How to motivate with video 2: Six ways to inform the mind

Here are 6 tips on keeping our content informative … without preaching:

  1. Talk like you’ve been listening. Today we need the audience’s permission to present our movie.  So approach them with a listening attitude — a perceptible sensitivity to why they may be troubled, baffled, or bored.
  2. Acknowledge the barriers, their questions. This is really the first M of  motivation. All the arguments must solve their mysteries, uncover their secret treasures.
  3. Blow up your “talking points”. A boxer doesn’t go into the ring with a rehearsed choreography. The match evolves one punch at a time.  Let the argument incorporate their best defense of our best argument — not straw men. The most disappointing project I’ve ever been associated with involved a client who had a major PR problem, but chose to leave out the real nitty gritty issues for fear of upsetting the audience. Assess what your audience cares about, and talk frankly about “the elephant in the living room.”
  4. Enthusiasm, yes. Ridicule, no. Why do people like talk radio? I think it’s because they’re passionate about their message. Education tends to make people broad-minded … and less passionate. But appropriate emotion feels right. Use it, clearly and fairly. If you’re self-aware, you can avoid manipulating the audience.
  5. Understatement is more powerful than “power”. Use kind, understated approaches. And when it must deal a blow to their opinions, pull the punch if possible. Because in reality it’s not like boxing at all… it’s more like a first date or a 10th anniversary dinner with a spouse who has “issues”. We need to address the issues and yet we need to avoid offense: not PC, but not cocky either. The audience really is in the driver’s seat, and if we want to get to first base, demonstrate that we care, understand, and honor them.
  6. Gather strength from your opponents. Like I said, it’s really not a boxing match. It might, however, involve Tai Chi. In this gentler form of combat, you use the leverage created by your opponents moves, to bend his energy away from your hurt.

Contrary to popular opinion, the most important part of presenting is the intellectual.

Mad Man

Mad Man

There’s a myth that people don’t care about ideas. Yep, the Dullsville slums are huge and scary, but thankfully there’s a lot of enlightened folks around, too. While I hate the tactics of Rush Limbaugh and his ilk,  one thing that guys like Rush and Glenn Beck have proven is that there’s an enormous appetite for emotional talk about issues. Ideas can be entertaining.

So instead of cueing the violins and trying to schmooze our way toward persuasion, I have found that it’s really important to address the emotions behind the facts … and lay ideational groundwork in a systematic, transparent way.

Here are two examples of the intellectual part of a motivational presentation. The first excerpt is from a video shown to Ohio Wesleyan alumni. This section deals passionately with the challenges all colleges are facing. The premise comes straight from H.G. Wells:

The case we are making here is that alumni can be proud because of OWU’s commitment to serving a very needy world. While the claim is presented with emotion, I think it displays an attitude that the idea is more important than the institution. We’re not whipping up tribal loyalty, but issuing a call to arms for a moral principle.

The second excerpt is a simple sales video aimed at accounting teachers. Here, we use humor and surprise. But the fabric of the piece is a careful set of arguments based on the hot buttons that the audience told us they cared about. For example, they were unhappy with the old Glencoe software. In the first minute, the nerdy alter-ego jumps in with “Much Better Software”. It’s an informative presentation wrapped in an entertaining bundle. The substance of the product was authentically built in response to their requests.

In the next week I’ll write about the third M, Melding with the Heart… the emotional part of motivation.


VW Volcano taps volcanic resentment among creatives

Here’s a new spot on YouTube… thanks to the Creative Intensive Network on LinkedIn, for sharing it, and Alexander Bickov for posting it on YouTube.

I really love the storytelling that director Marcello Serpa of AlmapBBDO Brazil accomplished in only a minute seventeen seconds… but judging from the comments on LinkedIn, I’m in the minority. Most of the comments were critical of its relevance, amount of brand recognition, etc. “Creative for creative’s sake”, “Epic waste of a client’s money”, and an entertaining rant with no doubt an interesting backstory about sleek conference rooms and busty interns offering beverages in a big agency. Maybe they’re right. But I don’t think so.

