By Jean Hetherington

I recently received this joke in an email from a friend. After reading it, I realized it has a VERY good application to advertising. It is extremely important, especially in radio advertising, to relate the correct message. We can do this best by putting ourselves in the listener’s shoes. When they hear confusing offers, old clichés and “business-speak” they tune out. Little if any of the message gets through to them, and we squander a golden opportunity to win their business.

There is even the danger of sending the opposite message and leaving listeners insulted or turned off.

If you were a listener, what would interest you? A laundry list of products or models? Or a solid offer of low-interest financing, substantial money back or something free? Sometimes, by resorting to tired old clichés, confusing offers, ridiculous superlatives or punch lines for the sake of being funny, we leave the listener wondering, “What’s in it for me?” Telling them what’s in it for them is vitally important. Otherwise, why change my old habits to take a chance on something I’m not convinced is a worthy alternative?

I’m as guilty as the next of creating these kinds of ads from time to time. For salespeople it is vital that the info you get from a client helps us create a clear message for listeners. In other words,  “What is in it for them?” should be clearly answered by the commercial.

Check out the joke; you might even get a laugh.

Back in the Middle Ages, the Pope one day decreed that all the Jews had to convert or leave Italy. There was a huge outcry from the Jewish community, so the Pope offered a deal. He would have a religious debate with the leader of the Jewish community. If the Jews won, they could stay in Italy. If the Pope won, they would have to leave.

The Jewish people met and picked an aged but wise Rabbi, Moishe, to represent them in the debate. However, as Moishe spoke no Italian and the Pope spoke no Hebrew, they all agreed that it would be a “silent” debate.

On the chosen day, the Pope and Rabbi Moishe sat opposite each other for a full minute before the Pope raised his hand and showed three fingers. Rabbi Moishe looked back and raised one finger. Next the Pope waved his finger around his head. Rabbi Moishe pointed to the ground where he sat. The Pope then brought out a communion wafer and a chalice of wine. Rabbi Moishe pulled out an apple. With that, the Pope stood up and declared that he was beaten, that Rabbi Moishe was too clever and that the Jews could stay.

Later, the Cardinals met with the Pope, asking what had happened. The Pope said, “First I held up three fingers to represent the Trinity. He responded by holding up one finger to remind me that there is still only one God common to both our beliefs. Then, I waved my finger to show him that God was all around us. He responded by pointing to the ground to show that God was also right here with us. I pulled out the wine and wafer to show that God absolves us of all our sins. He pulled out an apple to remind me of the original sin. He had me beaten and I could not continue.”

Meanwhile, the Jewish community was gathered around Rabbi Moishe. “What happened?” they asked. “Well,” said Moishe, “First he said to me that we had three days to get out of Italy, so I said to him, ‘Up yours.’ Then he tells me that the whole country would be cleared of Jews and I said to him, ‘Mr. Pope, we’re staying right here.’”

“And then what?” asked a woman.

“Who knows?” said Moishe. “He took out his lunch so I took out mine.”

Are we telling our audience the wrong message? Only the critical ability to place yourself in the shoes of the audience and critically evaluate your own approach will tell. Like in any chess game, if you play both sides of the board you will always win.

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