On the danger of looking for formulas in advertising

💎 On the dangers of looking for formulas in advertising (you can’t be that mathematical and that precise)

In 1964, as reported by Denis Higgins in The Art of Writing Advertising, he was confronted by an interviewer trying to analyse just how and why he was such an original advertising thinker. Asked if there were any striking characteristics unique to talented writers and art directors, he said, ‘One of the problems here [in this interview] is that we’re looking for a formula. What makes a good writer? It’s a danger. … I remember those old Times interviews where the interviewer would talk to the novelist or the short story writer and say, “What time do you get up in the morning? What do you have for breakfast? What time do you start work? When do you stop work…?” And the whole implication is that if you eat cornflakes at 6:30 and then take a walk and then take a nap and then start working and then stop at noon, you too can be a great writer. You can’t be that mathematical and that precise. This business of trying to measure everything in precise terms is one of the problems with advertising today. This leads to a worship of research. We’re all concerned about the facts we get and not about how provocative we can make those facts to the consumer.’

Excerpt from: The Real Mad Men: The Remarkable True Story of Madison Avenue’s Golden Age by Andrew Cracknell

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