This spot has everything an urbanite worried about the future could want: a smoking volcano threatening an idyllic way of life; a creative solution delivered in heroic fashion by young progressives, working together. Getting their hands and cars dirty in the process, and blessing the soccer players, the old, the young, the chickens, and the goats. A beginning, middle, and end all in just over a minute. Classic dramatic storytelling in the service of car advertising!

Here’s the spot.

Here’s what I said on LinkedIn:

I like it a lot. Well directed: good casting (the old man, the boy), amazing job of making a character statement about the people bringing the popcorn in just a few frames (attractive girl getting out of the car, cool-looking but not Abercrombie-esque shovelers.) Excellent editing… watch it 5 times and you can see how nicely the details support the message. Environmental/urban reinvention statement (Smoking volcano repurposed for human health — with cool factor like chickens & sheep) Great special effects that don’t detract from the story. Well-conceived branding elements as the line of identical cars come toward us (if you watch on YouTube at HQ).

Disagree with the linkage to the Beetle. This spot was clearly conceived to support some branding research somewhere that said “small, green, community, versatile, practical … and yet racy, daring, sporty, and fast.”

Come on, folks, lighten up. What do big horses have to do with Budweiser? Is there a meaningful difference between Huggies and Pampers? The whole thing is just another devilishly clever charade purporting to solve the challenges of life with a product that, in reality, is no better than any other vehicle in solving them. It’s art, and it’s artifice, and if we’re in advertising that’s what clients pay us for.

What thinketh thou?

There’s no debate: there are lots of advertising strategies that work

I once had a gig teaching debate and classical rhetoric to high school students. The neat thing about policy debate is that you have to see and present both sides of every issue. Not just grasp both sides: see both sides, believe both sides.

You can’t debate effectively if you’re just a cynical mouthpiece for something you don’t believe in. Winning requires adopting the framework, the paradigm, and articulating its strengths: the impacts of its methodologies, the power of its logic. In policy debate, you don’t have the luxury of deciding you are right, and then always claiming the high ground on the basis of correctness. You have to learn to invoke reason and internal logic, not authority. You also have to develop enough emotional strength — poise — to admit the weaknesses of your own favorite arguments, and to honor the strengths of your opponent’s substantiated claims.

Even when you continue to disagree, there is no authenticity in your own perspective if you lack the breadth of mind to see and admire much of your opponent’s point of view. It’s hard for kids, and after watching the bias of lots of parents while judging these debates, I began to conclude it’s nearly impossible for adults to learn these skills. But for the kids, it’s really cool to watch as, through this unnatural process, they morph into maturity. Not all debaters get it, but it’s really awesome to see young people awake to the ways in which an approach they want to hate might be superior to their preferred position.

This morning was a good reprise of that way of thinking, as I introduced myself to several different flavors of advertising agency. In the past, many of the agenices I’ve worked with seemed to prefer control of the ideas they espouse to authenticity and true persuasive clout. They wanted to put words into people’s mouths, rather than let them speak their mind and heart. But agencies are maturing with the rest of our culture, and I see a number of winning strategies working.

Whenever artists or creatives get together, they love to espouse the theories of their art. Every creative firm — or university, political party or musical genre for that matter — has its own ethos, paradigm, worldview. So as creative guns looking for an army, it’s important to realize there are lots of different ways we could be used in battle.

At one agency, I stated how impressed I am with their focus on marketing metrics. For them, communication is a scientific challenge, not an artistic adventure. In this view, it’s irresponsible to throw money at a communications problem without knowing precisely how the effort is changing perceptions and behavior. They are the Einstein who says “God does not roll dice” to the Niels Bohr-like creative innovators. [Bohr theorized, based on the work of Heisenberg, that you can’t look at an electron without losing track of its energy level and direction. Time proved Bohr right and Einstein wrong]. For this agency, to be professional means to decide ahead of time where our audience is, what will move them, and then introduce the persuasion vectors needed to effect that precise change. It strikes some of us as mechanistic, but the fact is a lot of valid results can be achieved in this way. And I love the precision of numbers, even if I sometimes doubt their accuracy.

