Author, advertising and
publishing consultant, former editor of Chicago and other magazines, former creative director of Campbell-Ewald and
other advertising agencies. For more information, click here. Or see Who's Who in America or
Consulting editor, historian, poet and author of several books. For more information, click here or
BLOGS and GLOBS: I have been writing a blog since 1966, only I didn't know it. In those days, it came out in the form of a
newsletter on paper. Remember
paper? It never got lost in
cyberspace, although if it got wet enough blog turned into glob. I called it The Uncommentator,
and tried to make it amusing. To read some of my favorites, see contents.
Recent Books by the Frisbies.
April, 2014--Publishers Weekly recently compiled a list of well-known novels that deliberately never end, leaving off in mid-sentence. Authors included Nicoli Gogol, Franz Kafka, James Joyce and others somewhat less famous but well regarded. A succinct example was Everything Is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer, which offers only this final sentence:
I will walk without noise, and I will open the door in darkness, and I will
Note the lack of a period.
That got me thinking about story-telling in general and advertising in particular. Unless you already have a reputation as a bore, you can usually get the attention of a group merely by saying, "that reminds me of a story."
Faced with a long train or plane ride or an afternoon in a waiting room, I prefer a commercial thriller. By the end, mysterious circumstances are explained, the villains get their comeuppance and the lovers reunite while sun breaks through the clouds. For the moment, the reader feels that allís right with the world.
But real life isnít really like that. At any moment, the happiest, most serene lives can be disrupted by unforeseen circumstances. A soulless corporate raider takes over the company and everybody gets laid off. A crash on the highway leaves one of the lovers forever desolate.
Thatís why "literary" novels, no matter how gritty, find wide audiences. Readers can say to themselves, well, thatís how life is for some people and none of those terrible things have happened to meĖat least not yet.
Whatís all that got to do with adverting? Be patient. Iíll explain.
Most products today are so similar that advertisers are desperate to make them seem different and more desirable by spending a lot of money on the commercials. Autos you canít tell apart at a distance are shown being driven at reckless speeds that should get the drivers arrested. Snacks are made to seem so uniquely delicious that family members hide them from each other. Sometimes, stories seemed aimed at potential customers with character defects. A current commercial for Buick shows a man illuminating his driveway so he can show off his new car to his neighbors and presumably make them envious.
Some commercials do present an innocently entertaining skit, but afterward viewers are hard put to recall what product was being advertised.
A few advertisers get it right. One shining example is a recent Jameson Irish Whiskey campaign. "John Jameson" in historically appropriate costume is portrayed accomplishing some feat of derring do to rescue one or more kegs of his whiskey. He saves it from a fire or swims ashore with it from a shipwreck. When an old-fashioned steam locomotive runs wild, he leaps aboard the engine from a galloping horse to save a carload of Jameson whiskey, And, oh yes, the passengers too. He uncouples the train just before the engine plunges over a cliff and smashes a ship below, "thus preventing the Prussian incursion of 1807," says the voice over, "which is why nobody has ever heard of the Prussian incursion of 1807."
Click here to judge for yourself:
Thatís an amusing story. And you canít confuse the subject with any other whiskey. I feel like pouring myself a glass of Jameson now.