August 3, 2018

Will your writing survive the test of time?

One of my favourite books is The Book of Gossage, by Howard Gossage. Published posthumously in 1986 after his death, the book takes a swipe at the state of advertising in the 1960’s.

I’d like to quote a passage to you:

“… despite everything you have heard about the value of repetition and keeping forever lastingly at it, the are some problems that can be solved with one ad if it’s the right ad. And there are some problems that won’t be solved by any ad or any number of ads; you should simply save your money. Maybe there is some way to go about it that won’t cost you anything.

Well, that’s the sort of advice you get from people who don’t have to sell you something before they can eat.

There’s another thing we are able to do because we’re not dependent on selling a big media recommendation with ads to fit. We can do one ad at a time. Literally, that’s the way we do it. We do one advertisement and then wait to see what happens.

Oh, sometimes we get way ahead and do three. But when we do, we often have to change the third one before it runs. Because if you put out an advertisement that creates activity, or response, or involves the audience, you will find that something happens that changes the character of the succeeding ads. It’s like a conversation. You say something and then the other person says something; and unless you’re a bore, you listen to what they say and respond accordingly.

This, after all, is the only polite way, when you come to think of it. It’s amazing how much fresher and more to the point the ads seem when you approach them in this fashion.

People like to be treated like human beings rather than as consumers, and they react very well to it, particularly when it comes to trotting down to the store, gas station, or saloon and buying some. Every one of our clients has enjoyed noticeable sales increases. This is the answer to the unspoken question we have been asked ever since we did our first interesting ad: “Yeah, but does it sell?

Now, back to the question: is advertising worth saving? Yes, if we can learn to look at advertising not as a means for filling up so much space and time but as a technique for solving problems. And this will not be possible until we destroy the commission system and start predicting our work on what is to be earned rather than what is to be spent.”

The reason this passage caught my attention yesterday morning was because it accurately describes the way I currently create Facebook ads: one at a time. I’ll be writing about that in this month’s Story Selling Insider letter.

Oh, and the commissions system where agencies position their creative services as ‘free’ (when you commit to £20K media spend, with 6 or 7 repetitions) is alive and well. It created a conflict of interest between clients and agencies in the 1960’s, and it still does so today.

I share all this to make a particular point. The very best writing you put out actually increases in relevance over time. The advancement of technology has accelerated the issues Gossage wrote about 50 years ago, because he discussed fundamental principles not passing fads.

Time is always the acid test. If you find your writing goes quickly out of date, you need to examine the things you’re writing about.

What can you write that will be more relevant in 50 years than it is today?

Rob Drummond

Rob Drummond runs the Maze Marketing Podcast and Maze Mastery. Rob specialises in content production, ad creation, storytelling and CRM systems. He has two published books, Magnetic Expertise and Simple Story Selling, affordable on Amazon.