Fourth Advertising Fundamental: The Simple Truth.

You may not connect “truth” to the world of advertising at all. And maybe you should not. It has always been accepted by conventions that advertisers, and advertisements therefore, are allow to bend the truth a little. To be interesting, to be persuasive, to be competitive. To catch and hold attention.

However, there is one truth that you don’t want to bend: the simple truth. Meaning “the structure and order of a persuasive message should be a simple as possible. As far as structure is concerned, this means leaving out all extraneous elements”. (page 165).

Simple as that. Cut the crap and leave out the fat.

Again the example is from the world of commercials. This time not for toothpaste or cars, but for a cold tablet, a medical. You know, a tablet you take for not getting cold (it that possible?).

Schwerin and Newell tells the story about two different commercials trying to tell the story.

The first execution contained only three scenes: a) a man walking in the rain passing a billboard for the product in question; b) he enters a store, sniffling a bit, and is advised to buy an item of the brand; c) he is then seen well and happy again. End of story.

The second version is much longer, consisting of 7 different scenes. A much more complicated structure and argument.  

The measured difference between the two in terms of preference change was clear. The simple version of the cold tablet commercial worked twice as good.  

Not only simplicity of the structure is important. So is the order of things. Schwerin and Newell, in their book, refers to a test done with different order formats. One of the most popular formats is “before and after”. Here is the way they describe it: ” X is at a disadvantage because he does not use the product. X uses the product. X is better off”. This is called the normal order format.

Other formats are: reverse order, extended normal order and simultaneous. I am sure you can guess where this is leading; the more simple structure, and the more simple order, normally gives the more persuasive message.

If you need to go in details with these studies, please consult the book and its references. All you need as a reader of this blog, however, is to remember that simple makes better, and you handle simplicity through message structure and the order of things.

It is very easy to remember. Try training it the next time you see or read an advertisement, or a commercial that attracts your attention.

Other posts

You’ll find the other posts in this series on advertising fundamentals, below. If the post title is linked, it means that the posts have been submitted, and that you will get to it if you follow the link. If the fundamental is not yet linked, it means that that the post is not there yet. So you need for have a little patience.

First Fundamental: One Unified Impression.

Second Fundamental: Dominant Mood.

Third Fundamental: Visual and Verbal.

Fourth Fundamental: The Simple Truth.

Fifth Fundamental: Product of Consumer.

Sixth Fundamental: The Right Consumer.

Seventh Fundamental: Thoughts Worth Entertaining.

For an overview of the whole section please go here.

If you want to go for the book making your learning curve steeper and faster, here is the Library Thing information on it. You’ll get the full information here as well:  Persuasion in Marketing, The Dynamics of Marketing’s Great Untapped Resource, John Wiley & Sons, New York, 1981.


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