Why do we read?

Have you ever found yourself in an unfortunate situation where people tell you that your copy isn’t working for them? It happens a lot, and often times people are right, but sometimes they don't like it because they don’t understand a reference in it and are worried that people won’t respond well to that. This got me thinking, why do we read?

I think there are 2 reasons. One, which is the dominant by far in ads it seems, is to find comfort. It’s why we relisten to familiar songs or rewatch movies. It’s also why we feel drawn in by a story, because we feel familiarity with the character or the situation in some way. It’s also how we try and get a person to feel a kinship with our brand, by saying, “see, we’re just like you”.

The second reason we read is to discover something new. This seems to only appear in ads as the “client mandatories” where the new thing to discover is the product feature. If the client, or CD, or creative partner doesn’t immediately get something, they think it’s too smart. But nowadays, with the internet and google available at high speeds and even from your phone, there really isn’t much information that’s not known within 2 minutes, if you can intrigue someone enough to check it out. There's not much out there that's "too smart" (how cool is that)! Not everyone will look something up, but the inquisitive type of person is also the person most likely to be reading an ad or buying the new product in a category. Maybe it’s time we stop dumbing down and start smarting up.


Epcmedia said...
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Essential Pop Culture said...

Here here! I agree. As a copywriting student I am given this line of crap quite often.

A great example of witty, thoughtful execuions are The Economist Ads. They are witty and set a tone of exclusivity / inclusivity, depending on ones point of view. It is a great execution of this very idea -- albeit with an elitist twist.

Littlejohn said...

We can learn a lot from the Simpson's. They have mastered the art of talking to 3 vastly different levels of intellect at the same time.

A 3yr old can watch the funny looking yellow characters run around the screen hitting and choking each other, and it makes them laugh. A 14yr old can watch the show and follow the twisted plot line and laugh at the characters outlandish behavior. Then the 30yr old grad student laughs because the show just made an obscure reverence to Romeo and Juliet, or the Greek's Trogan Horse, or Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.

The art of letting you get it, but leaving more for you to get is a power I think advertising has yet to harness. Maybe because it's tough to pull off.

I agree, it's something interesting to explore. However, I think you have to let everyone in a little bit, if you are going to get some people to climb over the fence and learn more.

Essential Pop Culture said...

littlejon makes a good point. Bring the viewer / customer to a point, but let them complete the loop on their own. Think of it as a kind of "reward" for getting it.

T. Willerer said...

I couldn't agree more with you, but I don't think it needs to be to the exclusion of anyone. You can use multiple media to "layer" a message. This is something that Henry Jenkins, Director of the Comparative Media Studies program at MIT calls "Transmedia Story Telling" in his book Convergence Culture.

Here's a quote: "The key point is that going in deep has to remain an option -something readers choose to do- and not the only way to derive pleasure..."

I think Littlejohn touched on this exact point, but not across media, but within one media.

L.L. said...

It has been a pleasure speaking to you.

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Yes! My very own visit from the mysterious log lady! I feel like I'm in a haunted house and should charge for admission.

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