It is now over 50 years since I read the famous conversation between Max Hart of Hart, Shaffner and Marx and his ad agent,
Hart said he would never read long copy.
His agent said, "I'll just give you the headline of a full page all-copy ad. You would read every word."
"What is it?" asked Hart.
"This is the truth about Max Hart," his agent replied.
It reminded me of one of my favourite quotes, from Howard Gossage: "People read what interests them, sometimes it's an ad".
The thing is, these days people are always saying that people don't read or pay attention to advertising, I've met plenty of people myself who say that they never watch adverts or pay attention to them (although it always transpires later in the conversation that they can trip off a few recent ads or strapline, so go figure).
Indeed, within our own industry it's rife. But the basic human truth is this, people will read or watch, or pay attention to something that interests them. People are selfish like that, but that's just human nature.
But what happens a lot in the ad business these days is that agency folks just say people aren't interested in chocolate/cars/detergent/bottled water/insert other product here, and off they then pop to create some piece of barely related entertainment to stick the logo of the product on the end of.
As I've banged on about before, making good advertising is a simple business, but it takes hard work. One of the things that requires real smart thinking and insight is when you have a low-interest product (and let's face it, most products fall into this category to normal people), finding the thing about it that people will find interesting. And this doesn't mean interesting like a documentary about weird sexual habits, or interesting like Joe Pesci doing a robot dance naked in silver paint. But interesting in the context of the product and the potential customer's relationship to it.
These days, most ad people don't bother. The work either comes out workmanlike and uninteresting to the customer and goes unnoticed, or is entertaining but that entertainment does a poor job of communicating anything of interest that moves the prospect closer to buying your product.
If you're a client, how many times have you been made to feel like your product is uninteresting, and been presented with advertising that is just barely disguised sponsored entertainment? How many times have you felt that your ad people aren't really interested in finding something to say about your product that will interest your prospective customer?
It's just because the thinking is lazy. The truth is, if you find something genuinely interesting to say about your product or service, people will listen. Or read. Even if there are quite a few words.
The title of this post.
The title of this post is a bit naughty, because the information promised in the headline isn't delivered. That's not something I'd suggest you do in your advertising. But I'd bet fifty pence of someone else's money that if you regularly read ad blogs, you really wanted to read on and find out what it said, because it interested you.
Which I guess was Max Hart's ad agent's point.
And Gossage's, come to that.