At another agency, I commented on how refreshing it is to see a shop that lives or dies on the strength of its creative product. For this group, metrics aren’t in place to drive the campaign car… they’re just the GPS.  The creative team does the driving, as far off the roadmap as the clients will let them stray, and they use more intuition and artistry than science to evaluate the messages they create.

There is strength and power in each approach, and I can argue for or work on a team with either strategy.

And both teams can win. Both approaches are capable of recognizing the character basis of an authentic brand. Both approaches can move opinion, can improve sales or attract new customers. Both approaches can tell stories, deliver great creative, and frankly both approaches can completely miss the mark through any number of purely human foibles.

For me, the ideal approach involves a synthesis of both traditional camps, and that’s a balance that’s mighty tough to achieve. No one person can hit that balance. Only an eclectic team that brings multiple personality types to the process … and listens carefully before acting.

If the balance is struck, it won’t just be that creative and research learned to play nice together. From the top down, such an organization would have to make the toughest quantum leap of all: down to a lower orbit, from speaker to listener, from driver to passenger. In that climate, everything is tougher: writing, teaching, parenting, governing. Thomas Friedman is right: the world is flatter than ever….

Still, there are lots of winning strategies, so as long as we can either focus on great creative, or put the destination ahead of the fun along the way, those of us who create in the world of ideas will be able to find a niche.

Boone Oakley

The story of Billy, Marketing Director, courtesy of Aden Hepburn and his Digital Buzz Blog. Do you agree with him that it’s the most creative website ever?

Great video

Thanks to Artie Isaac for putting this one on his blog. Excellent concept and execution … and a worthy topic for a change.

Rhythm and contrast

Here’s a link to something fun for a former typesetter like me.

Helvetica Happy 50th excerpt 1.

The first one has a fun visual montage. The 2nd one talks about the importance of type to design and the emotional impact of such subtle designer’s choices. For me, the movie illustrates the relevance of a designers ethos in communicating to today’s young people. Our Millennials are the most media savvy generation ever; and yet they seem to have no awareness of the diabolical machinations behind the media efforts that shape their perceptions of reality. Fortunately, all the college admissions marketers that I know take their responsibility seriously… and try to deliver reality, not just an advertiser’s agenda, to their audience.

Lovemarks are for alumni

Here’s my take on how to apply lovemarks theory to college admissions or advancement. The X and Y axes increase in value as you go up and to the right. ORK’s Lovemarks diagramIf a college does promotions, creates buzz, projects hipness, starts fads, engages in window-dressing, etc., the students who respond will be showing love in the Saatchi sense: commitment without logical basis.

On the other hand, if the college emphasizes reasons, traditions, points of distinction… all the logical basis for selecting one school over another, and staking its brand claims on particular areas of excellence … then it would be building respect, or brand identity, in its prospects. In admissions marketing, the reality is that both approaches are probably necessary. Some students decide on the basis of a feeling, and some make spreadsheets and weigh the facts. Each college knows what it wants to hang its hat on — the traditions and values and facts, or the post-modernistic ethos that resonates with a certain mind-set. Using the principle of different strokes for different folks, build respect for your distinctives and traditions, while at the same time fostering buzz, Facebook networks, emotional tie-ins to various interest groups.

For alumni, the reality of your school experience is your ticket to a lovemark. In four years, a lovemark can develop. Every graduate who feels they got their money’s worth, they came of age, they met the love of their life, they were challenged beyond measure, or made life-long friends … will graduate with a loyalty that goes well beyond reason, and can guarantee the stability of the institution for years to come.