By Roy H. Williams
Ninety-nine percent of all ads fail to sparkle for the same reason that most diamonds are dull: They’re overweight.
A perfectly edited ad will shoot points of light across the darkness like a perfectly cut diamond. But rare is the diamond that’s cut for maximum brilliance, even though it’s not hard to do.
Q: Why would a diamond cutter shape a diamond so it sparkled less instead of more?
A: You’ve dug a diamond from the dirt and now you’re going to proportion it. Cut it correctly and you’ll lose nearly fifty percent of the weight. But if you cut the diamond as close as you can to the shape of the original crystal, you’ll lose less weight and diamonds are sold by weight; about 875 thousand dollars an ounce.
Like diamond cutters, most of us leave too many words in our ads because we feel they add weight to our message. But you’ll never see your ads sparkle until those excess words are removed.
Here’s a before-and-after example of an ad from the newly published 20-Hour DVD series, Interactive Ad Writing. The ad was written by Brian Hagel, a gifted young writer from Saskatchewan:
Original Version Before Editing:
You see him a block away and you know he sees you too. The night suddenly feels colder, darker, and you curse yourself for turning down this street. The streetlamps cast shadows you never would have noticed if you were walking with friends. The stranger continues to amble towards you; hands inside a long coat. He’s looking at you. He is reading you well, knows you’re scared. You can almost see his chest expand with the knowledge. Seven feet, 6 feet now, you have seconds to decide. You’re close enough to hear his breathing. You catch his eyes and they bear down on you. The sidewalk is just wide enough for you to pass. One foot now, you hold your breath, ready. He looks at you with contempt. With head down, you brush past him, embarrassed. He hops in a car shaking his head. As he drives away you hear something about getting a job. You wish you could. It happens to our homeless every day. Please give generously to your United Way.
After Editing: [Notice how the points of the ad are made sharper, tighter, brighter.]
You see him a block away. He sees you, too. The night feels colder, darker. The streetlamps cast shadows you wouldn’t have noticed if you were walking with friends. But you have no friends. The stranger continues toward you; hands inside a long coat. He’s looking at you, reading you well, knows you’re scared. You can almost see his chest expand with pride. Seven feet away, you have only seconds to decide. You hear his breathing, watch his eyes bearing down on you. The sidewalk isn’t wide enough. But they weren’t thinking of you when they built this sidewalk. This sidewalk was built for him. One foot away, you hold your breath, close your eyes. Head down, you brush past him, embarrassed. He hops in a fine car shaking his head and suggests you get a job. You wish you could. 290,000 Canadians are frightened, homeless and hungry. The United Way can help. Will you help the United Way?
Like a well-cut diamond, the edited ad makes sharper points with fewer words.
The secret of sparkle is knowing what to leave out.