways by Alan Fletcher
This is known as the Baker-baker paradox. If we are introduced to someone named Mr Baker, we are less likely to remember the name than we are to remember the profession if we are introduced to a baker. If someone is a baker, we can create an image of that person pouring flour, kneading the bread, wearing a tall white hat.
We have already formed a lot of associations with ‘a baker’ – perhaps even multisensory experiences. We have smelled a bakery and eaten freshly baked bread. We can visualize what the baker does. The name Baker is just a bunch of letters. Names are essentially random syllables, a meaningless soup of sounds.
Perhaps, therefore, it is also easier to remember that Mikkel is a doctor and that Nikolaj owns a fruit plantation than the fact that Ib works in IT and Ida in public relations. It is easier to imagine Mikkel performing an operation or to visualize Nikolaj’s apples trees than to form an image of what it looks like when Ida ‘does public relations’.
Cicero, the Roman statesman, philosopher and orator, once wrote, ‘The keenest of all our senses is the sense of sight, and consequently perceptions received by the ears or from other sources can most easily be remembered if they are conveyed to our minds by the mediation of vision.’
The animation company Pixar, creators of Finding Nemo and Toy Story, has a proven formula for successful storytelling.
What has become known as the Pixar Pitch involves six sequential sentences:
Once upon a time, A.
Every day, B.
One day, C.
Because of that, D.
Because of that, E.
Until finally, F.
In 2014, the British government undertook a national experiment with the report card approach-sending letters to thousands of doctors in England who were prescribing the most antibiotics per capita in their regions. The letters, from high-profile British leaders, let those doctors know that they were prescribing more antibiotics than 80 percent of their local peers and suggested alternatives to writing a prescription in the heat of the moment, such as giving patients advice to care for themselves while sick. Researchers from the UK government’s Behavioural Insights Team found that these letters corresponded with a substantial decline in the rate of antibiotic prescription, with an estimated seventy thousand fewer antibiotics given to patients in a six-month period. The letters had cost very little, but they had saved significant sums of money spent on medicine by the national health care system and protected public health.
René Lacoste, French tennis star, earned the nickname ‘le crocodile’ for winning a crocodile-skin suitcase in a bet. ‘A friend drew a crocodile’, he said, ‘and / had it embroidered on the blazer / wore on the courts!’ His polo shirts were launched in 1933 and are probably the first example of sportswear as fashion.
Excerpt from: The Art of Looking Sideways by Alan Fletcher
The most striking examples of the persistence of musical memory come from observation of patients suffering from dementia. Late-stage Alzheimer’s patients who have difficulty recognizing family members and familiar objects can still recognize familiar songs. In some instances, these patients are able to sing despite having lost the ability to speak.”
The unique strength of musical memory has puzzled researchers for years, but one possible reason for the robustness of musically encoded memory is that music is encoded by several different regions of the brain. While auditory regions are primarily involved, so are parts responsible for imagery and emotion. Because musical memories are laid down in multiple brain regions, stimulating any one of these regions may spark their retrieval. It also may be the reason musical memory persists so long in dementia patients. If one brain region becomes damaged, the other, healthy regions can pick up the slack, theoretically providing “backups.”