A Monday Morning Memo from The Wizard of Ads
“That’s a really great toupee you’re wearing. Where did you get it?” “I’ve always liked pants like those. Are they coming back in style?” “Are you always this funny when you’re drunk?” Even though the speaker didn’t actually say, “That toupee isn’t fooling anyone, those pants are out of style, and you talk like a drunk,” it would be difficult for a man to respond warmly to these compliments, because he would have heard more than was actually said.
Let me give you another example. I am always flattered to meet people who enjoy reading The Monday Morning Memo, “I really enjoy those Monday Morning Memos!” but I have concluded from these meetings that my physical appearance must be somehow disappointing because each of these people will invariably look me over, then ask, “Do you write them yourself?”
Evidently, my ”college professor” look isn’t working, because these people obviously see me as just another a bald guy with glasses and a beard. “And how did you meet your wife?” (Pennie is gorgeous.)
Like me, all of America has learned to hear much more than is spoken, especially when it comes to advertising. I’m convinced it was the glut of “hype” advertising during the 80’s that taught America to listen with suspicious ears. “Sale! Sale! Sale! 60%! 70%! Up To 80% Off! Save BIG during Dollar Buster Happy Daze!” This type of advertising worked extremely well during the days of America’s naiveté’, but that day ended when we heard our first pitch from a multi-level marketing company, or received our first letter from a time share resort. “You have definitely won one of the following five prizes:
1. A Cadillac Eldorado 2. A Sport Boat. 3. A $10,000 Savings Bond. 4. His and Hers Motorcycles. 5. A Rolex watch. Please call to let us know when you can pick up your prize, and bring proof of identification.”
To advertise effectively in today’s America, we must understand our listener’s reluctance to believe the claims of advertising. We must volunteer the proof they need. Loud music, bright colored balloons, and enthusiastic recitations of worn out cliché’s are no longer enough to convince people they are receiving good value. (O.K., there are still a few idiots out there, but the number grows smaller every day.)
The time has come when we must offer a product or service which is demonstrably better. It is no longer enough to simply tell bigger lies in a louder voice than the next guy. If you want your advertising to be productive, you must have a story to tell, and you must tell it persuasively.
By the way, in the early 80’s a friend of mine actually received that time share letter and took a day of his vacation to make the 150 mile trip to pick up his prize. After enduring a relentless, two hour sales pounding, they tossed him a three dollar, inflatable raft and said, “Thanks for making the trip, Sport. Here’s your boat.”
You ask how I can be certain America is no longer naive? The time share people quit mailing those letters only when the letters quit working. When was the last time you took a day of vacation to go pick up a new boat, Sport?
Roy H. Williams