Monday, January 16, 2012

Science on Sundays.

          It's Sunday morning and the vibes at my favorite Berkeley cafe, PIQ, are relaxed. The baristas are more talkative, the customers more sleepy, the fresh pastries more limited, the coffee a little stronger, and the music thumpingly louder.

          I just finished reading a paper by art historian Alexander Eliot entitled "The Sense of Truth". "Just as much as science needs poetry, so does poetry need science," he writes.

          "The sad fact, however, is that only a handful of scientists find time to read Blake or even Shakespeare, and only a handful of poets 'find time' to acquaint themselves with the rudiments of physics or biology. The rest let lack of time turn them into half-minded men," Eliot concludes.

          Marketing and advertising are no place for half-minded men and women. How can we expect to understand our customers if we only know 50% of them? People have both heads and hearts, and they buy with both.

           "Who are the contemporary poets?" Eliot asks. "Mostly script writers, copywriters, song writers, speech writers, and columnists...They look backward. They conclude."

           That's why Eliot advocates adding science to the equation. He says, "the enduring poets of the Twentieth Century have been men of science. Dante's 'Divine Comedy' is a poem which he intended partly as a treatise. Freud's 'Interpretation of Dreams' is a treatise which, despite the author's intent, becomes poetry. Man's greatest discoveries are always made in nature --- in living nature --- by men for whom knowledge and feelings merge."

           The learning never ends for the marketing or advertising person. Our careers are an ongoing search for more understanding, more insights.

           One simple question --- why do people buy clothes?  --- opens the door to science, to philosophy, to social psychology, to art, to history, and to connections rich with emotion.

           I agree with Eliot that we copywriters are the poets of our time, and poets live in far more worlds than just the world of our craft.


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