When I was growing up I used to watch re-runs of an old cop show called Dragnet. The theme song alone left an indelible impression on me.
Narration from the main character begins every show: “This is the city; Los Angeles California. It’s 7:18 a.m. I’m sergeant Joe Friday. This is my partner, Gannon.”
Joe Friday means business. He works his case methodically, interrogating everyone, including innocent old ladies. He’s buttoned up so tight he can hardly part his lips to deliver his famous lectures.
His favorite line: “Give us the facts, Ma’am. Just the facts.”
That might be an effective approach to police work, but it’s a waste of money when it comes to advertising.
In Dragnet advertising, all you do is list the facts: Who, what, when, where, how much. It’s the preferred approach of deluded business owners who believe, “if you list it, they will come.”
Very few businesses are that good. The fact is, most of the time there’s nothing compelling about the facts. If you want to do more effective advertising, you have to move into a world that Joe Friday’s not familiar with… a world of emotional storytelling.
Facts tell, stories sell.
The fact is, one orthopedic practice is pretty much the same as the next. They’re all board certified specialists and skilled surgeons who can fix you up and get you back on your feet.
One golf shop’s pretty much the same as the next. They all sell the same big brands, it’s just a matter of scale and inventory levels.
One Toyota dealer’s pretty much the same as the next. They sell the same cars, at the same price, and offer service that’s competitively similar.
So the facts can’t be the centerpiece of your advertising. Facts have no emotional hook. No reason for the brain to pause and ponder your offer. In fact, the human brain is hard-wired to gloss right over facts and data, and move on to more meaningful messages.
The storytelling approach to advertising is superior in every way. Whenever there’s a commercial that you recall and talk about, I guarantee you there’s good storytelling involved.
Instead of the droll, Sergeant Friday talking AT people like they’re middle school kids, great spots create beguiling characters, use disarming sound effects, and offer a story line that sucks people in — hook, line and sinker.
Go to Youtube and check out any of the AXE deodorant commercials. (My favorite is titled “Susan Glenn” with Keifer Sutherland from 2012, but there are many great examples from Axe.) The benefit of using deodorant is embedded into every storyline, quite brilliantly. Every guy on earth will relate to these spots.
Or check out my favorite spot from the last Olympics: The brilliantly on-brand hit titled “the Jogger” from Nike and Weiden & Kennedy Portland.
I know what you’re thinking… “Sure, anybody with budgets like Nike can do great TV spots.” Well guess what. That spot was ridiculously simple and inexpensive to produce. No special effects needed. No big-name endorsement deals. No facts about running shoes. Just an incredible story of human achievement that absolutely nails the Nike brand.
Print ads, websites, even simple direct response post cards can employ exceptional storytelling techniques.The Got Milk campaign is a great example. Two words. One simple photo. And endless stories to tell.
You don’t see any facts about milk. Not a drop. The entire campaign was built around the emotion of finding yourself milkless with a plate of cookies or a bowl of cereal, or whatever.
The emotional hook of NOT having the product was way more compelling than the facts about milk could ever be. The client at the California Milk Advisory board was smart enough to recognize that.
Business people who insist on the Joe Friday approach to advertising are probably scared and insecure. They know, deep down, that their value proposition isn’t anything to write home about. They know there’s parity in the market and a better competitor could come along any time and beat them out. The facts are not on their side.
So they think they have to say everything in every ad. And they justify the excessive bullet points by saying they have to “maximize their spend.”
Unfortunately, Friday-style facts actually minimize the effectiveness of your ads. It’s like golf. The harder you try, the worse things get.
Let me be clear. I’m not saying you should eliminate facts altogether. If, in fact, you have a product or service that’s truly different and superior to the closest competitor, be overt about it. Absolutely!
But if you want to do more effective advertising, don’t just say it, flat out. Dragnet style. Find an engaging, emotional way to communicate that overt benefit. And keep it short. It’ll work better.
That’s a fact.
For additional facts on how to do more effective advertising, check out this post.