By Roy H. Williams
Advertising begins only after you win the attention of your target, a difficult thing to do in this overcommunicated world.
May I suggest you do it like the Great Ones?
When you’re ready to tell your story, choose an angle of approach.
Then frame the scene. Decide what to include, what to leave out:
Specifically, leave out:
1. anything the listener already knows or can easily figure out for themselves.
2. the name of the business anywhere it would not appear in normal conversation.
3. unsubstantiated claims.
5. complicated ideas.
7. self-congratulatory pronouncements, such as “We’re the number one…”
8. statements that reflect your awareness of a competitor.
9. any promise you might fall short of delivering.
10. adjectives that are not essential to the clarity of the message. The strongest ads use simple nouns and verbs with a minimum of modifiers.
Choosing an angle is a bit trickier. You must find a perspective to introduce a new reality. Don’t just add incremental knowledge to what’s already known. Introduce a thought that will stand taller than any other figure on the horizon of the mind. It’s like setting the stage for a Broadway production, and it can always be done in a single sentence.
Here’s a glimpse of how it’s done by the Great Ones:
“It came down to this: if I had not been arrested by the Turkish police, I would have been arrested by the Greek police.” – Eric Ambler, the opening line of The Light of Day
“My first act on entering this world was to kill my mother.” – William Boyd, the opening line of The New Confession
“The schoolmaster was leaving the village, and everybody seemed sorry.” – Thomas Hardy, the opening line of Jude the Obscure
“There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.” – C. S. Lewis, opening line from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
“He was one hundred and seventy days dying and not yet dead.” – Alfred Bester, the opening line of The Stars My Destination
“You are standing in the snow, five and one-half miles above sea level, gazing at a horizon hundreds of miles away.” – Roy H. Williams, the opening line of a radio ad written for Rolex
“I can’t believe I ate the whole thing.” – Unknown, the opening line of a TV ad written for Alka-Seltzer
Did you notice how I slipped myself into that list of the Great Ones? I wouldn’t usually have done it but this is Monday and on Mondays I’m ebullient. It’s only on Tuesdays that I’m modest.
Most people like me better on Tuesdays.
Here are some typical opening lines from average ads. Compare them to the lines that come from unusual angles and better frame the new perspective:
Typical: McMorris Ford is having a Clearance Event!
Unusual: We want to get rid of this new truck even more than you want to own it.
Typical: Harvey Chevrolet is Going Out for Business!
Unusual: Here at Harvey Chevrolet we’re tired of being average, so here’s what we’ve decided to do.
Typical: Save up to 70 percent at Neederman Optical!
Unusual: New eyeglasses cost like stink. You know it. We know it, too.
Typical: Leroy’s Lawn Service has served the people of this city since 1972.
Unusual: Life is too short and wonderful to spend it cutting your own grass.
Typical: Juanita’s Mexican Café at the corner of Fifth and Madison serves authentic Mexican Food from 8AM till 8PM daily.
Unusual: So you think you’ve had Mexican food, heh, Gringo?
Choose an unusual angle of view and leave out the obvious. These are the keys to opening the mind’s eye.
Do it when writing ads. Do it when making presentations.
Now that I’ve explained how it’s done in words. Would you like me to show you how it’s done in pictures?
As with every other archetypal truth, the principles will remain unchanged. Details of their application will be the only difference.
Ready. Angle. Frame. Harness these ideas and your thoughts will gain speed and momentum.