"...And Make It Real Creative!" - June 2006

and-make-it-real-creative-logo-3By Trent Rentsch

Last month I shared my amusing (and nearly toe eliminating) en-counter with a chainsaw. This month I’d like to begin with another chainsaw story.

Gordie was a classmate of my Father’s. He was the Sheriff in my hometown for as long as I can remember, but from what Dad said he was always tough as nails, never took crap from anybody. He retired some years ago, and spent time working some land that he owned outside of town. One day last year he was by himself, trimming some trees on the property. I don’t know what kind of chainsaw he was using, but my guess is that it was the monster, gas-powered kind… I can’t imagine Gordie using anything less.

I talked about kick back last month, the freak occurrence of the chainsaw catching on a piece of wood and literally “kicking back” towards you. In my case I was left with a ripped up tennis shoe. Gordie’s experience was, somewhat different. He was cutting branches overhead when the monster kicked back. The blade first caught the side of his head, leaving a deep gash and nearly taking off one of his ears. As he tried to gain control, the blade slipped down, still grinding away, slicing through muscle and his collarbone like so much bark and dry kindling. Mercifully, he managed to stop the saw before it could take his entire arm off.

Think about this for a moment. All alone, blood gushing from his head and the slash that sliced his collarbone in two, the nearest help 8 miles away, no cell phone. Just the fact that he was still conscious was amazing, but what he did next borders on super human. Somehow he hauled his torn and bleeding body to his pick-up (manual transmission, by the way), and drove himself to the hospital. As ghastly as this ordeal sounds, there was a happy ending. He not only survived, but the last I heard was completely healed and probably back to trimming trees.

How did my little story about Gordie make you feel? Squeamish? Sick to your stomach? Perhaps it made you a little dizzy at the thought of that chainsaw, ripping open his body and chopping his collarbone in two. Frankly, it did it to me just sitting here writing it. I’ve told the story many times, and everyone has had a physical reaction of some sort. Some cover their ears as the saw kicks back, the outcome obvious but more than they can deal with. I can’t think of one person who hasn’t shivered at some point (again, including me as I write this). It’s not how well the story is told, Lord knows my Father tells it much better than I do (you wouldn’t want his version on a full stomach). It seems that the thought of a chainsaw cutting into one’s body taps into that strong core emotion for survival that we all share, and it effects us to the point that our body reacts.

To really motivate people, understanding core emotions and what trips them is important. I’m not suggesting that commercials need to be filled with gore. The same emotions were tapped brilliantly years ago by Chuck Blore with his seatbelt campaign. It featured the voice of a little boy and his father, which, we were made to believe, were the last words spoken on a cassette recorder in the car before an accident killed them both. I know that they were actors, I’ve heard Mr. Blore tell the story of how the commercial was created, but the spot still haunts me… and from the first time I heard it I’ve always worn my seatbelt.

Core emotions are not all gloom and doom. It comes down to self-preservation, whether it’s keeping ourselves, or our dignity, in one piece. Why do we giggle when someone gets a pie in the face, or slips and falls on a patch of ice, or the Granddaddy of them all, breaks wind loudly during a lull in the conversation in a crowded room? Because it’s not us with a face-full of whipped cream, nursing a bruised backside while that backside announces to the world that you had beans for dinner the night before… but it COULD have been.

Want to really grab a listener? Put your character in the most embarrassing, awkward situation you can imagine, something terribly uncomfortable, something that makes you yourself squirm imagining yourself dealing with it. Make your character wallow in it for a time, really take it to the edge… and just when it seems like there’s no escape… TA DAH!!! In comes the client and/or product to the rescue!


(sfx: office break room)

  • V1: Man, you’re still scratching that?
  • V2: Ahh, yeah, ahh, sorry…
  • V1: Still have that rash, huh?
  • V2: Yeah… I think it’s spreading…
  • V1: I warned you about her…
  • V2: Come on, there’s no way…
  • V1: I’m telling you… what about Bill in accounting?
  • V2: She didn’t go out with Bill in accounting…
  • V1: Yeah, right! He almost had to spend the night in the hospital!
  • V2: You know Bill, he could’ve picked it up anywhere…
  • V1: All I’m saying is, you shouldn’t have gone back to her place!
  • V2: But I didn’t see anything…
  • V1: Dude, you have a rash, right?
  • V2: I don’t want to talk about this…
  • V1: And you were in her place all evening, right?
  • V2: (sigh) Right…
  • V1: I’m tell ya! The woman HAS CATS!!!

Annc: Got allergies? Dr. Nosneezum can help. With 5 area locations…

None of us wants to hurt, physically… or mentally. Finding a way to make a listener feel those core emotions is a powerful way to reel them in, because even if they’re “eavesdropping” on the situation, it’s tripping those feelings deep inside. Then, you give them the relief that, even if they find themselves in a similar painful or embarrassing situation, there is a solution, and again the message is the most powerful if the client and/or product is that solution. You don’t have to attack your listeners with a chainsaw, but sometimes it helps.


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