My friend Blaine Parker publishes a weekly newsletter (or screed as he likes to call it) about advertising that he called HOT POINTS. He’s given me permission to republish his articles from time to time when he has something to say that I think makes sense to us in voiceover. Today is one of those days.
HOT POINTS for The Week of September 19, 2011
WHAT’S WITH THE CARP?
Well, I was going to use a mild expletive.
Then, I figured your spam filter might send it into the world of Nigerian scams and lottery winners and proposals from hot Asian brides.
So I used my favorite replacement noun and let you fill in the blanks.
All of this preamble to really no purpose, other than to lead into a total non sequitur, to wit…
I HAVEN’T BEEN ON A HARANGUE ABOUT RADIO ADVERTISING IN A WHILE
I thought about that last week as I sat here at my desk high above Park City, Utah, in the wee hours of the morning, listening to a rural New England radio station on my computer.
Why New England and why so early?
One of our clients was doing a radio interview in morning drive, and I wanted to hear it live.
So, I’m sitting here, dark & early before the sunrise, in my Batman jammies with a cup of high-octane joe, listening to the live stream through the steam.
In the commercial break, when the next spot came on, I almost blew coffee spray all over the monitor.
This guy reading the commercial had a distinct lateral lisp.
And he was literally phoning in the recording. It was telephone audio.
THIS COULD BE CONSIDERED RADIO ADVERTISING HELL
The worst possible, non-professional voice.
The worst kind of low-fi recording.
And ya know what?
It was gripping.
As soon as I got past the initial surprise of what I was hearing, this guy was utterly engaging.
Even though he was talking about wild mushrooms.
I don’t care about wild mushrooms.
Despite what could be considered amateur crap radio on a professional commercial broadcast, I loved this guy.
CONTRAST THAT TO THE REST OF THE BILGE ON THE AIR
Much of what you hear on air commercial-wise at this station is exactly what you’d expect in a small market from small businesses.
The painful “slice of life” spots with two people who obviously don’t know each other, rambling on with long, complex sentences filled with the kind of ad speak that real people have never uttered in their lives.
The “announcer” who sounds like they just pulled her off the switchboard, blathering on about why a particular substance abuse program is the best one for “all your recovery needs–” and she sounds neither like she’s old enough to take a drink nor aware enough to know what on earth she’s even talking about.
But this guy with the lateral lisp talking about wild mushrooms in a radio spot recorded over the phone was really compelling.
Ya now why?
Because he was real. He knew what he was talking about. He was passionate. He cared deeply. And he was sharing it with me.
THAT, MY FRIENDS IS AT THE CORE OF GOOD ADVERTISING
Not merely radio, but all advertising.
Genuineness goes a long way towards making a compelling case for whatever it is you’re selling.
In a word: Truth.
Nothing about the presentation is remotely slick–but it doesn’t matter.
The guy talking knows his subject, he cares deeply, he wants to convey it, and he knows how to get you interested.
It’s one of the things that makes eHarmony’s advertising so compelling: those people in their commercials are real.
It’s what makes Mike Rowe so engaging: he comes across as real.
It’s why hidden camera commercials can be so engaging: they’re showing you unvarnished truth.
THINKING CAN KILL YOU
Not smart thinking, mind you. Smart thinking is the kind of thinking that makes a skilled creator step out of the way and let the magic happen.
But lazy thinking, entrenched thinking, clever thinking, self-important thinking–those and other kinds of lousy thought processes stand in between an advertiser and an audience.
Any truly salient message ends up clouded or even obliterated by the ego and/or fear of the creator.
People thinking that what they’re doing is “The way it’s always done;” people saying “What advertisements always say;” people thinking, “Gosh I’m funny, people are going to love me;” people thinking, “Gosh, I’m smart, people are going to be so impressed with me;” or any of a dozen other stunted thought processes–these are what stand in the way of good advertising communication.
They stand in between the ad’s creator and the single most important person in the advertising equation: the prospect.
Mr. Wild Mushrooms with the lateral lisp, it’s virtually a guarantee that his thought process was simply this: “I love what I’m talking about, and I want to share it with you in a way that will make you love it, too.”
COULD I SAY THIS TO SOMEONE I LOVE?
Ya gotta love what you do, and ya gotta love your customer.
And you gotta ask yourself, “Would I turn around to someone I love and say, ‘I’m going to be here for all of your wild mushroom needs.'”
Of course not. It’s lazy thinking, it’s obnoxious ad speak, and it’s a just plain weird thing to say. Your loved one should slap you.
Speaking of love, let’s look at the eHarmony advertising for a moment, because this is a perfect example of smart thinking.
It would have been easy for the ad agency to say, “We could write some really clever, funny advertising about internet dating and win a bunch of awards.”
Instead, what they’ve said is, “These customers love this site, and they want to share it with people. Let’s step out of the way and let them share the love.”
Contrastingly, there’s another dating site out there that shall remain nameless.
They always show a couple of women standing around a computer, talking about dates gone horribly wrong. They show the bad dating scenario gone wildly out of control. Then, back to the computer. “So I’m just going to stick to this website for dating.”
Ha ha! Funny funny! Big laughs!
I don’t get it.
WHAT’S THE MESSAGE?
Because dating can go horribly wrong, I’m just going to stick to using this website for…dating?
All I can imagine is they fancy themselves as the website for people who don’t take dating too seriously and just want a hook up.
Because there is nothing in the horribly bad dating scenarios that makes me go, “Yeah, THAT’S a good website.”
The commercials for eHarmony are good enough to make me think, “Wow, if I were single again…”
The eHarmony commercials are honest, they share the love, the people are not slick, and the message is clear.
The other sites’ messages are contrived, they are not honest, they are look-at-me clever, and the message is vague.
They come off as if the writers would rather be working for SNL, and that actual selling is beneath them.
THE MESSAGE IS THE MESSAGE–NOT THE MEDIUM OR THE COMEDY
The eHarmony messages would resonate if they were TV, radio, or even print.
The core message is vivid, vibrant and resonant.
And they are conveyed without professional actors. They’re real people.
Similarly, Mr. Lateral Lisp Wild Mushroom, not a professional actor, is vivid, vibrant and resonant–despite his non-professional delivery and his lousy recording quality.
The message is what matters.
Not ego, ad speak, comedy, or slick production.
If you can be honest and direct and convey a love your customer, if you can let your ego and your fear step out of the way, you can transcend almost any deficiency in the medium to hit a prospect right between the eyes.
And make them care.
Your Lean, Mean Creative Director in
IS SOMEONE YOU KNOW LOSING BIG MONEY–OR MAKING YOU CRAZY–BY NOT READING HOT POINTS?
Subscription to this wretched weekly screed is now available to anyone you might deem worthy. Just send your victims to www.slowburnblog.com and have them look for the subscription sign up box in the upper left hand corner.