Friday, April 27, 2012

How to read an ad.

          Nobody looks at an ad or commercial as closely as the people who create it. That's a fact of life.

          We writers fiddle over every word. We worry about every comma. We hate semicolons and love dashes but despise ellipses. We worry that parenthetic statements won't be taken seriously and know the difference between "who" and "what". We get agitated when an apostrophe occurs in the "1990s".

           Art directors fret over different things. When everything looks fine to the writer the art director looks troubled. She notices an eye not completely open, a shoe turned the wrong way, and too much cobalt blue in the logo.

           It's amazing an ad ever gets to the publication. TV is even more intensely scrutinized. Groups of grown people in a dark room can't decide whether a scene should be a skosh shorter or a tad longer. Too many cuts, too slow a dissolve, too retro a wipe.

           And that's after internal meetings, client meetings, pre-pro meetings, budget meetings, lunch meetings and private meetings in the kitchen over Oreos and M&Ms.

           Then weeks later we're lucky if the customer in her living room even looks at the ad or sits still long enough to see our commercial.

            I'm not saying we spend too much time on our ads --- we have to. That's our art, our work, our craft. But I am saying that I'm not sure we spend enough time on the important things. An ad that's going to get a person's attention when he's just found out his kid needs braces. Something that's going to change a woman's mind when she's been buying the same household supplies her mother always used.

            Do we spend more time kerning the type than we spend kerning the idea? Do we let mythology (people don't read copy) overtake human nature (we'll read anything that can help us, and by the way nothing stopped us from reading the Harry Potter books because they were archetypally compelling).

           Let's look at our ads while they're still on scraps of note paper. Selfishly, like a customer might.
"What's in it for me?" "Does it peak my curiosity?"

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