Monday, 25 July 2016

It's The Story, Stupid!

It’s a beautiful thing when the copy taps your story. I saw this advertisement today in Kings Cross, Sydney, while I was waiting for a shuttlebus to take me to the airport after four and a half weeks with a hire car. It was a long trip, and just as it was over, I had to negotiate a refund on the early return of the vehicle, which meant sifting though my wallet for the exact credit card that I had used to pay for the car. No other credit card would work in the circumstances. Needless to say, the ease with which payments can be made was on my mind.

The ad stands out for a couple of reasons. First, it is wordy! No three-word slogans here. And this on a major city road! I imagine that a two-word slogan such as “Innovative Payments” might have been tried here, but no, we get an eight word statement. A driver, whilst negotiating the snarl of Sydney streets, is being asked to digest a complete English sentence. Isn’t that a risk to both the driver and the advertised message?
I think not. Which leads me to the second feature of this ad. It tells a little story. More precisely, it can’t help but sneak in to YOUR story. Yours is the big story, after all, and you are the chief protagonist in your grand adventure. You like it when things just work, which is why when Honda used a Rube Goldberg device in a TV ad with the line, “Isn’t it nice when things just work?” You said to yourself, “Yes! It is!” and then went and bought an Accord. Ok, maybe not, or maybe you’re too young to remember that ad. Perhaps Honda isn’t for you, maybe a Honda is not part of the story you tell yourself about who you are and who you want to be. Narrative. It’s what makes the world go round, and we could all do with painless payments, right?
None of this takes you long to ponder. If you can read English, you can read an eight word sentence in probably less than a second. Trust me, you’ve parsed those words, even if the message takes a little longer to sink in. That train of thought happens naturally even as you get upset with the cab driver stopping suddenly in front of you. Suddenly, thanks to eight words, a better payments system seems… “right”. Better than a slogan, don’t you think?

I write, a lot, and story is what it’s all about. Really, without a narrative hook, nothing is going to get into that fabulous brain of yours. So, if you need to sell something, or get a message across, remember to become part of the hero’s journey. It’s worth paying for.

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