Did I lose you? No? Well, you’re far from the only one.
Does that surprise you?
After all, that headline is a big hunk of truth. I’m giving up the game before it even starts, revealing exactly what my secret hidden agenda is. Most people would say that’s kind of stupid.
But you see, that’s exactly what makes it work: surprise. No one expects truth in advertising, so when you use it, it’s like a secret weapon, catching everyone off-guard.
There’s just one catch: It has to be interesting. It can’t be just any old boring truth. And that means you can’t be lazy. You have to dig and dig until you find the truth that’s surprising, or disarming, or unusual and novel enough to get noticed.
This is what separates the pros from the amateurs. Amateurs might have a one-off idea that they think is clever, maybe involving a celebrity or a pun, but the tough detective work it takes to find that one special truth requires patience, persistence, and interviewing people with whom you share little in common.
But, you know, that’s what writers get paid for.
And if the one needle you’ve found in that haystack is sharp enough, that’s all you need. A whole campaign can come out of it, a campaign that will be far better than ripping off trendy fonts, photography styles or PhotoShop filters from the latest award winner, because it’s true and speaks to an actual human need.
If you don’t have that surprising truth, surprising either because no one wants to say it or no one truthfully can say it, then you’ve got a cute little dog-and-pony show designed to entertain yourself and your clients, but nothing more.
Let’s take the recent Groundhog Day Super Bowl ad that’s getting so much buzz. It’s truthful in so many ways. First of all, it literally ran on Groundhog Day because the Super Bowl happened to fall on exactly that day this year. Kudos to whoever tripped over that truth, which might have seem meaningless until they made the connection between the holiday and the famous movie.
Secondly, it speaks truthfully to the reason people buy Jeeps, their versatility. You can say a lot of stuff about Jeeps, their MPG is truly bottom-of-the-barrel, but one thing they do well is let you go wherever you want, and take whatever you want.
And thirdly, it’s got Bill Murray who as an onscreen presence is always deeply truthful, oftentimes to the point of making you cringe, since he was trained in the Second City tradition which values honest acting over cheap laughs.
If it weren’t for those three things, if it were just “let’s put an aging comedy star in a Jeep ad and put it on the Super Bowl,” you’d have nothing. And that’s what so many amateurs don’t get.
Do your homework.
Be a pro.
Dave Dumanis is a San Francisco Bay Area creative director, copywriter and content strategist with decades of experience bringing complex B-to-B concepts to life. He specializes in daring, idea-rich cross-channel campaigns that get noticed and get results.