James Bond was racing through Manhattan, engaged in a car chase with an evil genius bent on world tyranny with the help of his new super weapon.
I know. I'm shocked too.
Roger Moore wasn't the best actor to portray the legendary 007, but there was something very different unfolding that went beyond your typically chase scene clich.
As the vehicles weaved in and out of the dense downtown traffic, they narrowly escaped colliding with big rig tractor trailers or crashing through the crystalline glass of expensive boutiques.
The usually cynical white collar audience was getting more and more excited, until the mounting tension finally burst into a avalanche of wild, unbridled applause.
They were laughing, they were cheering. They were tearing up their seats like teenagers in the 1950's watching Black Board Jungle.
So what in the world was happening? Did the villain manage to transcend celluloid and unleash a dastardly Mind Gas into the theater?
Throughout the short little movie scene, Billboard, after Truck Panel Logo, after Storefront Marque, unobtrusively draped the background.
The New York movie audience, or more specifically"the Madison Avenue audience full of Advertising Executives"were gasping in disbelief that a 3 minute segment of entertainment could so effectively package half a dozen subliminal product advertisements that were masquerading as "scenery."
It had never been done before, and for better or worse, advertising has never been the same since that fateful day.
Painting the Backdrop
As you sit at your keyboard, it's highly unlikely you feel as though you are in the middle of an exhilarating car pursuit.
But it's your job as a writer to seduce your readers into a world of emotions, where they feel as if they are.
If you are attempting to motivate your readers into a Buying Action, then maybe you should add a little "Scenery" of your own to greatly enhance the thrill of the chase.
Not all forms of persuasion are overt. You may be trying to sell the Sizzle, but don't forget to draw attention to the Aroma, as well. Some things are best left in the background, for your reader's imagination to discover on its own without you drawing attention to it.
Here are a few simple Guidelines I have found helpful.
- Surround your story with description that tells a Second Subliminal story - Rather than fill your Message with sub-plots and background, carefully swirl your descriptions around your Selling Points in each sentence. Technical features can be surrounded by colourful phrases pertaining to how the product is used, or the various setting where you will apply them.
- Avoid Description Overload - Many of us have read works by beginners who fill their pros with detailed descriptions. But too much description can engulf the Core Message to the point where your Point gets lost. Stick to what is necessary to get your Message across, and cut the less important elements.
- Avoid Distraction from the Message - Les Miserables is a famous French novel that is quite long. My apologies to purists, but one could argue that 2/3 of Les Miserables could be cut without doing any real damage to the main story. Unless you want your Action & Suspense sidetracked, avoid making your own writing too, uhm, Miserables for your readers by keeping to the Message Points that enhance the probability of a successful Call to Action.
- Discreetly Enhance the Mood of the Message - Scenery evokes emotional responses. Whether bright and cheerful or dark and somber, the power of the action is greatly enhanced by the setting. A writer must paint the colours of emotion in the mind and the heart, with simple black and white text.
Telling Your Story with a Story
We saw how an Entertainment Story incorporated the Sales Message backdrop. Most audiences probably didn't even notice what was happening. Their focus was on the Action, not the Ads.
But the straightforward Sales Message very often incorporates an Entertainment backdrop. We see this as standard methodology in Television commercials all the time. Often, the commercials can be more entertaining than the TV show itself, and can be an important strategy for burning a Product into the viewer's memory.
One of my favourites is the Capital One series, with the 6th century Barbarians in modern "fish out of water" scenarios, extolling the virtues of the Product. This works brilliantly to harmonize Fun with Message.
The problem I often see, though, is a TV commercial so entertaining I have no idea what they are selling. Sometimes the agencies outfox themselves with their own cleverness. Or worse, so "clever" they are boring. Add the loss of Product Memory and you end up with a very expensive loser.
A fun and entertaining Message should harmonize so well that the Fun is exactly what causes the Product to be memorable.
Descriptions as Slogans
Who can forget these famous ad slogans? They are short, tight, and instantly bring imagery into your imagination. These little slogans are so good I have never forgotten them.
- "Nothing Runs Like A Deere" - John Deere & Company
- "The ultimate driving machine." - BMW
- "Plop, plop; fizz, fizz; oh, what a relief it is." - Alka Seltzer
- "I can't believe I ate the whole thing..." - Alka Seltzer
- "Mamma mia, that's-a spicy meat ball-a!" - Alka Seltzer
- "Live in your world, play in ours." - Sony Playstation
- "Nothin' says lovin' like something from the oven." - Pillsbury
- "Everything's better, with Blue Bonnet on it." - ConAgra Foods
- "Let your fingers do the walking." - Yellow Pages
- "Snap, Crackle, Pop" - Rice Krispies
- "Finger lickin' good." - Kentucky Fried Chicken
- "We make money the old-fashioned way....We earn it." - Smith Barney
- ''They Laughed When I Sat Down at the Piano but When I Started to Play!'' - U.S. School of Music
- "All you add is love." - Ralston Purina
- "A mind is a terrible thing to waste." - United Negro College Fund
In each case a visual image is implanted in the mind that perfectly harmonizes or even embellishes the Core Message.
Every Product Can be Memorable
Regardless of what you are selling, there are myriad of ways to embellish your Message with colourful Description. The best are woven so well they are not even noticed, and are almost a secret method of selling.
And sometimes the more serious or complicated the product, the more an entertaining concept can work to your advantage.
Even a product as serious as Life Insurance has Snoopy as the spokesperson.
There are few products more boring than Auto Insurance. It's Entertainment in and of itself to simply watch the various companies battle for your eyeballs.
When I was a kid a once had a Salamander. Oh, how my life may have been so much different had I only asked for a Gecko...