MNEMONICS AT WORK

One night we were working late in the studio.
We had a pitch the next day and everyone was pulling all the finished work together.
Mark Goodwin, the studio head, was mounting some ads.
He was cutting out some foam-board with a scalpel.
Suddenly he sliced through the tip of his finger.


Blood went all over the ad he was mounting.
Mark yelled “WANKER” at the top of his voice.
Then he quickly got a cloth and wrapped it round the finger, to stop the blood.
While he was doing this, his mobile phone started vibrating on his desk.
Then a voice came out of it “Hello, hello, hello.”
Mark picked it up “Hello, who’s this?”
The voice said “What do you mean who is it? You called me.”
Mark said “Walshie, is that you?”
The voice said “Of course it is, what do you want?”
Mark said “I never called you.”
The voice said “Yes you did, just this minute.”
And I watched Mark’s face as the penny dropped.
And Mark realised what he’d done.
See, Mark had just got a new voice-recognition phone.
And he’d given everyone nicknames so he could remember who was who.
He knew he’d never remember everyone’s full proper name.
So he gave them each a mnemonic.
Something that would so obviously remind him of that person that he couldn’t forget it.
And Mark’s mnemonic for Walshie was “Wanker”.
The phone heard him shout it out and just dialled the number straight away.
And Mark spent the next ten minutes trying to pretend he’d called Walshie on purpose.
So he wouldn’t know what his nickname was on Mark’s phone.
See that’s a good example of how people’s minds work.
Their minds remember whatever works for them.
Not just what works for us sophisticated marketing and advertising types.
And if we forget about people, then we won’t bother with mnemonics.
We’ll just say whatever we want to say in our ads and expect people to notice and remember it.
But of course they don’t.
That’s why most advertising doesn’t work.
I don’t mean it doesn’t get seen, I mean that it doesn’t work.
Look at it this way.
In any market there can only be one market leader.
If we do generic advertising in that market, without making the brand name stand out, at best we just increase the size of the market.
If we increase the size of the market, the brand leader benefits most.
If we’re not brand leader, we’re just doing his job for him.
And spending our client’s money to do it.
How dumb is that?
But because many people now see advertising as art, they avoid anything so crass as a mnemonic.
They don’t want the crudeness of overt branding sullying their work.
They don’t want the ‘interruption’ model of advertising to break the spell of intimacy they believe they have with the consumer.
So they add the name at the end, quietly and subtly.
And we have a piece of film that might work with awards juries, but is invisible in the real world.
We’ve got a film that sells itself, instead of a film that sells something.

The difference is called advertising.

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