Nobody Reads Advertising.
Hardly a day goes by that I don’t hear someone say something like, “That’s too many words. Nobody will read it.”
Words are like calories. All too often, they are empty and just make us feel full. But when they have substance, they provide real nourishment.
About 50 years ago, an agency guy named Howard Gossage said it much better than I ever could.
“Nobody reads advertising. People read what interests them; and sometimes it’s an ad.”
The same can be said about any kind of written communication. Tell people a story about something they are interested in and do it in a compelling and refreshing way, they will read it. How else do you account for the incredible growth of new magazine titles? Why are Barnes & Noble and Borders stores so popular? Why are so many books read on the beach every summer? Why do people write and read blogs.
People like to read. They just hate to waste their time.
If ads aren’t being read today, it’s not because of an attention deficit society. The blame rests squarely where it belongs – on the industry. Marketers who want to fill space with empty words. Writers who don’t know how to craft a compelling story. And designers who think of words as “content” rather than communication.
Where’s the beef?
At its core, marketing is selling. And the best sales people know that people buy when they have a need for a product or service with uniquely compelling features and benefits presented in an interesting way.
Rather than trying to bully consumers by talking too loud or too much, marketers would be better served to think of their efforts like a news story or a book or movie. If their message is worthwhile, hearing or seeing it once or twice can produce amazing results. If it is boring, once is too much.
Remember the consumer is in control. He or she makes the choice to spend time with a specific medium (magazines, TV, Internet, whatever) expecting to be informed, inspired or entertained. Failure to deliver on that expectation comes with great risk for both the medium and the message sender.
It’s not that Johnny can’t read. We just haven’t given him a reason why he should.
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