Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Bad Ginger

I once worked with an account exec. Let’s call her Sam (that’s her name after all). On most days Sam would write a long email listing every detail that happened or was going to happen on a particular job. THEN she would add her email to a long chain of long emails she had written earlier. She created a sort of parliamentary hansard. All the information was there.

Sam thought she was doing a fantastic job. She wasn’t. She was transferring information not meaning. She was carpet bombing her audience (me) with words, in the belief that the useful content would stick.

Whenever I received the latest update, I’d phone Sam and ask her to just tell me what she needed. She couldn’t understand why I needed telling. Hadn’t she put it all in the email?

Matt Shervington used to be a runner with Olympic potential. He is most famous for running without wearing underpants … it was very obvious. During the rugby world cup Matt starred in a flat screen TV commercial. I can’t remember the brand name.

I watched quite a few of the games so I saw Matt quite a few times. It wasn’t until about the 10th viewing that I realised Matt was telling me this TV was especially good to watch at night. He’d told me 10 times before but I hadn’t heard him. Well I’d heard him but it didn’t register. Why not? Because he had just said it. It was not illustrated or brought to life in any way. And I still can’t remember the brand name!

Garry Larsen’s ‘Bad Ginger’ cartoon speaks for itself. One of his best!

Sam, Matt and Ginger’s owner committed the error we all make occasionally. They thought that saying something was the same as communicating it. It is not.

How many ads tell us the facts rather than bring them to life? How many ads use the dreaded power point/bullet point method of information dump? Who knows. We probably miss hundreds every day.

Communications must be presented in a way the consumer will absorb, often by using surprising words, visuals or music. OR sometimes by going the other way. Clichés are clichés because they mean the same thing to everyone. The insurance industry uses umbrellas an awful lot because they immediately say ‘protection’. The umbrella is a cliché but it works.

In advertising don’t ask, “ Can it be understood?’ Ask, “Can it NOT be MIS-understood?’

(If I haven’t made any sense, please call and I’ll explain over the phone.)