1: Whose Headline Is It Anyway?

Improv ComicsThe hardest part of advertising is remembering whose paying for the advertising. Because advertisers write the checks, too often they forget that customers pay for everything.

Why is it important?

Because advertisers often put the information—particularly headlines and emphasis—on what is important to them. They do this, ironically enough, while trying their hardest to attract customers. The assumption is that, if it’s important to them, it will be important to others. It’s good to have that passion, that entrepreneurial spirit. But advertising needs to be counterintuitive to be effective.

Corporate America knows this. They collectively spend millions on focus groups, public opinion, and customer surveys. The layers of approvals and input get their messages heard, their brands built.

Auctioneers don’t have the luxury of time, and most don’t have the stomach for bureaucracy. I get in a lot of hot water with a few clients for trying to represent the buying public, the Fortune 500 philosophy, the consumer-centric model—because an auctioneer’s name goes on the printing tab and my pay check.

Auctioneers like to lead with the word “auction.” Makes sense: it defines their career and too often their lives. Unfortunately for them, the public is more interested in what is being sold more than how it’s being sold. Gavel bangers like to emphasize the date, as it represents the schedule and rhythm of their lives. But only very seasonally do consumers care when they can buy as much as what they can buy. The names of estates prove important to sellers, and many auctioneers communicate empathy by leading with that information. Apart from famous sellers—not just community-recognized names—whose assets are selling is less important than what those assets are.

If it’s true that we have 3-5 seconds to grab and capture attention—as readability studies have confirmed—doesn’t it make sense to lead with what’s important to the reader? What kind of car is it? How many bedrooms does the house hold, or in which neighborhood does it reside? What era or trend defines the collectibles? What mood or feeling does this asset exude? What range or variety or size is the selection?

The younger your audience, the more this is true. The more pages that flip on the calendar, the more buyers to whom this applies. The better you adhere to this concept, the more buyers you’ll have to pay for your advertising.
[tip]

I like to talk about what’s important to me. You like talking about what’s important to you. This gives potential for broadcasting but not communication. I have found in all levels of relationships that conversation is richest when the topic interests both parties and when the exchange is punctuated with pause and absorption. I am very slowly learning to listen more than hear, to read the lines and the stuff in between them.

At my church over the past few months, we’ve really circled the wagons around prayer—what it is, what it means, what it does. What we’ve found is that prayer proves too often a one-way pipe, a religious rub of the genie lamp. When I’ve learned to pray through God’s perspective (or at least to seek it) for his objectives (as I understand them from the Bible), it’s amazing how much more of a conversation it becomes. Prayer time now involves reception, direction, calming, even wrestling. It’s what prayer’s cracked up to be.

It makes sense, too. Why wouldn’t you want a two-way conversation with the One who knows everything?

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